How to Develop a Personal Painting Style

By Marion Boddy-Evans

Part of being an artist is having an identifiable style, that special ‘something’ that enables someone to look at a painting and know that it’s by you, regardless of what the subject of the painting is. A particular painting style is something a gallery will want to see in your work. So how do you develop this, or is it something you automatically have? Do you have to stick to that style forever, or can you change it? And how do you decide what your painting style is, given all the options there are? Here are a range of helpful comments and tips on developing a painting style from the Painting Forum to help answer these questions.

“I’d say it’s something you develop. After all, you don’t take a class and then claim that whatever was covered in the class is your style. You develop your styles as you go through your life as an artist. I’d like to think you can have many different styles if you want to, and those will likely change as you grow as an artist. I read so much of people starting out in something like realism and ending up in impressionism or even expressionism because they got tired of reality. I used to love abstraction. Right now I think I’m a semi-impressionistic realist. Who knows where I’ll be next.” –BFJ

“I think it’s something you develop over time unconsciously or consciously. Galleries apparently like to see a distinctive style of whatever sort, then, when the artist tends to move away from that style, they can be pushed into keeping doing it because the gallery or whoever has created a market for that particular thing. It is possible to paint what you like, but if you’re intending to make a living out of doing it, then you’ll have to balance what you want to do against what others want to see and own. Art is a business like any other, you have to provide a product that people want to buy, not something they want to run screaming from ( a bit of an exaggeration but you get my point). When your fan base or customer base is large enough or wealthy enough, you can paint more or less what you choose to, because you’ll have created a demand.” –Taffetta

“My friends and clients find it a little bit disturbing when I change styles, that’s why I try to maintain one style consistently. The good thing about it is that the longer I explore my style, the better I seem to get at mastering its own intricacies and challenges. For example: How can I remain loosely impressionistic and at the same time render something recognizable, interesting and appealing. This has forced me to look closely at the most essential elements and it always amazes me how much there is to learn in this regard; sometimes it feels like I’m on a voyage because so many things have happened along the way. Maybe that’s why my style didn’t start emerging until I had done almost 100 paintings. In my view, the only thing that will bring out your style is to keep on painting; at one point your imagination and experience will merge into a style very much your own.” –Victor

“There are so many different styles I’d like to paint. I think that we should just paint whatever we want and choose the style that you are best at to sell. Who knows, maybe once you are established maybe you can paint whatever you want!” –Stacyharrison

“The ideas can be overwhelming. If any one of my subjects sold better than another I might at least be able to do some quick research but it’s not that simple. I think I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing and see how it all works out on it’s own.” –Ruthie

“I went through this period where I didn’t know what to say or what to think. Part of the challenge is defining your work (who you are) and that involves study (I know…as if you didn’t have enough already). However, you can learn a lot about yourself (your style) by studying the works of other artists and art in general. If I were you, I would look up Odilon Redon, William Blake and the writings of artist Giorgio Morandi on the spiritual in art.” –Victor

“The best way to develop a style is to do a lot of painting. Certain themes will occur over and over, perhaps favorite colors or shading will begin creeping into your work. Just like handwriting, unless you happen to be a robot, you will develop a style. Whatever you do, donot try to copy anyone else’s. To do so is a disservice to the art world. Too much art tries to copy someone else’s. Life is too short to not be original!” -Eric





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