Analyzing The Artistic Style Of Your Influences
By Neil Blevins
Created On: Nov 4th 2013

Many people have said that when you're just starting out as an artist, the most important thing isn't your own style, the most important thing is the fundamentals and making as much art as possible, and your own style will naturally come out in time. This is true, but that shouldn't stop you from exploring the styles of your influences, and relate them to the kind of work you yourself would like to do.

Artist Anthony Jones recently posted this on his twitter feed: "If your style is influenced by one source, it's recognizable. If it's influenced by many, it becomes unrecognizable."

At about the same time, artist Ben Mauro had the good idea of creating these collages of the work of specific artists or art movements. It really lets you see a person's style at a glance.

This got me thinking of a fun little thing to try. I picked a number of my favorite artists, created groups of some of my favorite images of theirs, and then wrote down the 5 things the images had in common. In other words, analyzing the style of my influences. What are the 5 elements an artist has that really define their work compared to other artists? What 5 things say "ah yes, this work is made by artist X". Lets do some examples...

Exercise 1

Analyze your influences. For this, I've picked 5 of my influences, not necessarily my most important influences, but 5 I felt would be good examples to analyze.

Ashley Wood

Ashley Wood
JWM Turner

JWM Turner
Kow Yokoyama (Models)


Zdzislaw Beksinski


John Harris


Now try it with 5 or more of your own influences.

Exercise 2

Now, if you're an artist just starting out, and you feel you don't have a strongly defined style, try this exercise: First do exercise 1. Next, note that some things may show up again and again. Like 3 of your influences may all have a very painterly style. Or 2 of your influences like robots, etc. Choose 5 of these reoccurring things that appear in your influences, and work on images based on those 5 things, as these are probably 5 of the things that are most important to you.

Exercise 3

If you're an established artist who has a recognizable style, as well as doing exercise 1, do the same thing with your own artwork, or have a close friend do it for you if you want a more unbiased opinion. I'll do the exercise with my own artwork:

Neil Blevins
Once done, choose 10 reoccurring things that appear in your influences, but remove from the list any things you're already exploring in your own artwork, and then make images that highlight the remaining items on the list. For example, several of my influences use strong complimentary colors, and I don't do that as much in my own work. So in future images, I'm going to explore adding more complementary colors.

Conclusion

Remember, this sort of analysis is a guide, you shouldn't feel trapped by the results. If you notice you have tentacles in all your images, this doesn't mean you need to put tentacles in all your images or they won't look like your style. Artists work are constantly changing and evolving, and going with your gut is the most important thing. But hopefully these 3 exercises not only help you analyze your influences, but suggest areas of new exploration for your own work. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things.


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