There is a distinct movement among today’s young artists that focuses on one of the least important elements of the creative process. I am of course talking about style. When a young artist finds a talented hobbyist or working professional with a distinct and unique style, they undoubtedly uncountable want to learn what makes such a style so appealing. However the style, isn’t necessarily what is most appealing about the artist or his/her work. Arguably the most well known painting in the world is Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa,” and rightly so it has been parodied and remixed in thousands of new styles. The question is though has the message or impact of the original imaged changed? Usually…no… Her ambiguous expression and vague smile builds mystery in the piece. This image is not subject to just Leonardo’s painting style. It is equally as impactful in every single reproduction of the image. Therefore in this instance style is hardly a factor at all.
What is it though that makes us focus so much on style and technique verses the foundations of light, color, and form? Perhaps it’s the way an artist bends and breaks those rules that makes their work appealing. However one must first understand the rules, before you can start bending them to fit your own individual artistic voice. This is where many people fall flat. With such an emphasis on style and not on the fundamental basics of design, one can only assume there will be a disconnect in the creative process.
So let’s look again at what makes a style appealing. Well, this is a difficult subject to analyze as with each person being unique, what they find appealing is also unique to them. In a recent interview with freelance illustrator Sycra Yasin, we discussed the idea of style in art. His insights into the concept of style allowed me to rethink my position on the matter. I like many artists out there who are more visually minded find that style comes naturally as long as you are working to create the best art you can. Sycra on the other hand talks about “what you like in art.” He makes the distinction to remember what you “like” verses what you “admire.” Looking for the “that’s cool” mentality that kids have and become obsessed with their favorite game or tv show. Admiring and looking up to an artist is a different thought process. Admiring an artist is when you wonder how they could create such a masterpiece, while “liking” someone’s work, is taking what you admire and breaking down what you “like” about a piece. Recognizing things like dynamic perspective, high contrast, and/or bright vibrant colors, will allow you to recognize what you “like” in art, and what you can focus on creating in your own pieces to build your style.
For me the question of style is absurd. While I don’t understand the problem people have I do empathize with those who are “stuck in a rut” with their work. Perhaps because I’m such a visually minded person… I never focused on style, I just wanted to make cool artwork, and that was enough for me.
If nothing else think about it this way: “Will a unique style really make me better?” or are you using style as an excuse to not learn the fundamentals before you start breaking them.