When I was in design school, everyone was obsessed with finding their artistic style. It was a constant topic in our classes, and we were all on this weird merry-go-round of frantically trying to shore up who we were and how we were different.
The sad thing was, we were already all doing unique and different things. My best friend had a genuine talent for mid-century modern layouts and poster design. My other friend made such clever minimalist logos. Another friend had a true passion for using photography to create mind-blowing magazine pages. Yet we all thought we were talentless hacks who had no unique style of our own. We couldn't see that our style was already there.
I firmly believe everyone is an artist, and everyone already has an artistic style. Spending hours poring over tutorials on how to find your style or how to develop one will not change that. To get all 90s-kids-show on you, it has been there all along. So why the heck is it so hard for everyone to realize they already have an artistic style?
Yup, we all do it. We log on to Pinterest, peek at our neighbor's computer, read that latest art mag feature, or just pull up Google images. We're presented with a visual barrage of people from all over the world who are making what we want to make and doing what we want to do. We look at them and say, "they're already creating things that look like what I make, I can't possibly be unique!," and, "they have such a distinct style, I will never be that good!" Both of these statements are false. Do you want to know how I know that? Every single person on this planet is unique whether we like it or not. We can try to be just like other people, but we are still a completely unique combination of lived experiences, quirks, mannerisms, and DNA. We will always be 100% ourselves at the end of the day. And that is amazing. But what the heck does that mean for artistic styles?
Even if you try your hardest to be exactly like everyone else, you will still produce something unique.
Everyone in my first grade class learned to write from the same person, but we all have different handwriting. Everyone in my drawing class drew the same still life over the same amount of time, but each piece was unique. Who we are on this planet and how we put pen to paper or mouse to pixel or hand to keys is one of a kind. Your unique way of viewing the world and interpreting objects or imagining new worlds is a superpower. That is your artistic style.
Here is what I want you to do.
Use Pinterest or Behance or Soundcloud to gather inspiration, but when it comes to sketching or mixing or designing, close the tabs. Close everything except your own brain and any technical references you may need. Take a deep breath, and another, and just start. Lose yourself in what your brain wants to make. Discover what your soul is telling you to create. Then leave it overnight. When you come back the next day, write a few things about what you notice in the work from the day before. What do you gravitate towards? What stands out to you? What do you genuinely like creating when you get all that comparative nonsense out of the way?
Continue doing this as often as you can, and you will start to see what has always been there but hasn't been allowed to the surface. The seed of your artistic style will plant itself, and over time it will blossom if you nurture it with moments like this. I promise you it will. You are unique, and your style is embedded within you. Now close your browser and go unearth that style from where it has always been!