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How to find your own drawing style (6 Tips)

I drew these portraits using the same reference to explore different art styles. The left one was drawn in March 2017, right before I quit drawing. The middle one is from March this year (2022), and I sketched the right one six months later (September 2022).

Most artists go through a phase in their art journey where they feel like their art looks too generic, boring, and academic. When I returned to drawing earlier this year, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that my drawings looked plain and lacked a signature art style that others could identify with me.

So I made it a point this year to figure out what it takes to draw with a distinct art style that aligned with my art goals and aesthetics, and in this post, I share some of the tips I have found helpful in doing so.

So how do we develop our own drawing style?

To find your own drawing style, you need to:

  • Analyze the drawing style of other artists.
  • Make it a habit to improvise references.
  • Know the different building blocks of art style.
  • Avoid feeling pressured to find your drawing style too early.
  • Be confident in your creative problem-solving.
  • Constantly explore, evolve, and grow as an artist.

Tip 1 Learn how to analyze the art style of other artists you admire for inspiration.

Studying how other artists draw in their particular art style that you like is a great way to understand how artistic choices influence an artwork. And once you start to figure out what is it that you particularly like about an artwork, like the color palette, shape language, or intricate line work, you begin incorporating those influences into your own drawings over time.

It is understandable to fear that we’ll never develop our own unique art style if we imitate other artists. But I think as long as you study other people’s artwork with the right mindset your drawing style will eventually emerge.

Here are some tips to make the most of art style studies:

  • Instead of making an exact imitation of drawings by other artists, try to do loose sketches of their artwork to understand what is working well in a particular artwork, and make a note of any elements that you wish to incorporate in your own drawings going forward.
  • Try to understand the artist’s thought process in creating their artworks beyond what you would gain by looking at their Instagram. Some ways to get a deeper level of understanding of an artist’s unique way of doing things is by getting their artbooks, watching their art process videos, checking out their Patreon page, seeing their artwork in person at a museum or art gallery, and attending their workshops and courses.
  • Practice drawing studies inspired by the style of a particular artist using your own references after doing some direct studies of their artwork to see what elements of their art style you have picked up and what you like and dislike about it.
  • Study from a large pool of artists to inspire your drawing style so it doesn’t get heavily borrowed from a particular artist. This is something I need to work on myself as well because this year, I mainly studied art by Loish and Eliza Ivanova, which reflects a bit in my drawings, too.

Tip 2 Make it a habit to improvise references and not just copy.

I don’t know how many of you can relate to this because I think I struggle with drawing from imagination much more than most artists do.

Until recently, my art has been utterly devoid of imagination because I thought the objective of drawing should be to capture what I observe to the best of my technical ability.

I think the key for me as a beginner artist that is helping me to develop my art style has been to actively consider what I like in a particular reference that I want to emphasize and also know where I need to give myself permission to depart from the reference and rely on my imagination instead of just trying to copy every detail that I see in a reference.

Tip 3 Focus on one building block of art style at a time.

I think it’s really helpful to be mindful of the different components of art style when you’re drawing and actively consider how you can influence those through your creative choices.

The art style of an artist is the product of his or her artistic choices that go into making their art, such as:

  • Shape language.
  • Value range.
  • Color palette.
  • Line work.
  • Gesture.
  • Composition.

In my experience, however, whenever I try to change too many aspects of my drawing style at once, I cannot extract any meaningful takeaways from the exercise.

I think the best way to nurture your unique brand of art style that works for you, in the long run, is to make incremental changes to a single aspect of the building blocks of art style at a time.

Tip 4 Don’t feel pressured to find your drawing style too early in your art journey.

I don’t particularly enjoy drawing exercises like practicing drawing boxes in perspective and Loomis head studies , but I feel like by not working on my fundamentals during these initial years of my art journey, I won’t be able to hide the deficiencies in my drawings through cosmetic improvements.

As someone who started taking art seriously only when I was well into my 30s and started learning to draw without an art school, I felt a lot of pressure to ‘find my art style’ early on. Even though my technical abilities and knowledge about art were at a level where I should have been more concerned about working on my art fundamentals.

But I think this is something that a lot of beginner artists struggle with, and I think this reflects the need for people to stand out from others and gain recognition for themselves, which is totally relatable.

We are all so lucky to be alive at a time when we can get inspired by thousands of artists through social media. But one unwanted side effect of this is the tendency to constantly compare our art with the best artists who have spent years developing their crafts.

The problem with excessive focus on how your art looks and compares to other artists in the early stages of your art journey can seriously cause your development as an artist to slow down.

I think it’s best to let your art style catch up with your technical skills and knowledge incrementally, especially since many aspects of your drawing style emerge intuitively over time and can’t be forced.

Tip 5 Be more confident in your creative abilities.

This is another thing I’m struggling with myself right now. I do realize how detrimental it can be as an artist to want your art to look only like how other people are already making art instead of figuring out what works for you and how you can channel your creativity into making your art better and ‘authentic’ in the long run.

And I think the key to finding your artistic voice is to grow confidence that somewhere along your journey as an artist, you will find an art style that is unique to you as long as you trust yourself and the process.

Tip 6 Always explore, evolve, and grow as an artist.

I think what many successful artists have in common is that they continuously seek to explore new ways of making art, expose themselves to different experiences, and build their visual vocabulary instead of settling for a certain aesthetic. And this mindset ultimately helps them grow as artists and tell their story to the world through their art.

Here’s a great conversation about finding your art style between Proko and Loish, two artists I have learned a lot from and that I find myself returning to from time to time. I hope you will find this video helpful in giving you a perspective on approaching your drawing style.