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The Surprising Secret about How to Find Your Unique Painting Style


The Surprising Secret about How to Find Your Unique Painting Style

How to find the word best suited to the artwork you create is a secret hiding right out in the open. It is something so obvious, so familiar to all of us, that we simply overlook it. During my long career as both artist and gallery director, I saw so much confusion and anxiety over this question of 'style' among emerging artists that I'm going to share the answers I've found to be true.

If you are an artist wishing to gain recognition and make some income from your passion for Art, you need to market your artwork. Marketing rests on a clear message about who you are and what you produce. In a world abundantly supplied with would-be artists, your best chance of making your mark is to convince the world you have something unique to offer. That 'something' must be summed up in a word: style. How to find the word best suited to the artwork you create is a secret hiding right out in the open.

Successful marketing of your artwork to the wider world depends on gaining recognition within the Art world. Nowadays, that process starts with the World Wide Web.
When you search online art directories and galleries that offer to display or sell your artwork, the first thing required of you is to choose a category or style that describes the work you create.

This may be the first time you've been faced with having to label yourself as an artist. It's a daunting prospect.

  • Do you think of yourself as an 'all-rounder' because you paint whatever catches your creative attention? Must you label yourself as a 'portraitist' because you often paint people's faces? If you love painting horses, does it mean you must be a 'western' painter? Categories listed in directories may include any or all of the following: Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism,Realist, Photorealist, Romanticism,Western, Marine, Still-life, Landscape, Cityscape, Portrait. On it goes. Yet, you must choose a category on which to build your portfolio.

Many directories use Category and Style as if they mean the same thing.So, before we go any deeper into the Secret itself, let's examine the essential differences between these terms.

Category is a concept by which different classes of subject matter can be grouped. For example, paintings that depict boats or ships at sea or scenes of ocean waves breaking on the shore can be grouped as 'Marine' or 'Maritime' Art.

Style is a means of doing things. For example, an extrovert personality may wear clothing in colours and designs that would be unsuitable for a more retiring type.

This leads us to the first part of the bigger Secret. You see, 'style' is innate. You were born with it.

  • As an artist, you already have a style unique to you. You can't help it,  just as you can't help having a way of laughing and a handwriting style your friends immediately recognise. Your choice of subject matter also dictates the 'category' into which you're expected to fit.

'Genre' is an honest, old-fashioned term, long gone missing from the directory lists. The reason for its loss was the advent of Modern Art in the hundred years from the1860s to the 1970s. This change began with the emergence of Impressionism in 19th century France.

  • The invention of photography coincided with this new vogue in painting. Artists of the time were thrown into a panic to distance their work from the images produced, with stunning accuracy, by a mere machine. They proclaimed the 'death of narrative in Art.'  The elite of Paris society, disdainful of anything popular with the ordinary people, supported every new fashion as it appeared. Art Nouveau stepped on the heels of Abstract Art and Dada, then came myriad 'isms' : Pointillism, Cubism, Fauvism, Surrealism, Futurism, Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Impressionism and, no doubt, many others I've forgotten or never knew.


  • As New York City began to rival Paris as the Art capital of the world, painting in the Modern …. attracted terms such as:  Color field, Neo-Dada, Hard-edge, Kinetic, Minimalism, Lyrical abstraction, Post-Impressionism, Photorealism, Pop Art and Op Art. All forms of Modern Art share one charcteristic in common: a lack of meaning beyond what is on the canvas. Paint, brushstrokes, colour is all – BYO meaning.So, we come to the Big Secret itself, the 'elephant in the room' if you will.

There are only two categories of Art and they are 'Representational' and 'Non-representational.'

  • With time, each of the many Modern Art  Movements, their  'schools' and 'isms,' fade from the current scene. Soon, they become familiar only to historians and important only to dealers in Art. For you, as an emerging art professional, the solution comes in three easy steps.

1.Identify your work as being either  'Representational' and 'Non-representational.'
2.Pick the class of subject matter you most often paint.
3. List your entry under that category.

Now you know the secret, you can just forget about 'style' and get on with creating. Best wishes and Good Luck! ©Dorothy Gauvin











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