“Storm over the Salt Marsh”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Storm over the Salt Marsh”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Have you wondered how to get a unique painting style of your own so that when people see your paintings, they know that you did it and not somebody else?

Well, today I’m going to talk about five different things that you can do so that you can begin to develop a style all of your own.

Rough Transcript:

You know, there really isn’t any magic formula. I wish there was, but there’s not. Style develops through the habit of simply making paintings. Kind of like the way you developed your style and handwriting as a kid.

Think about going back to first grade and your handwriting probably looked like about everybody else’s. Then by second grade you began to develop a little bit of individuality and mainly through practice.

But third grade you could recognize that you wrote it. And so could your mom, dad, and everybody else in the classroom.

I’m going to talk about the ways that you can apply the same strategies that made your own handwriting to creating your own personal style and painting.

#1 Explore & Experiment

The first thing I want you to do is experiment, test different things out, explore.

Until you’ve really explored all the different possibilities that there are out there, all the different options and techniques, you’re not going to know what it is that you want to dive into and explore more deeply.

So if you’re just getting started as a painter, don’t feel like you have to develop a style right away. In fact, you can’t. What you have to do first is explore, dive deep and just test out all of the different things that there are.

#2 Practice Your Craft – Paint!

Once you’ve picked a medium and a technique that you really enjoy, not what you think the market’s going to go for, but what you enjoy, then it’s time to spend a little more focus on number two, practicing your craft.

What I mean by that is you need to spend some time in front of the old easel with the brush in hand or the knife or whatever it is the tool is that you work with because that practice, that time that you spend on your craft is what really is at the heart and the core of developing a style.

It’s not going to happen without spending that time. It’s what happened between first and third grade. Remember that story about your handwriting?

In order to do this, one of the things you’re going to want to do is to develop a regular practice. Ideally, a daily one. And think about how you can integrate that into your regular life. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, doesn’t mean you have to make a painting a day, but it means you have to do something towards your practice every single day. If you don’t, the style part is not going to happen.

You got to paint.

So it doesn’t mean you necessarily need to do that old adage of 10,000 hours. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it does mean you’ve got to spend some time at the task and you can do that on your own.

You can be self-taught. There is nothing wrong with it. And you can work through the issues that are at hand and develop your own style, or you can sign up for workshops and classes and speed that process up, but there’s no replacement for time spent painting.

#3 Look at Other Art

Number three, and this is really important. Super simple. You got to look at other art. This is how you feed your imagination. One of the ways that you begin to realize all the different options that there are out there is to look at what other artists are doing.

Now, when I say this, I don’t mean go out and copy other artists. Not at all. Copying is not going to make you a better artist. Let me say that again. Copying other artists is not going to make you a better artist.

You can absolutely be influenced by other artists. But you’re going to learn the most from other artists by looking at what they’ve done, exploring the different techniques that they’ve used and how they have developed and woven their own lives, their own passions into their art.

#4 Focus on Painting WELL

Number four, it’s not enough just to paint because if you’re just painting and repeating the same errors over and over and over what you’re teaching yourself is to paint full of errors. It’s to make mistakes and then to keep reinforcing them.

So you want to practice painting well, That means get feedback from other people, whether it’s in a formal class or in a critique group or with a group of other artists.

We don’t always see our work with a lot of objectivity. Sometimes we’re our own worst critics. So in order to facilitate painting better, you’re going to learn faster if at the bare minimum you are sharing your work with other artists and getting feedback, if you are joining in crit groups, if you are participating in art, Facebook groups remember -we’ve got a free one.

And if you are joining classes and workshops and professional development, you’re going to speed that whole process up if you get some help and some training.

#5 Follow Your Curiosity & Interests

The fifth one is super important in a lot of ways.

I think it is as important is that second one, which was paint. So follow your curiosity and interests. What I mean by that is, paint the things that you love. Paint the things that fascinate you. Paint the things that you’re interested in because your passion around that subject is going to come through in what you do with it.

If you paint things that you don’t remotely find interesting, why in the world would you think the viewer would find it interesting? Not only that. You’ll begin to bore yourself and then you’ll stop painting. So, paint the things that you’re interested in and that will come through in your painting. It will inspire you to paint more.


Let’s go through those quickly again, just so that you can remember what those five tips are. Number one, experience, experiment, rather, and explore. Try lots of different techniques and options. Number two, practice your craft regularly. In other words, get in front of the easel, on preferably a daily basis, but at least on a regular basis. Develop the painting habit. Number three, look at other art. Look at the work of other artists. Feed your imagination. Get inspired. Number four is to focus on painting. Get some help, get into a critique group, get into a group of other artists. And number five is to follow your curiosity and interests.

I hope this has been helpful. And remember that it is absolutely possible to develop your own style. It happens quite naturally through the process of painting.

If this has been at all helpful, I’d love for you to share it with a friend and hope to see you again soon. Share your work with us over in the free Facebook group, over at ART+WORK+LIVING. Happy painting everybody! Bye-bye for now.

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