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“Failed Bird Painting Cut Up and Rearranged!” watercolor and pencil.

Q: Do all your blob or line creatures have the same look or do you only post pictures of ones that have your distinctive look? Because my blobish creatures never have anything in common…. but I could tell if you had painted one from across the room! I love when artists have a certain style, a recognizable style or look! (Question by Tammie.)

A: Great question, because once you posed it, I realized that it’s true… every once in awhile I’ll make blob-animals that don’t quite “fit,” and I don’t post them. I’ve always thought that these particular drawings weren’t good enough. But now that you mention it I can see that I’ve been self-editing those 10-20% out as critters that don’t fit into my “herd.” 😀

Regarding developing a style or look, I have three thoughts.

1. In the early stages of your art journey your work is likely to have similarities and be somewhat derivative of people you take classes from or admire. But over time, as you add more influences, become more skilled and comfortable with your art supplies, and draw from life (see point #3), your unique style can’t help but emerge!

2. You might already have a style, but just can’t see it clearly right now.

One of the first art classes I took when I started doing art again at 30 was a printmaking class. We made woodcuts and monotypes, and at the end of the semester I had to gather the semester’s work together for a class “critique.” Although I got lots of nice feedback, I was disappointed: The pieces just seemed ALL OVER THE PLACE stylistically. To me the pieces looked like 15 different people did them!

As I was gathering my work to take home, I mentioned my disappointment to another student. She was so surprised, and said “No, Carla, you have a very distinct style.”

So I’m wondering if you already DO have a style but just can’t see it? I’ve found that my students over the years have had the same feelings about their own art as I did. Sometimes it’s hard to “see” your own style, especially in the beginning.

3. One suggestion: In addition to looking at other artists for inspiration, make a habit of drawing from life and nature as much as possible. If you want to draw stylized faces or flowers, draw a lot of faces and flowers from life (or photo references). If you want to draw cartoony animals, draw regularly from life or photos.

It doesn’t matter if your drawings are “bad” or inaccurate; what you are doing is going to the SOURCE — nature itself — and beginning to interpret it through your own filter (rather than another artist’s filter).

Think of it like this: Imagine trying to learn Spanish from a German or Russian who speaks Spanish, but with a heavy German or Russian accent. You would learn to speak Spanish, then, with some real peculiarities of that particular teacher. (The Spanish-German accent might be really cool, but it’s not “yours.”)

Draw from life as much as possible!


Do you have a question about drawing or the creative process? I’m not an expert by any means, but I’m happy to share my thoughts and experiences. Go to this post and ask it in the comments section. I will try and answer all of them over time!