Perhaps someone has looked at your art and told you they know it’s yours just by looking at it.

Or maybe you can see there is something that sets your work apart from others, but can’t quite put your finger on what exactly that special sauce is.

If that’s the case, it sounds like you are on your way to truly showcasing your unique style and voice as an artist.

So what is artistic voice? Style? And how do you know if you have it?

My name is Carrie and I created Artist Strong to help self-taught artists build their skill and develop their unique style. To date, thousands have joined the community to learn and grow together.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽If you feel like gaps in your learning hold you back from making your best art, sign up and watch my workshop, called How to Create Art from Your Imagination. Watch for free by clicking the link in the description below.

Today let’s discuss the 5 signs you’re developing your unique artistic voice.

First off let’s define voice and style.

If I’m honest, I generally use these terms interchangeably. But there are some differences. 

Artistic voice speaks to the whole of your art. It’s everything that encompasses your message, style, approach to making…your life story, experiences, the whole shebang.

Artistic style is how you use the 6 qualities of style to communicate in and create your art. The 6 qualities of style are: 

  • the elements and principles of art, 
  • medium and materials, 
  • genre, 
  • theme, 
  • influence, and 
  • personal experience,

I’ve linked to my youtube video that goes into more detail about these 6 qualities of style, which includes a guide you can use for free to reflect on your art.

For me, the easiest way to describe it is as follows:

Voice is your body of work.

Style is a series of your work.

I’ll use my art as an example here and start with style. 

My work has evolved over the years (no, you don’t have to stick to one style your whole life!). My first work I think of in terms of series is my work called Anonymous Woman. I stumbled upon images in the US National Archives of women training to be cabbies in the 1940s while men were off to war. While they were photographed for this notable change in gender role, nowhere in the documentation were their names recorded.

I painted and drew and embellished these women with gold leaf and embroidery and chose to name them to honor their memory.

Theme is a very important quality of style for this project and suggests it’s a series more than my voice as an artist, because this isn’t the only thing my art talks about. 

I’ve begun two other series: one is highlighting women in unconventional job roles for their gender, currently exploring women tattoo artists, which clearly comes from this original series, and the other series is about my experience of becoming primary caregiver to my daughter and the experience of caregiving.

What do these series have to do with the first? If you think about it, I’m bringing voice to the stories of women who we overlook or ignore. If you’re speaking to voice in my work, that larger message is much more on point, and could be used to discuss my work as a whole, which is where I use the term body of work.

I think it’s really hard to discuss voice when we aren’t confident in any style and haven’t yet created art in series.

The first step is to explore ideas through a series and then use those works to help you reflect on and consciously decide next steps for your work, which ultimately begins a conversation around voice.

And I want you to know: you don’t have to go through this experience on your own. I work with artists who have had an art studio for a few years but feel stuck and wonder, what’s next? They’ve signed up for paint-like-me classes, where they’ve learned loads about how to paint and create art that looks like their teacher’s work, but don’t quite know how to use those learnings to start creating their own unique art. 

Lastly, they struggle with using the label artist, it’s something they want to be but don’t quite believe it yet. While their art is a hobby, they have this whispering that art is more than just a hobby. They want to know what that could look like.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽If this sounds like you, let’s talk. Click on the link to my calendar in the description below to choose a time and date that works best for you. 

There are other ways to recognize you are in the process of voice development. I mentioned one in the very beginning of this video:

People can see things in your work and draw connections between pieces.

You may not be working in series but when people observe your art, they make comments about the similarities they can see, the story they read into it, or even that they can tell which work is yours.

This is happening because you have a style and voice simmering inside of you. It’s always been there, but you’re making enough art that a pattern begins to emerge. And while you, and your viewers, may not be able to fully articulate what you’re seeing, your voice and style is starting to emerge in your work.

If you want to have a unique style and voice (which, you do, just by being you), this is great news! Your subconscious choices as a creative are already bringing this to light. 

And this leads me to the second sign you’re developing voice in your art:

You begin to trust your artistic choices.

The constant fight you’re used to with your inner critic is quieting a bit. And when you’re in the studio working you find yourself enjoying flow state, and trusting in the journey of making the artwork.

This isn’t to say you are free from doubts, but you’ve stopped second guessing every single mark you make on the canvas. You aren’t always worried that your next mark will ruin it, like you’ve magically stumbled into the good parts of the artwork in front of you. (You know, instead of you being the reason those good parts are there!).

When we begin to trust ourselves our curiosity takes a stronger role in our process and we are more willing to try new things and be comfortable with the outcomes, good and bad. Because if we’ve made something good once, we can do it again.

This is when you also start making more conscious choices when it comes to the qualities of style, which is our third sign of developing artistic voice.

You consciously make decisions around how you use the qualities of style

When we develop confidence in our skill and the work we are making, we have more headspace to start thinking about the message and meaning of our work.

Is it saying what we want it to? What do we want to say in our work?

Instead of just showing up to the studio and pulling out a paintbrush and an image reference, you’ve made choices about the medium you’re using, the image references you select, which are meaningful. They are aligned to the goals and ideas you hold in your heart and are your means of trying to get out those amazing ideas to paper and canvas.

When you look at the 6 qualities of style, which are:

  • the elements and principles of art, 
  • medium and materials, 
  • genre, 
  • theme, 
  • influence, and 
  • personal experience,

You now think of them in terms of what best helps you achieve your artistic goals for the work and go about using them to make the best art you can create.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 And a reminder, If you aren’t sure what the qualities of style are, be sure to check out the video I’ve linked above which goes into detail around all 6 qualities and how you can start using them in your art.

Not only do you make formal choices with your art (art terminology that means you’re consciously using the elements and principles of art), you have a plan for the next time your inner critic gets wound up about something.

Our fourth sign of voice development is:

You have a strategy in place for navigating your inner critic.

You no longer take your inner critic as a sign that something’s wrong with you and your art. Instead, you realize the inner critic is part of your creative process, and likely will never go away. However, it’s not as scary anymore either. It actually provides you information and insight into what matters most to you.

Because of this, you no longer constantly avoid the work or your studio when things get super hard. You do, however, make room for you to navigate the psychological and emotional consequences of hearing a negative inner critic.

You do something to honor your emotional and psychological needs so that you can move forward with the work.

When you believe in yourself and the work, you trust in the process, and you consciously make decisions moving forward, you also develop the confidence to navigate the fears and vulnerabilities that naturally pop up when we create. Welcome to being human.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 Today’s video is brought to you by the workshop How to Create Art from your Imagination.

If you are creative who has had a studio space for a while, but feel stuck, like learning gaps are holding you back from making the art that captures your unique style, watch my workshop: How to Create Art from your Imagination, for free. You can watch it as soon as you sign up, so grab that link below to get started.

Lastly, the final sign of voice development I want to share today with you:

You have a vision for your work

Not only do you feel more confident in your work and creative process, you are empowered to think about your art in terms of the bigger picture.

You feel space to think about the work you create, and how you might share it with others. (And this does not have to be able selling, though for many it can be).

There is a sense of possibility moving forward when you think about your art.

Art is freedom.

Vision can look like: 

  • knowing what success is for your art, 
  • having a plan for the next work you create, 
  • creating a website because you want to sell your art or apply to shows or grants, 
  • not creating a website because you realize it’s not about selling or showing for you, 
  • And many more things.

We can have vision before our style or voice is fully articulated and it can absolutely help us get to where we want to go.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 I’d love to know, what’s your vision for your art? Be sure to like and subscribe to Artist Strong if you’re enjoying today’s topic and then tell me about your vision for your art in the comments below.

Today we’ve talked about the difference between artistic voice and style, and the 5 signs you’re in the midst of developing that unique artist voice simmering inside of you all along.

I’d love to know what’s one new thing you’ve learned today you can apply to your studio practice this week? Share your thoughts and takeaways in the comments below.

And if you resonate with today’s message, but don’t want to have to do it on your own, I have just the thing. Self-Taught to Self-Confident is a premium program packed with everything you need to build your foundations, develop confidence in your skill, and ultimately create a series of artworks that reflect your unique voice. Hop on a call (I’ve linked my calendar below) to decide if it’s right for you.

I want you to know, your voice isn’t something you have to make up or create because of some outside definition of success or society’s messaging about what art is or isn’t. It’s inside of you, and you have the power to bring it out. I hope talking about signs of voice development empowers you to start owning the unique style and voice that’s always been inside of you.

Remember: proudly call yourself an artist.

Together we are Artist Strong!