Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk briefly about developing your own art style. Or, more accurately, the puzzle-like challenge of finding ways to paint or draw things that “shouldn’t” fit into your own art style whilst still using your own style. To show you why this is such a fascinating thing, I’m going to have to talk about computer games for a while.
One of the things that always impresses me about old computer games is the fact that they were always trying to do more with the limited technology that they had. For example, the environments in very early First Person Shooter games (like “Wolfenstein 3D” and “Doom”) were created using an optical illusion. Essentially, the game’s program projected a “3D” environment from a two-dimensional diagram.
Essentially, these games were able to use ancient computing hardware to make something that looked like a 3D environment by assigning each part of a 2D diagram a height value (in very early FPS games, all walls were the same height though). What this meant was that things of different heights could be easily projected using clever programming (rather than graphics cards). It’s called “ray casting“.
One side-effect of this was, of course, that very early versions of this software limited the player to horizontal movement, and it also meant that the player’s viewpoint had to be fixed (eg: they couldn’t look up or down). Of course, after a year or two, programmers had worked out all sorts of clever modifications to this technology- which allowed the player to do things like look up or down, use lifts, jump (or, in “Doom II”, be thrown into the air) etc…
Limited technology drives innovation. It forces people to be inventive and to do things that may have been considered “impossible” or “difficult”.
So, if your unique art style (which you’ve developed through practice and through being inspired by lots of other art styles) has a limitation, then it can be interesting to try to find ways to get around it that are still “compatible” with your art style. You’ll feel like an absolute genius when you do this, and you’ll have also learnt something new too. Seriously, it’ll help you understand your art style even more than you already do.
For example, one of the central pillars of my current art style is high-contrast lighting. This is where the light sources in a painting stand out more because they’re contrasted with a dark and gloomy background. It looks a bit like this:
If I don’t include this style of lighting in a painting, then it somehow feels “wrong”. But, I was vaguely curious about whether I could find a way to use this lighting style in a painting set during the day. After all, I don’t usually make paintings set during the day because the bright natural light dulls all of the other light sources and completely ruins the high-contrast effect.
Still, I was curious if I could make a painting set during the day. So, I wondered how I would do this. After a bit of thought, I remembered that my lighting style basically just follows the rule of “30-50% of the painting should consist of black paint“.
Once I’d remembered this, the answer was obvious – only include a small amount of daylight in the painting. In other words, make the foreground gloomy and show a clear blue sky through a window or doorway in the background. The painting itself was relatively easy to make after that, here’s a reduced-size preview:
So, yes, if you want to improve your art style (or even just learn more about it), try to work out a sneaky way to do something that would seem like it would be “impossible” to do with your current style, whilst still using your current style.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂