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Discover Your Personal Art Style

Exercises, information, and inspiration to discover your unique artistic style and build confidence in your abilities.

Getting StartedInterested in developing your own artistic style? This Libguide is the right place for you. Here we will discover some exercises and books that will inspire the artist within. I recently encountered Diane Culhane's approach and was inspired. I have blended some of her exercises with my own suggestions to help you build the confidence needed to trust your instincts. Art is an expression of how we observe and process the world around us. Art can be a healing balm to the anxiety inside that pressures us to keep moving, pressing, driving, faster, faster, faster...Thank you for joining this journey. Don't forget to check out the My Own Practice Tab to see some of my original practice samples. 

8 Easy Exercises

Top 5 Supplies to Get Started: 

 

1. An open playful attitude: We aren't seeking perfection, just exploration. 

2. A surface to art on: you don't need to go out and spend a lot of money on a fancy sketch book or supplies. Use an old journal or book, a piece of cardboard, napkins, sidewalk or wood. Whatever you have use it.

3. Utensil: grab a pencil nub, a piece of charcoal, a pen, crayons, any medium that feels good to you. 

4. Storage: You will be collecting your doodles and sketches for reflection and to get to know your style. Having something to store it all in one place is helpful. Use a folder, the inside of a book, a milk crate, a shoe box, a place you will remember and they can all be housed together. If you are using the sidewalk or something other than paper take a picture of it to use later. 

5. Get started: turn on some music and doodle, see what comes to mind and hand. Go outside and sketch something in nature or the things around you. Try a technique that fascinates you. 

 

 

 

Let's talk about lines. 

Lines are the foundation of art. Put your tool to paper and see what happens. Lines can express how you are feeling and the intensity of that emotion. As demonstrated in the photograph, different tools will create different expressions. 

Small, Medium, Large

This exercise focuses on the movement and size of what you are creating."Start with a tiny doodle on a sticky note; try only using the finger tips. Next use a sheet of paper, let the movement come from your wrist and elbow. Finally tape up butchers paper or cardboard on the wall, and create something that uses your full arm or even your whole body" (Culhane, 2017).  

Stay Connected

Draw a continuous chain without lifting your preferred mark making tool. "Let your mind step away from conscious planning and thinking...engage the creative side of the brain" (Culhane, 2017). 

Diddo

Pick a theme to doodle for the day. It can be anything: noses, circles, plants, squiggles, chairs, cats, you choose and focus on that one item for an entire practice. 

Visual Storylines 

Grids allow us to tell a visual story. Take in the scene around you, capture the creatures, movement, energy, or emotion. Grids can be another way to capture a theme. "Grids are all around us once you start to notice them; sidewalks, cityscape, carpet squares and tiles, windows, streets" (Culhane, 2017). 

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

1. Use a copy machine or scanner to make a doodle larger. " It is often easier to make small pieces of art. Seeing your small work become instantly larger via photocopy can help transition you into creating larger pieces" (Culhane, 2017).  

2. Don't have access to a copy machine? That's okay, practice your hand eye coordination by copying your own doodles. 

3. Try adding paint or other color. You don't have to worry about messing up because you can always make another copy of the original. 

Reflect and Analyze 

Dig into your doodle storage, spread them out, and arrange them in collections. You can group like subjects, pair items that flow nicely together, or make a project out of them. A project can be gluing them into a book, matting and framing a collection, or deciding which ones would look nice as a painting. These little books can be reference for pieces later on.  "These doodles will gather and store the moments in your day. They will reveal themselves as recorded memories in a way that a smartphone picture never can" (Culhan, 2017). 

Bring it to Life 

After taking a look through your collection you may have found a few pieces that would look nice with color. Use wood panels, canvases, or gesso-ed paper and let your creativity fly. Combine several different medias to get different textures: crayons, oil pastels, charcoal pencils, sand paper, pallet knife. Your Doodle collection can be referenced for inspiration. 

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Some considered Van Gogh's style childish and underdeveloped. He is now one of the most celebrated and recognized artist in the world. Trust the way you interpret the world and put it to paper. 

Portrait of Dora Maar by Pablo Picasso

Picasso's style was considered radical and grotesque. He became one one the most celebrated abstract artists. You don't have to follow convention, break out of your comfort zone and try a new medium or technique. 

Nuclear Disarmament by Keith Haring

Keith Haring's style is bold, simple, and striking. Capturing simple lines can be more difficult than lots of detail. Try using thick bold lines. 

My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki's illustration style is rich with color, fun, quirky, and at times breathtakingly beautiful. He has been a celebrated artist in the world of animation for years. Find magical moments in nature like a perfect dew drop on a leaf.

The Cobbler and the Thief by Richard Williams

This is an animated film from my childhood. I remember being completely absorbed in the geometric art to the point that it still comes to mind today. Try working with geometric shapes and see what you create. 

Garden by David Hockney

This painting has a brilliant almost florescent color scheme showing an everyday scene. Tell a story about what's around you no matter how mundane it may seem. 

Danesey Corey by Sue Bryan

Sue Bryan's style is misty as a memory. It's okay to get messy and let your hands smudge the work. That can show what type of energy you had during the pieces creation. 

Alla Prima Shpynx by Jennifer Gennari

Dramatic black backgrounds make Gennari's subjects jump off the page. Try getting in really close. Take a fresh look at a beelte or grass through a macro lense

Unicorn by Lisa Frank

Frank's style is like looking through a rainbow kaleidoscope. You don't have to aim for realistic art. Animation, abstract, or a blend do what speaks to you.  

The Scream by Edvard Munch

You can feel the anxiety in Munch's the scream. The dark and red swirly background makes you feel the turmoil. Try capturing emotions happy, anxious, sleepy let the background reflect that emotion. 

Lake George by Georgia O'keeffe

O'keeffe spent much of her career in the desert simply doing "study" pieces. Don't aim for masterpieces, aim for the process and expression. You might just surprise yourself with something wonderful. 

Related Readings

Poll

What level artist would you consider yourself?
Beginner: 1 votes (20%)
Intermediate: 4 votes (80%)
Advanced: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 5

References

Culhane, D. (2017). If You Can Doodle You Can Paint: Transforming Simple Drawings into Works of Art. Beverly, MA: Quarto Publishing Group USA.