Do you ever feel like all your favorite artists must have it all figured out? Day after day they churn out jaw-dropping Instagram posts in their perfectly coherent style. Meanwhile you’re all over the place and feel like your journey is going nowhere. Sure, your art is fine from a quality point of view, but you don’t have that “thing” that makes it instantly recognizable as your handiwork.

A quick google search for ‘how to develop your art style’ nets well over 250 million results. Clearly you and I are not alone in our search to be unique.

Truth be told, I don’t buy into all the guides and shortcuts that will supposedly help you find your style in less than a week. This is not that kind of blog post. The only real way to get there (if you ever really do) is through making art. Lots and lots of it. It’s not a glamorous process. It’s messy. Sometimes it’s downright ugly. And because I don’t want you to just take my word for it, I’ll show you all the different phases I went through to get to where I am now (which is certainly not the end of my journey!).

Before you scroll down…

At first glance it may look like I’ve always had my shit together. But notice how the time periods overlap. Rather than throwing everything on one ginormous pile, I’ve grouped the art together so that you can see I was taking several different paths at the same time.

2001 – 2005.

Heavily influenced by anime, I spent my first high school years drawing mostly wide-eyed fantasy characters with (colored) pencils and fineliners.

Four pencil and ink manga drawings

2005 – 2010.

I discovered Photoshop and started scanning in my traditional work to digitally ink and color it with my mouse (the horror!). In 2009 I bought my first Wacom drawing tablet, a small-sized Bamboo Pen & Touch.

Four digital manga drawings

2013 – 2014.

My university studies were coming to an end and I was spending more time on individual drawings. My work was starting to get more attention online and I started doing commissions for people – drawing their avatars and such.

Four digital manga drawings

2004 – 2010.

While I was drawing manga characters, I was also getting into realism. Armed with pencils and paper, I tried to copy photographs to the best of my ability (which wasn’t that evolved at the time).

Four pencil portraits

2010 – 2014.

I took my portraits to the digital space and rapidly improved my skills. I found out I was actually pretty darn good at ‘copying’ photos, but it also left me feeling very unsatisfied. What was the point of creating a perfect copy?

Four highly realistic digital portraits

2011 – 2012.

Around the same time that I got into hyperrealism, I also started experimenting with a more loose style of creating portraits in an attempt to be more unique. Rather than fleshing out my digital sketches completely, instead I opted for a few pastel colors to set the mood.

Four digital pastel portraits

2012 – 2014.

I started experimenting more and more with putting my own spin on reference photos. My reasoning was that if I ever planned on going anywhere with my art, I needed to leave photo-realism and anime behind and do my own thing.

Four digital pastel fashion illustrations

The turning point.

The year after I graduated from university (2014) became somewhat of a turning point. I’d done enough experimenting by now to know the direction I wanted to pursue. I was getting really into beauty and fashion and decided to stick to this road and see where it would take me (at least for now).

In February 2014 I officially registered with the Chamber of Commerce as a one (wo)man design company. In October I decided to take my journey public and posted my first illustration on Instagram.¬†Everything that happened from there on out is publicly visible on my Instagram page (scroll all the way down if you’re feeling curious!).

And the rest, they say, is history.

Now that you’ve seen how I got here, it should come as no surprise that my style is loose realism with bold pops of color and hints of fantasy. The style elements were always there, it just took me many years to combine them in the way I do now. In the end, that’s exactly what your own style is. A combination of different elements sourced from different times and different interests. This is why you can’t rush creating your own style. So nurture it by feeding it plenty of art, give it time, and watch it organically evolve into a complex new creature.

Let’s hear from you.

Where are you right now in your style journey? Did you enjoy seeing my own process? Let me know in the comments below.