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 living an artful life purely for personal enjoyment and 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 your own.  Here are a few ideas to help you achieve that goal.

  • Take art and design classes from as many different teachers as possible.  As a matter of integrity and professional courtesy, it is imperative 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.  
  • 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 class. Taking notes and asking questions instead of painting the project allows you to remain focused on the information being presented. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.  
  • Take photographs of objects in nature that appeal to you. This will provide a library of items to draw from.
  • Using a color wheel, create your own 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. 
  • Look at 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 antiques to restore beauty to an item that has seen better days.  Often 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.
  • 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!
  • Remember, a copy is rarely better than the original.  Developing your own style is a journey well worth the effort.
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