Figuring out where you sit within the larger ocean of arts practice can be a daunting task. You might feel like you’re faking it till you make it, and maybe you’re not even sure exactly what you’re faking 🤔
Or perhaps you make different things! Maybe you write, illustrate, and sing on the side, and whenever somebody asks “so what’s your thing?” you feel a little like…“well here’s a list of the last 5 things I’ve made, maybe you can tell me?”
For me, it’s always hard to define my style or even my kind of arts practice whenever I haven’t done something recently, and especially since I am usually involved in very different projects. Sometimes I find that the best way of defining myself and my style is a combination of what I’ve done and the themes that run through all the different projects. I usually find that I am just asking the same question through different media.
A big struggle when defining your particular niche or style within an artistic practice is feeling like everything you are doing is just-not-good-enough. This is tough, especially because it can keep you from powering through, which is what usually helps define your style anyways!
Below is a series of steps I tend to take whenever I am ask to talk about my style, either for an application, or maybe just to my parents...
Gather all the things you’ve made
A lot of us are multi-genre artists, meaning we make things, some of which can be classified as writing, some of which are installations, maybe we do collages in our spare time, and some stuff we just look at and go, is this even art?
Pick things you have “made” that you are proud of. Don’t let yourself be defined by a particular type of art or medium. Just pick things you think “yeah, I dig this one”
Try looking at them for the first time, what patterns do you notice? What words can you use to describe them?
If you arrange them chronologically, can you see how your style has changed, become more specific, taken a left turn? 👀
Gather all the things you love
Make a mood board! Surround yourself with things you regard as “good” art or “interesting.” Who are your idols? Why do you love them? Push yourself to answer the deeper questions about why you love what you love, and about what exactly inspires you to do the work you do.
Make a list of the artists you adore and your favourite pieces from them
Copy them! Do studies in techniques, colours, shapes, rhythms, accents, etc.
Emulation is a way of learning and getting to know what you love and what you don’t love, or what you love but would make different
This video is mostly for visual artists, specifically illustrators. But I believe some of its principles also applyto anybody looking to solidify their style. The video talks about changing style, adopting someone else’s style in the way to finding your own.
Some questions to get you started
Think of your work in relation to someone else’s work:
How are you extending from another artist’s work?
How are you questioning or disputing what another artist has done?
How are you complimenting another artist’s work?
Have a studio visit!
A good advice is to know how to explain your style to your mom, your non-artsy friend, and a grant panel 😉
Figuring out how to speak about your style in different ‘languages’ can help you narrow down where you sit within a larger context of arts practices or styles. It’s a good exercise to try to define your style also in different contexts. How would you do it as an elevator pitch? What about in the pub? What if this was at a dinner table with a group of strangers?
Don't forget you can always share your art with us! Become the next Artist of The Month or tag us on on Instagram @darkyellowdot
Finally... Here is a video i watch when i’m feeling like the work I’m doing is just pure garbage
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Valentina is a Colombian artist based in London. She is currently finishing her MA in Performance Practice as Research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and is interested in issues of race, representation, and contemporary performance. Before coming to the UK, she completed her undergraduate degree at NYU Abu Dhabi.