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If you want to be a next-level artist, learning technique is only the beginning. Your drawings need to express your own personal style and say, “Hey, it’s ME.”
To develop a signature style, you’ll need to look at tons of artwork and experiment like crazy. The good news: Doing those things is fun, exciting and a giant creativity boost.
Here’s how to add more personal style to everything you draw.
1. Go on an art-viewing binge
Take in everything, not just drawings: books, museum exhibits, websites dedicated to fine art, pop art, cartoon strips — anything you can find. Notice the stuff that makes you say, “More, please.” That’s your first clue to the kinds of artworks that may end up inspiring your personal style.
2. Get the basics down
Understand the rules, so you can break them. Learning the basics of drawing, such as pen-stroke techniques, shading and drawing with perspective, will set you on your path. That way, when your own style starts to emerge, you’ll have the skills to back it up.
3. Bite the experts’ style
Let’s be clear: You never want to plagiarize art. But especially when you’re just starting out, copying other artists just for practice stretches your skills as you explore your own ways of expressing yourself. What might start out as mimicking can evolve into a style that’s uniquely yours.
4. Hit the art gym
Learning how to draw is like working out: If you want to be fit, you need to exercise regularly. Daily drawing practice will strengthen your skills and bring out your style.
5. Step outside of your comfort zone
Try drawing in a style that scares or intimidates you. Stay with me here. Exploring styles that feel unnatural can teach you about what you do want to draw and what does feel natural.
Let’s say you challenge yourself to draw a realistic-looking flower, but all you can think about is how you’re itching to draw mandalas. Those are your natural instincts calling out to you. Listen closely.
Seriously. You can’t beat doodling when it comes to honing your skills and carving out a personal style. As you doodle, you’re not just improving your hand-eye coordination. You’re also working in a free-form way and doing artistic problem-solving, even if you don’t realize it.
Whether you’re drawing hearts and stars, repeating pattern, or just scribbling, your doodles can evolve into stylized elements. Those might find their place in more “finished” art and turn into signatures of your style.
7. Rinse and repeat
Ok, you don’t need to “rinse,” but you should definitely repeat — as in, draw the same thing again and again. Whether you’re drawing wildflowers or a specific character you’re obsessed with (mine is Sprinkle the Unicorn), your personal style will start peeking out.
Have you ever watched old episodes of The Simpsons and thought how funny the characters looked — almost like beta versions of themselves? It took constant drawing and re-drawing for the characters to turn into the iconic figures everyone now knows. Even if you’re not Matt Groening (yet), you’ll benefit from repetition.
8. Listen to your inner voice
Even if you start out a drawing with a certain idea in mind, give yourself the freedom to change course. Pause for a minute, and be honest about what’s working and what’s not. Often, that little voice that says “Stop now” or “Draw a row of flowers here” is your personal style trying to be heard. Turn up the volume.
9. Stop drawing
Nope, that’s not a joke. You know how people say they come up with their best ideas in the shower? Channel that spontaneous creativity, and put down the pen and ink for a second.
Go for a walk, take a bath or do whatever you need to so you can bust out of your routine. Your brain processes ideas during this time “off,” and the break can make you a better artist.
Sometimes, when you find something that works artistically, you’re tempted to stick with it forever and ever. That may be great for some artists, but many others develop their styles over time. See where your instincts lead you.
For example, I’ve always drawn characters. I used to like working in pen and ink and watercolor, but now I like to color the items in digitally and use photographs. Working with characters is still definitely my style, but it’s evolved based on new techniques I’m exploring, and whatever feels good at the time.
11. Keep at it
You might get frustrated and want to give up — totally normal — but please don’t. For some people, developing a personal style will come quickly and naturally; for others, it can take lots of time and experimentation. And hey, you might have more than one style in you. Stick with the process. Over time, you’ll see results. Promise.
Artwork via CakeSpy