One thing I struggle with is finding and STICKING with my own art style. I watch a ton of Youtube videos and read a lot of mixed media art books, and I check out artists’ blogs when I can. I want to try those new techniques I found, and so I accidental become a mixed media art copycat.
An accidental copycat
It can happen without even realizing. Copy a tutorial to get the technique down…and then just keep doing the same thing over and over again, EXACTLY. Instead of showcasing your own unique artistic talent, your pieces end up looking like someone else did them. Copycat pages are a good way to learn, but they can also stifle artistic expression.
I suppose the thinking is: “If I do my own thing, the page won’t look “right” and then I’ll be a failure and can never show my face again.”
Or maybe, “that artist is VERY POPULAR. I want to be popular, so I’ll copy their style.”
Which is totally silly!
The goal of mixed media art shouldn’t be to become the most popular– get the most likes on Instagram or the most Facebook comments. It’s to express yourself, your INNER SELF, creatively and emotionally. How can you get that done if you’re worried about making your art journal look just like someone else’s?
When you’re learning something new, it’s fine to copy another artist. Even if you just want to learn a new technique, you have to start SOMEWHERE.
It’s what happens after that’s important. You have to move on from copying and you have to learn how to incorporate that technique into your own art style.
But how do you go from learning to doing? How do you go from how-to video to self-knowledge? And how do you separate out your own art style from the style of someone else?
It’s difficult to stop being a mixed media art copycat– I still struggle with it myself. It’s very easy to just keep copying someone, and it feels good when you manage to get it to look “right.”
But that shouldn’t be where your art journey ends. It’s not where MINE ends! I’m actively working on making sure I’m learning techniques, and then keep going to incorporate those techniques into my style.
That said, I’ve come up with a checklist of how to make sure I’m developing my own art style, and not just copying someone else’s.
If you also worry about copying other people, even accidentally, maybe this list can help you out, too.
How to find your own mixed media art style
1. Try a LOT of things.
Try a LOT of different art techniques, try tutorials from all kinds of different people, get samples of paint and ink and splash them around. Instead of just focusing on one particular artist or one particular product line (no matter how much you love them), spread your “learning time” around and try to learn something new from everyone.
This’ll help keep your art knowledge fresh, and it’ll be more natural to blend a bunch of techniques and inspiration if you have a wider pool of knowledge to draw from.
2. What do you like? What’s your aesthetic?
You may love a specific artist and want to copy everything they do, but is that REALLY your personal aesthetic? I’ve run into this problem myself: I love Dyan Reavley and use her products a lot, but her art style isn’t 100% a match for my own.
If I just copy every page she makes exactly, that isn’t being true to my own art style. So I use her videos and tutorials as inspiration (and learning techniques using her products), but then I make sure to actually incorporate my own style preferences.
Don’t rely on other people’s style of art. Give it a go, but then branch off a bit. Personalize anything you put down on paper and make sure it’s something that YOU like, not just a copy of another person’s page.
3. Keep learning new skills.
Learn art skills that don’t depend on buying stamps/paper/cut-outs/etc. The more image elements you can create yourself, the easier it’ll be to have a totally unique art style.
For instance: I’m not good at drawing faces, but I love having people on my art pages. I could take a class on portraits, or watch an online webinar. Or maybe I don’t want to use too many paper products from the same line: I can learn to make my OWN paper.
4. Mix things up.
Use tools in unexpected ways. Experiment with your supplies! Maybe you’ll mix two paint colors together to make a new color that isn’t in any video. Turn everything into a stamp. Put layers down on your page in the “wrong” order.
Take what you’ve learned from videos and tutorials, and go WILD! Don’t just follow the same tutorials over and over again– add an extra step, or remove something you don’t like. I encourage the same with my own tutorials, so don’t be afraid to go off book with other tutorials as well.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
The more art you create, the closer you’ll get to finding your true art style. This is the perfect time to develop a daily art habit, if you can get it scheduled. If you only make one page a week and it’s a copycat one– try making TWO. One to learn the technique, and another that incorporates something new or unexpected within that technique.
Your art style is still developing. The more art you create, the easier it’ll be to distinguish YOUR art from somebody else’s art.
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