Developing Your Painting Style: How to Switch Up Your Art Practice

  photo by  Abbie Rose

photo by Abbie Rose

About 2 years ago, I found this artist on Instagram that I totally fell in love with. The reason I like her work so much is because I saw a lot of similarities between her work and mine, which I found really fascinating because we live in different areas and the subject matter that we're dealing with is pretty different. I’m sure some of you will know who I’m talking about. I can see how our work is similar, but I also see how our work is very different. Since finding her I’ve found a few other artists whose work I love who again, work in a similar way but are also contributing their own ideas and painterly styles.

And then I’ve also found a lot of painters who are making work exactly like this artist.

And I totally get it. Especially when you’re just starting to learn how to paint and figure out what styles you like, it’s easy to teach yourself by looking at other artists work and imitating it. But it’s important to make sure that you are contributing your own voice to the conversation, and not to repeat what someone else is doing. Learn new techniques, but then add your own spin to them. I’ve been told by a few people that my work reminds them of this artist, and on the one hand that makes me feel really good because I think she’s very talented and successful in her practice. But on the other hand it makes me feel a bit disappointed in myself, because I don’t want to be making her work. I want to make Nicole Young art, you know? So now I’m in the process of reshaping and developing the way I paint. I’ve been very happy with all the work I’ve created over the last year, but I want to keep pushing myself and growing and changing the way I choose to work.

If you want to change your practice, try some new  techniques, develop a new series, or just work through a creative block then this is what I recommend doing. Start by creating a list of ways that you can change the way you paint, before you start working on your next painting. It's hard to think of things in the moment of painting, because we tend to get into certain habits that we like to use as painters. Make a list of things to experiment with, and then over the course of a few weeks start integrating these practices into your work. As an example, here are a few things that I might start integrating into my work as a way to change up what I am doing: 

1.       Paint with only one colour.

2.       Paint on a patterned surface.

3.       Paint the entire surface of the canvas.

4.       Paint keeping the entire composition in the bottom half of the canvas.

5.       Paint a painting that looks like a collage.

6.       Cut up old paintings and make new paintings out of them.

7.       ….

The possibilities here are endless and totally dependent on the kind of work you create, but is such a helpful tool for artists of any medium. It's such an interesting process because you’re definitely going to make some paintings that you hate. And that’s totally okay! Because you’re also going to create some paintings that you really love. Usually I’ll repeat this process a few times, and often I combine a few of them. If I loved the pieces I made incorporating numbers 3 and 6, for example, I’ll combine elements from both of those and make a few new pieces.

It’s also helpful to chat with other artists about your work. Find an artist friend, show them your new techniques you've been working on, and find out what they think is working and what isn’t. Then go back to those few new elements that you’ve figured out are working for you and develop them further. That’s all painting really is, just a process of growth and development.

Nicole YoungComment