What does it mean to have a unique style as an artist? Perhaps your work doesn’t feel cohesive even though other people can see connections in your art. It’s really important to you and secretly you think, “are they just being nice to me?“

Let’s discuss the qualities of style in art. 

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 free workshop, called How to Create Art from Your Imagination. It’s completely free and the link is in the description below.

First, let’s define style. 

Style is the unique way in which an artist shares their voice in their art. People often will see someone’s work and recognize it as their work because of their style. It has six qualities, they include:

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

Let’s dig into these six qualities now. 

The elements and principles of art are foundational tools to creating your art. 

Even if you’re watching this and thinking, “What are the elements and principles of art?” we all use them to create our style, and how we use them often becomes part of our unique style.

Paul Klee is a great example of work and a style that is heavily influenced by his use of the elements and principles of art.

When you observe his work there is a large focus on color theory, shape and line, all different elements of art.

I have a great article about what we can all learn from his creative practice linked below.

The medium and materials we use also contribute to our voice.

Medium is the art supply you use to create your art, say acrylic paint or colored pencil. Other materials include our substrate (the surface we make our art on), mediums we may mix into our paint to change the characteristics of the paint, and more.

When I think of an artist who found her voice because of medium and materials the first name that comes to mind is artist Jen Stark. I first learned about her art over 10 years ago now when I heard her story of discovering the medium that led to her breakthrough for style. 

When she was an art student she managed to get a semester where she got to take classes and live in France. Being a poor artist student who scraped by to make this happen, she had even fewer resources to invest in art supplies when she got there. So when she toured the supply store for materials, she looked for the cheapest material she could find, which happened to be construction paper. 

She brought it home with her and started brainstorming and thinking about her medium. How could she manipulate the materials? What are different ways she could play with it?

She started creating sculptures and reliefs with it and even her work today is obviously influenced by those early works.

Genre speaks to the art movements, and categories of art making that you might fall into.

This can refer to whether you prefer abstraction, landscapes, realism, etc. Some artists stick with one for most of their life while others jump around or even create new movements like Picasso and Brock with Cubism.

Theme speaks to a larger message, and meaning that ties the work together.

In my work for example, my first series focused on celebrating unsung women, documented in the US National Archives for the novelty of their job roles in the 1940s but not listed with their names. This led me to look at women in male dominated jobs today. My most recent works have shifted gears and speak to the unreasonable standards women are held to as mothers. 

At first, this may appear unrelated, but when you think about it, they are all about unsung, under-celebrated women. The theme gives me a sense of direction, cohesiveness, but also freedom to explore multiple media and ideas.

Influence speaks to the world around us and how that shapes our art.

None of us create in a vacuum. Teachers, art history, current events, current cultural interests in particular media or genre, all play into artistic choices whether we we are exposed to them or use them (consciously or not).

The most obvious example I have of this is the work created by artists in paint-like-me classes. I coined the phrase to speak to the proliferation of online classes where teachers share the techniques and artistic decisions that communicate their unique style, then students replicate this or riff on this style for their art in response to the assignments.

Being aware of how our learning interests, etc. influence the art we make gives us greater opportunity to consider the artistic decisions we make.

Related to influence, but important enough to have its own category is experience how does where we were born or nationality ethnicity, race health and individual life experience influence are making?

An artist who really embodies this quality of style for me is Frida Kahlo her work directly speaks to her life experiences which include debilitating pain, and the deep, but unfulfilled desire to be a mother, these experiences have helped shape the art she made.

I’m curious of these qualities of style, which are elements and principles of art, medium materials, genre, theme, influence, and personal experience, which most resonates with you? Which could you more consciously consider as you create your art?

Like this video if it resonates and tell me about the qualities you’ve chosen in the comments below.

I’ve spoken about the qualities of style as independent entities, but it makes more sense to consider them different spices for the recipe. That is your unique style.

I talked about my own work in terms of theme, but with my recent evolution I’d argue personal experience is heavily coming into play, and my choice of medium in materials works in concert with both theme and experience.

I’ve created a guide where you can work out how you currently use the qualities of style and what you might take action on moving forwardthe link is in the description below. Be sure to download it it’s totally free so you can be well on your way to developing in finding the unique voice simmering inside of you.

I’d love to know, have you thought about styling this way before or has it been? 

My calling is to help artists and those of you still uncomfortable using that label (Yes, you are) gain clarity about their hopes and dreams for their art so they can take active steps to reach them. 

I hope today’s video offers you some of that clarity and if you are an artist with a home studio who has taken paint like me classes, and think of yourself as a hobbyist, but have this question of, “what if,” and you feel like there’s something more for you I want to talk to you.

I have an A-to-Z method that walks you through what I call the three phases of artistic expression to help you embrace the calling in your heart to do something more with your art. >>Find a link in the description, and have a one on one chat to learn more.<<



Defining style for an artist: the 6 qualities of styleThank you so much for watching today.

Remember, proudly call yourself Artist.

Together we are Artist Strong.