some brief thoughts on “style”

Style is like love. It sneaks up on you when you’re not looking.

It’s the bits you’re naturally good at. It’s the cheats and abstractions of reality you’ve internalized, whether you figured them out yourself or stole them from another artist. It’s the things you just can’t get a handle on, no matter how hard you try, and the ways you’ve evolved to make this look intentional.

You can appropriate someone else’s style, but your style is what you get when you pick apart the styles of all your influences and stick them in a blender along with observation of reality, analysis, and practice.


I originally wrote this more than a decade ago, as a reply on DeviantArt’s forums to the zillionth thread started by some beginner artist worrying about “finding their style”. Today I found myself digging for it once more, to post it as a reply to a thread from a beginner who’s barely begun to scratch the surface of Illustrator who was asking if their “new style” had been done before. I figured I would post it here so I can find it again if my account on DA, or the whole site, vanishes before my website does.

If you are a beginning artist, I strongly encourage you to spend some time drawing things from life and/or photo reference instead of worrying about “your new style”.

  1. My style (if you can even call it that) when I draw from my head is flat and uninteresting. It’s much better when I draw from life, but there are of course things that don’t exist that one needs to draw. Nothing I’ve done over the years seems to give my head-drawing the vibrance that it needs.

    • Learning how to think of things as a simple 3d model, and how to build complex details up from that on the page, helps a lot. You do also have to be willing to dedicate multiple years to this, as well as learning a whole lot of anatomy!

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