So I've been thinking about where style comes from and what (if any) are the pre-requisites to defining style. I don't mean the concept of having style; rather creating a particular recognisable style that permeates its way through your work. You know how you can pick a Picasso just by looking at it most of the time, that kind of style. Not the kind that you buy at a shop and wear for a few months before donating it to the local op-shop.
Unsurprisingly to anyone in the know, I have always been void of any style (in both versions of the term). So when I'm creating something on the page, I'm not sure what to use as a point of reference. I think it would be a bit easier to find a style if you have some sort of style intrinsically to use as a jumping off point.
The other day I was browsing around online at different artists' social media accounts to see all the cool work they're doing. It occurred to me that the ones who have a definite style seem to get It from only a couple of places. The first is pretty common for a lot of people practicing art, as it comes from the artists who inspire us to create in the first place. I don't think it's too outlandish to assume that most people begin by trying to imitate the art they love and hope to iterate on.
Alternatively, I've noticed a bunch of folks who seem to pull their style from their other kind of style that exists throughout their life. By way of an example, it's no surprise to see someone with hip retro fashion sense, creating works in a retro style. Similarly, I found a few fitness junky artists who paint huge landscapes, as they spend their free time being active amongst on the land.
As with everything, I imagine that style sources are on a spectrum of sorts, so it's not an option of choosing between two paths. Instead it just makes me wonder where I might find some style for my own work.
When I first started painting I was obsessed with abstract drip paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock and the general abstract work of his contemporaries. I mean, Lee Krasner has probably held a much longer influence on me than Pollock, despite their own relationship, so even the drip painting style has its limits. However, I really got into dripping that paint for a long time, which was basically my way of stealing someone else's style to learn a thing or two.
In another way, perhaps every style variant is stolen in some way from that which inspired it. I don't really subscribe to the idea that everything's been done before. I'm still seeing people make new and original art, so even if it's derivative, at least it's interesting. Instead of thinking about it as stolen, I prefer to think of it as iterated and improved by an original perspective and application.
So how does one find their style without external senses or historical influence? Sometimes I feel like I'm handicapping myself by trying not to take in too many external influences. Part of me feels like it's a bad idea to just copy something or make an image that looks a lot like something we've seen before. I still do it though, because I also think it's useful to practice by only challenging a few elements of creativity at a time. It can get overwhelming to try and create everything from scratch, so having a point of reference is generally a nice point to pivot from.
None of it helps answer the original thought though, as it brings me no closer to finding out about style and how to cultivate it. Perhaps it's as simple as an organic growth from imitation to creation. One end of that spectrum looks like everything else, while the other is nothing but original and pure creativity.
At the end of the day this ends just as every other train of thought ends; with a shrug and a big old "I don't know", which suits me fine. It's one thing to ask the question and think about it, but knowing isn't really the goal when contemplation opens the door to a wider world of experience. Just by posing a question, we open ourselves to the endless possibility of a solution. The real danger is keeping the blinkers on and failing to see anything past our own nose.
Still, it would be nice to find a style, but I'm not even sure if that would bring any kind of happiness. There's something nice about looking at someone's portfolio of work that clearly follows a style, but at the same time, it's kind of boring as well. Like, "oh cool, you can do that one thing, but nothing else".
We can't be good at everything, so maybe it's enough to just be good at something and stick to that. Although, I think I'd like to be able to stretch my brush a tiny bit side to side and keep trying the old anything and everything approach. It might mean I never get good at anything, but I'll revisit that thought when the wheels start spinning. For now though, I think it's good to keep learning and trying, no matter how terribly I continue to fail.