I’ve been thinking a lot about style lately, wondering what “style” even is. How do you find your own “style”? How do you deliberately cultivate it, when it’s something that’s supposed to grow naturally? In other words, how to make something happen without making it do something it shouldn’t? As an artist, I know Renoir had a specific style, and it’s why he’s one of my favorite artists. It’s his style.
But how do I find my style? I want style!
Google defines style as “A manner of doing something” and “a distinctive appearance.” For me, style has another meaning: a visual accent. Style is the way an artist/writer pronounces their ideas on a page. Think of the word “either.” Some people say “ee-thur” and some say “eye-thur.” That’s their verbal style. Painting and drawing are unique languages for the eyes, symbolic and metaphorical. Style is the way we “say” pictures.
I mentioned Renoir as my favorite artist. His style is soft, impressionistic, but still precise and easily readable. Looking at his work is like listening to Norah Jones sing “Sunrise”… smooth, soft, but easy to understand. And decidedly conducive to coffee drinking. Performers have to learn a lot to become proficient in singing, but how they sing is influenced by how they speak; and that’s not something you consciously learn or control. You speak the way you hear.
Honest, true, raw style is essentially the same thing: you draw the way you see. In my case, I’ve spent a long time trying to “decide” on my style, as if it’s something on a store shelf. I knew I wanted to draw comics, and I happen to like Wonder Woman, so I figured that was THE style to have. Straight up DC style. But quite honestly, that’s not my style. I learned how to paint traditionally, and I’ve always (ALWAYS) preferred artists of the Baroque and Impressionism periods (drama and fuzziness.) So it stands to reason that, left to my own devices, that’s how I would draw. It’s not how I used to think I should draw, but I’m starting to realize how much stress and tension goes on when you’re trying really hard to suppress your natural style.
It’s like trying to use a fake accent for a whole week. You have to think (hard) about everything you say (“Eethur? Eyethur?”), and you focus more on the sound than the actual word. In art, it’s focusing more on the individual marks you’re making, instead of the overall visual narrative you want to make. If/when you just draw, and you don’t care about the “how”, you’ll give your natural style a chance to flourish.
It’s also a lot like meeting yourself for the first time, artistically speaking. A little bit meta. Whatever that means.
But seriouzly, Renoir.
Author’s Note: As my Life Writing class comes to a close in a week or so, I’m going to be taking this blog in a slightly new direction. This new direction is largely inspired by what I wrote about in this post, and I’m super excited about it! How do y’all feel about style?