Well, all I can say is, I’m not really an expert on this topic…
*Then, she proceeds to spew out thousands or words or so…Nyahahaha.*
A number of events have triggered this. First, it started when I was talking to one of my crafter friends a couple of years ago. She confessed to me how much she hated it that she was being copied. Then, lately, I was having bit of a blog content & style dliemma. While I was travelling, I actually wanted to reformat the whole blog or shift to photography altogether in protest. My current style no longer made sense to me and after being away from my blog for a month, I didn’t know where to start.
Then, while playing with Instagram’s explore page, I was starting to notice that everyone’s work started to look just like everyone else’s. Finally, I was alarmed that during a workshop, I caught someone copying someone else’s work from her phone but used different colors instead.
So I thought maybe I should give a lengthy talk before each workshop. But, if I did, I’ll probably take hours. So I might as well write it here for all of you to see. Maybe it’s time that I speak up about this and share with you some steps in finding your own style.
Guys, if we truly want the local art scene to survive, aligned with the rules of science & evolution, we need to diversify! Also, if you feel like you’ve reached the annoyingly uncomfortable art style limbo phase, this lengthy read is for you (and me)! 🙂
Sure, art is like fashion where everyone follows the trend. But I say, if you want to be known for something, you need to start carving your own path. It won’t be easy. It will be scary & overwhelming sometimes and most of the time, you’ll feel alone. But, I’m pretty sure it will be worth your time.
Now, why do you need to find your own style? Well, someday, do you really want your work to be described as “Oh, you know, his/her works are similar to artist X but it’s the so-so version.” Also, if a seat is already taken, why not make your own chair instead of becoming someone else’s best replica?
If, at any point, I sound preachy, nagging or brutally frank, that’s because I’m also writing this for myself so that in times of doubt, I could go back to this to remind me of what I should be doing. Sadly, this is how I sound when I’m talking to myself.
1/ Follow your heart:
Ask yourself the following:
a. What is it that truly makes me happy?
b. Am I doing what I’m doing because I love doing it or just because it’s the one that gets the most Instagram likes?
2/ Don’t just copy.
Be inspired by multiple sources. Continue explosing yourself to different things (i.e. music, dance, entertainment, travel, science, math, economics, politics et cetera) so you will have a constant supply of fresh ideas. If you could actually mesh your other interests with art, that would be awesome. For example, if you love dancing, I’m pretty sure you will be one of the few who will produce illustrations of dancers with proper lines & postures. If you love traveling, why not make an illustrated map of a place? If you love science, explore the palette that space and galaxies have to offer or insert atomic structures in your art. It’ll be pretty cool actually.
3/ Embrace your flaws.
Off the bat, I could easily identify my major flaws. I was really hoping that if I practice more often, I will end up having realistic & detailed drawings. *Insert evil laugh by art gods here.* 😉 Here’s what I noticed though:
a. I always use solid colors.
b. I tend to use outlines ALL THE TIME!
Flaws a & b are no-no’s when it comes to doing realistic paintings that involve layers and gradients. Elements are barely defined by outlines neither are they isolated. So, I finally stopped fighting it. I noticed that the more I pushed myself towards realism, the more I ended up producing abstract work. *Doingk*
c. In terms of process, I noticed that I always spend so much time mixing colors and I end up with little or no energy to work on my technique. I also tend to waste a good amount of paint.
d. I almost always use the colors of the rainbow as my palette.
From the inside, it can be frustrating actually. But, every single time, friends, relatives and readers would point out “This is so you” while referring to light subjects, bright colors and definite shapes, it makes me happy. I realized, all my supposed flaws are the only things I have and they’re the only ones that will define me. I might have probably found my style for now & I need to embrace it.
4/ There’s no right or wrong way.
Just ask yourself: if you’re planning to try some new things in 2015, why are you filled with so much doubt? Are you scared of being judged by the supposed experts in the field? Are you trying to avoid failure?
Come to think of it, there is really no right or wrong way of going about things. At most, you might just risk wasting paper or a bottle of paint which technically isn’t waste if you learned your lesson. It can be your worst Instagram post or piece of art. On the other hand, a fresh technique can potentially surprise your audience and can become your most viral or defining work ever! Who knows? You’ll never really know until you try. 😉
I’m always afraid to try new art materials because I want to stop myself from hoarding. But of course, you can say it’s not hoarding unless you no longer use the stuff you by and you forget about their existence. 😉 #WhatIsJustifying
It’s always so easy to ask the next person, “What brands of brushes & paints are you using?” But, to start with, did you know that if two people were given the same set of materials, they would have a different output? Why? People have brush strokes, palettes and favorite colors. So, go ahead and experiment with new brands & materials. It’s pretty much like looking for a wand in Harry Potter, you’ll never really know which one will suit you until it does. 😉 Also, don’t just limit it to paper & coloring materials, you can actually introduce motion if you love dancing, photos if you love photography or things like threads or crumpled aluminum–whatever tickles your fancy. 🙂
6/ Practice, practice, practice.
I don’t think anyone was born an expert. Well, some learn more quickly than others but the rest of us just need to practice, practice, practice.
If you ever feel impatient about not seeing your work evolve after spending hours, days or weeks on it then just think about that one thing you’re truly addicted to: chocolates, caffeine or social networking. Could you really give it up in under twenty-four hours for the rest of your life? The answer is no. This also applies to our own artistic style. Habits and muscle memory are formed throughout the years which makes it challenging to alter it altogether.
Also, it’s always nice to keep records of your work be it online or offline so you can track your progress. You will know your style has evolved when one day, you can just look at some old piece of artwork, say “Ewww” and laugh about it or realize that you’ve been chasing a current trend too much that you’ve already lost your identity and go back to what you used to do. 🙂
7/ Literally & figuratively, draw from your childhood for inspiration.
Remember the time when you used to have a sense of wonder and you didn’t even have a concept of self-esteem and you were just carefree? Create something with that kind of energy!
Also, if you believe that you are unique and that there’s only one you in this world, draw from that–your own preferences & experiences–without minding anyone’s reaction towards your work. You’ll find yourself opening a huge treasure box of subjects and moments frozen in time.
Don’t be afraid that your audience will not be able to relate to you. Remember how many times you’ll hear a singer-songwriter share how they thought their song was too personal then eventually, they were surprised that apparently, a lot of people can relate to it? That’s because maybe the audience doesn’t really know what they want until they see it. Also, just like a child, you’re practically unearthing some unfiltered truth that no one wants to say but everyone is waiting to hear!
8/ Be aware of trends but don’t get bothered by them.
I don’t know a thing or two about surfing but metaphorically speaking, know when you’re supposed to ride the wave or not. Can you infuse the current trend into your work without feeling like you’ve just sold your soul? If so, go ahead! If not, maybe this one isn’t for you and it’s okay. But don’t sulk in one corner. If you’re not going with the trend, congratulations, you’re automatically a stand out! 🙂
However, if you feel like you’re the one fueling the trend, it’s like putting all your eggs in one basket. If you’re only marketing yourself as an expert on a single thing, it may work for you for now. But, in the long run, when the trend shifts, you will have to start from scratch again and it might be harder to pick it up. This is also the reason why actors refuse to be typecasted. Don’t be afraid to expand your brand. 🙂 I’m sure you have some hidden talents there somewhere.
9/ Filter your pegs & spend more time offline.
Do you know one of the theories as to why we dream at night? That’s because our brain needs time to process the bits & pieces of emotions, images and thoughts from the day that has just passed.
Just imagine if you were online most of the time, You’ll be bombarded with ideal and styled images with optimal lighting. Sure, it’s inspiring at first–it moves you actually. Then, at a certain point, it gets overwhelming. You end up double-tapping the day away and officially confused with what you really want. I always tell my wedding invite clients to limit checking Pinterest for pegs when we’ve already started working on the invite or else, our initial design will evolve forever because it will always feel incomplete making both of us unproductive. *This also happened to me with my own wedding! Hehehe.*
Spend more time on your craft instead of just spending time comparing yourself to others in terms of statistics and techniques. If you feel like your work is good enough to be noticed, research on how to improve your marketability with the use of social networking sites. If you feel like you’re lacking in technique, find out how you can hone your craft with all the resources available online.
Recently, my friend Aina and I had a conversation and we agreed that we are happier and more contented with our lives because we spend less time watching everything on Instagram. I told her how incredibly difficult it is sometimes to be on all the social networking sites because it comes with blogging. As much as I love the internet, I need to soak in all the info in moderation–just like anything else. 🙂
10/ Ask for feedback–honest & brutally frank ones. Prepare to get hurt & grow from there.
If there’s anything that will help you in the long run, it’s none of those, oh-my-gosh-you’re-so-freaking-awesome-I-love-your-style-to-death comments. Yes, it’s good for building brand equity. But, as an individual, you will be tempted to rest on your laurels. Also, the danger is that you will be afraid to make some tweaks on your brand identity until it gets really stale just because you fear that you will not be accepted by your audience.
Finally, you don’t even know if 100% of the comments like those were written sincerely. Some comments may be written for PR purposes like.
Well, don’t get too cynical with the comments, I’m pretty sure a good chunk of them are heartfelt and the person just ran out of adjectives because you’re so freaking fantabulous. 🙂 But, always ask for fresh feedback and a bit of harsh love from your friends & family members who sincerely want you to grow as an artist.
If you’re still reading this post, wow, thank you! I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you’re too shy to let the world know what you’re thinking, you can always send me an e-mail via ponggo(at)googlygooeys(dot)com.
Feel free to make some suggestions. I can only speak from my personal experience.
‘Til my next post. Good night & good morning. ZzzZzzZZzz…
They say travelling inspires art. How about traveling without leaving your seat for now? 🙂
Feel free to use any of the photos as references for your drawings. If you ever do, tag me on Instagram (@googlygooeys). I would love to see your work. 🙂
Get the Colors You Want with the New Pantone Color Guide
Colorful Houses of Burano
Clumsy Girl in Venice
10 Things to Do in Florence
Postcards from the Tuscan Region
Our Lucky Day in Rome
Iceland: Blue Lagoon & Glacier Walk
Feel like joining one of the workshops next year? 🙂 Fill up this form & be the first one to know about the new schedules.