128 Finding a style

When we say artists have found a style it means they have arrived at a decision about their artistic expression. Style encompasses technique, composition, and attitude. It is an expression of your personality. In the best sense finding your style implies self knowledge fused with a technique that best expresses that individuality.

I know artists who thought little about their style, about technique, or the ultimate expression of their painting. These artists seem to know exactly who they are and their paintings reflect their confidence. Although I’m often envious of such confidence I find it completely alien to who I am. I’m more inclined to view such confidence as bluster, or worse, as thoughtlessness at the complexity of the world. What some view as lack of confidence others esteem as introspection.

Whether good or bad my journey has entailed a lot of experimentation, introspection, and self doubt. But those who know me well know that such a journey itself is an expression of my personality, my true nature. There might be those who would suggest some kind of self-help program to bolster my confidence and I have no aversion to self improvement of any kind. But I’m equally opposed to any type of fakery when it comes to evolving personal style. I’m unwilling to embrace a feigned confidence at the expense of genuine introspection.

I’ve known those who simply adopted a style, who copied the techniques of their favorite painters. I’ve known artists who faked a style, embracing the most popular fashions of the moment. These are common solutions for students and I don’t condemn anyone for trying them especially in the absence of alternatives. But feigning a style is not a real solution because there is no discovery of self. An adopted style is not a style. Any expression that is not a manifestation of who you really are is not a style. It is merely a pose. 

When asked if there is a shortcut to finding a final style I’m forced to confess that there is no easy way. There are shortcuts to technical proficiency and technical proficiency is a component of style. But the only way to find a style is to discover a method that best represents your personality, your intellect, and your view of the world. Those who copy a style or feign a style are simply postponing discovering their true style. How your style evolves is an aspect of your personality. It proclaims how you are developing as an artist and a human being. This process cannot be manufactured.

Brad Teare July 2013

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Updated: 18th September 2020
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