Because of our online-connected world, art is more accessible than it has ever been. All styles have a market to sell to and there isn’t anyone stopping artists from making what they want or trying to earn a living from it! But this is also why so many young artists ask, “How do I find my style? I know I am a unique person, but how do I make my art unique? I like to make a lot of things so what do I do?” This is a multilayered question that will only be answered if we ask the RIGHT questions. We have to be narrow and self reflective to get a better understanding.
1.) “What is the goal of my art? What do I want my art fulfill/answer/respond to in my life?“
This is the deep dive into self. You must be honest with yourself and do not think about what your friends or your mom thinks is good art. If you don’t really want to make it, you will give up early. Why? Because art is for fun and for healing. If the thing you are creating isn’t healing you, it serves you no purpose as its creator. This question is really asking, do I want to make humorous or educational/ethical paintings? Do I want to explore the diversity of color relationships because I’m always caught starring at a sunset longer than others? Do I want to tell hard stories in a loving and memorable way? Do remember these answer changes as we grow and finish different bodies of art.
2.) “Now that I know my goal, what context do I use?”
Context informs style. But they are not the same. A style can convey many different narratives and contexts across different artworks. A context, or idea, is not rigidly bound to one style so we must choose how we will express what is important to use. For example, love songs are created ever year by many people in millions of different styles and voices. With that said, style actually forms out of a very few pathways. We don’t have much control besides the brand of paint we use and how inspired we are feeling that day. Otherwise, you are who you are. Yes, you can change, but you will never have the past experiences and knowledge of a someone else. Knowing you will only be you, you can move to the next question.
The first two questions are usually eye opening to young artists but this question ails artist of many disciplines and experience.
3.) “I know what I love to create but I want some level of validation and/or profit from my work.” aka “How do I sell my art or do I paint something more sellable?”
This is the killer for many artists. I think too many are focused in general about wealth creation. Or at very least, their desire for massive wealth out weighs their desire to make the world’s most incredible art. A lot of people talk about wanting to make powerful art but they make fan art and trite studies out of fear of trying and failing. What is so harmful about making bad art? Every professional knows the amount of bad art they have ever created heavily outweighs how much great art they have made. They also learn, no matter how many amazing things they create, over time, no more than a handful of their works will reach the recognition of masterpiece. Find a way to navigate this in a healthy manner and you may be able to please both sides and retain the joy of creating.