6 Top Tips to Establishing Your Own Artistic Style

Written by Pamela Daum

I'm often told that my photographs have a style that makes them distinctly recognizable. When asked how I achieve this, I genuinely fumble for an answer. As is the case in any existential question, I can't point you to one concrete ideal. As we all know, art is subjective. However, I do believe it is possible to develop a personal style that will highlight your unique creativity. 

Here's a list of the 6 most effective tips in my experience to help with that.

1. Practice the Basics or "Rules" of Your Medium

As a photographer, I've learned such methodology as the rule of thirds, equivalent exposure, and Ansel Adams' zone system. I like to say I've learned all the rules so I can break all the rules, which to a certain extent is true. Yet, when I frame an image in my viewfinder, my mind is unconsciously dividing that image into nine sectors: the rule of thirds. What's fascinating is that another photographer standing next to me might be doing the same thing. When we compare our images, they are worlds apart. Why? Our creative vision is different.

2. Allow Yourself to Make Horrible Art

I know this is hard for creatives. We all want to be Albrecht Durer right out of the gate. Yet, giving yourself license to make a mess is sometimes enough freedom to break through your insecurities to achieve that next level of art; which leads me to…

3. View the World As a Child

Remember how fearless you were back then because you didn't "know" that you weren't supposed to draw grass purple or hands green. You had a box chock full of crayons, and you were free to use every single color in any way you wished. Permit yourself to be that kid again. Examine and marvel at things close to home. Regain your childlike wonder and put it to good use in your art.

4. Consider Applying for Artist Residencies

In my own experience, residencies have been the ultimate device for regaining my creative mojo. When researching artist residencies, be specific in your needs. If you are an introvert, you might be overwhelmed by organizations that allow many artists at a time. 

5. Sign Up For a Weekend Artist Retreat

If your free time is too limited to commit to a residency, an artist retreat might be a better option. Choose one that dovetails with your personal goals, whether a refresher art course or learning a new method or medium. 

6. Don’t Forget Materials Matter

How you showcase your art and the matting, framing, or glazing you choose is an essential component of an artist's style. Before I found Frame Destination, I was limited to local sourcing and had some early fails with poor quality construction, so from that standpoint, Frame Destination is a life-saver. To be cost-effective, artists must have a place such as Frame Destination that offers a wide selection of framing components.  Further, I find it helpful to pick and choose the framing supplies that best highlight my photographs. And, I do have an artistic style I incorporate in my framing.

For my B&W prints, I like FD’s black metal frames. I always use FD’s Acrylite UV Acrylic. It offers archival protection to my work. Plus, many galleries and most public art displays require acrylic now, and for a good reason. I was in a group show where one of the artists had the glass shatter on a massive frame. Luckily, no one was hurt, but that could have been a disaster.

I also like that I can order custom mats from FD. I shoot all my images in raw, and I tend to print in the native size, which isn’t a standard mat size. Plus, I’m old-school and print my images, leaving an intentional white border for signing. I keep my mat specs in my FD account so that it’s easy to order the same mats each time. My default mat choice is an archival board in a shade of white. Acid-free Foam Board anchors my frames.

Most importantly, believe in yourself as an artist. This alone can open new ways of thinking and seeing.

About the Author

Learn more about the author and see more of his work in our Artie’s Eight Artist Spotlight featuring Pamela Z. Daum.