Secrets to Success | Developing Your Own Style

As a designer I have always believed that it is imperative to possess my own style in order to secure both credibility and lasting success.  If you take pleasure in creativity purely for enjoyment and personal growth, you may prefer to appreciate the artistic skills of designers like myself.  On the other hand, if you desire to be recognized for your own artistic abilities, you must endeavor to create a distinctive look that is instantly recognizable as being uniquely yours.  Here are a few ideas to help you achieve that goal.

Originality Matters

Take art, design and drawing classes from as many different instructors as possible.  As a matter of integrity and professional courtesy, it is essential that you do not co-op a technique or process, tweaking it to "make it your own".  If you have to ask yourself, "Is this different enough?" The answer is no.  Instead, use the skills gathered to identify and fill a void in the market.  In doing so you will be respected as a designer in your own right and develop a strong, long-term following. In my years as a professional designer I have witnessed many who simply poach another’s process to facilitate their own success.  As a result they not only stifle their own creative intuition, but will never be seen as on par with those whom they wish to emulate. Throughout history and in the contemporary realm there are works that one can see and instantly recognize the creator behind the art.  Strive to be one whose art and identity are synonymous.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Choose classes featuring styles or projects that do not appeal to you. You will be more likely to concentrate on technique. 

Consider auditing a painting or art class. Taking notes and asking questions instead of concentrating on the project at hand allows you to remain focused on the information being presented. 

Ask Why

Focus on opportunities to pick up the theory behind the project. This can be related to project development and design or execution of color theory. Ask why a particular hue or derivative of a hue is used.  Why is a cast shadow a particular shape, angle or size.  Knowing why equips you with information that can be repurposed elsewhere.  Simply knowing how does not offer the same competency.  

Study Composition

Hand draw layouts instead of relying on a computer or photocopier. Tracing the elements of a design repeatedly will familiarize you with each object and its position in the design. This will aid in developing your own drawing and design skills. 

Rework design elements from a single pattern or combine parts of several patterns.  It is perfectly okay and expected for you to use the designs of others to help you grow. While you cannot claim the resulting composition as your own design since the various parts still belong to the respective designer(s), it will aid you in learning how to develop a pleasing composition without starting from scratch. 

Create a Resource Library (Morgue)

Take photographs of objects in nature, buildings, architectural details and other subjects that appeal to you. This will provide a library of images from which to draw.

Become Color Proficient

Spend some time learning color theory. Being familiar with color, and mixing, offers independence and freedom of choice. If you don't have a particular color or want to make changes to suit your personal tastes, you have the tools to succeed. Many artists find the study of color to be overwhelming and complicated, but it doesn't have to be. You can become color proficient, learn to mix target hues, understand color, classifications, properties, characteristics and relationships. Plus know when and how to use them.  Understanding Color

If you aspire to create your own designs, understanding color harmony will make your art more pleasing and desirable. Simply defined, color harmony is a magical plan to organize color. Becoming color proficient takes the mystery out of selecting the right hues, enables you to develop pleasing combinations and make confident color choices. Be equipped with the knowledge of which colors play well together and practice using them effectively. Learn to identify various color schemes and implement them. Color Harmony

Once you have familiarized yourself with color theory, use your color wheel to create a color scheme for a design. You will have to determine the hue, value and intensity of shading and highlighting, along with color placement, for the various elements of the composition. Be sure to retain color swatches and notes on what you used, as you may decide to use the same color scheme on a design that you develop. 

Be Creative

Look for potential painting surfaces with an artist’s eye. What some might see as flaws, may actually be an opportunity to add interest and enhance your composition.   I like to paint on well loved antiques to restore beauty to an item that has seen better days.  Typically these items are not pristine, which is exactly why I choose them.  This forces me to come up with creative solutions resulting in some spectacular one-of-a-kind pieces.

Be Willing to Fail

Don’t be afraid to experiment; sometimes “failed attempts” can result in happy accidents and they are almost always good learning experiences. 

Think outside the box! You cannot be original if you only do what has always been done.  Plus you have the joy of knowing that it is all yours!

Be Authentic

Remember, a copy is rarely better than the original.  Developing your own style is a journey well worth the effort.