Four Things To Do If You Feel That Your Art Style Has Stagnated

2015 Artwork Art style stagnation sketch

A few weeks ago, I had a rather disturbing thought which went something along the lines of: “My art style changed slightly near the end of 2012, it changed significantly in mid-late 2013 and it also changed very slightly when I discovered watercolour pencils very early last year. But what has happened to it since then? Nothing.

And, in that moment, I started to worry that my art style had stagnated and that it wouldn’t change or improve any further. Of course, a while later, I realised that I had made some minor improvements to it recently (like getting better at drawing in black & white) – but these were nothing compared to the huge improvements that I’d experienced in the past.

So, in a way, it made me wonder if I’d “reached my destination” and if my art style was as good as it is ever going to get. And, let’s face it, many new artists strive to finally have a unique “style” that they can use for the rest of their lives.

But, once you’ve actually got a unique art style and used it for quite a while, you also quickly get a sense of it’s limitations and, if it doesn’t improve significantly every once in a while, then it can sometimes start to feel very slightly stagnant.

Don’t get me wrong, my art style will probably end up evolving in some way in the future – although, like most things, I guess that it’ll probably happen gradually rather than instantly.

But, in the meantime, I thought that I’d give you a list of things that have improved my art style in the past, in case they’re useful to you:

1) Copying things: One of the best ways of learning how to make art is to copy photographs, other artworks etc.. by sight alone (eg: without tracing anything).

Not only is copying by sight a useful skill to learn in general, but if you do it enough, then you’ll quickly learn how to draw various small details in a much more realistic way than you previously did and these small details can have a startlingly large effect on your art style.

For example, in mid-late 2013, I copied a cartoon illustration in an old “Mad Magazine” book that I found just out of curiosity. And, in the process of doing this, I learnt a very simple technique for making people’s shoulders/chests look more realistic that I’ve used in my art ever since:

Damn it, WHY did I save the original image as a greyscale JPEG!?

Damn it, WHY did I save the original image as a greyscale JPEG!?

Likewise, one of the major changes in my art style in mid-late 2013 was that I finally learnt how to draw noses in a slightly more realistic way. And, again, I learnt this from copying photos and from looking at other works of art. So, don’t be afraid to learn by copying other things.

2) Guidebooks: For quite a while, I refused to look at drawing guides by other people because I was fearful that it would end up making my art look like theirs. This was, despite the fact that when I had looked at drawing guides back in 2008, my art quickly became mildly less crappy as a result.

I was, quite simply an idiot.

Anyway, back in mid-2013, I finally got a book called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards. And, whilst I already knew some of the stuff in the book – one part of it was extremely useful to me.

Basically, up until that point, I almost never drew people in profile because I wasn’t very good at it. But, as soon as I read the part of the book that explained a very easy technique for drawing people’s faces in profile, my reaction was kind of similar to the “I know kung fu” scene in “The Matrix”. Suddenly, something that seemed impossibly difficult was now extremely easy and I could make a wider range of drawings as a result.

So, if you want to improve your art style, then try looking at a few drawing guides.

3) Experiment: This one is pretty self-explanatory really, but one way of improving your art style is just to mess around and try new things. Whilst you’re unlikely to discover anything groundbreaking every time you do this, it can happen every now and then.

So, don’t be afraid to experiment.

4) Practice regularly: This is probably the most important and useful thing that you can do if you want to improve your art style.

Even if you don’t consciously set out to change anything about your style, regular practice will almost inevitably lead to gradual improvements in your art.

Yes, these are usually the kind of subtle improvements that you won’t even notice until a few months or years later when you look back on your old art, but they will happen.

In addition to this, other three techniques on this list will probably only really “work” for you, if you also do a lot of regular practice. Yes, doing something new once is rather cool – but, unless you keep doing that new thing on a regular basis, then there’s a good chance that you’ll either end up forgetting or abandoning it after a while.

So, regular practice is pretty much a requirement if you want to improve your art style.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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