1. Change your mindset
“Your” style is like that craft item you just put down 5 minutes ago. The more you search for it, the more elusive it seems to be. With over 20 years crafting practise, I can safely say that this is definitely the case. As artists, we have to learn to let go of the outcome of our work. The more you force a square peg into a round hole it isn’t going to make it fit. Learn to ignore the pressure to find your style and instead find the joy of experimentation.
Do you need a style? What do you think having a style will do for you? Could you do this in another way?
2. Stop trying to be “different”
This is the single hardest point to come to. We are told we must be unique to be interesting/relevant/be worthy; and so, when we approach a new supply/tool to use, we are already putting pressure on ourselves to “think outside the box”. This pressure usually leads to inertia, loss of creative mojo and potentially walking away from a pursuit we love.
You may have seen my creative process video where I took some new supplies and brainstormed all the crafts I could do with them. Those are just my answers; by doing the same process yourself, you will come up with different answers that suit your method of crafting more. Don’t be limited by the ideas of others… or as Ian says, “Don’t be a sheep”.
3. Learn to Isolate
This is a toughie in today’s connected world… Artists and crafters have to share their work to gain an audience; and yet, that very sharing can stunt the artist’s own growth through two ways…
“Am I good enough?” Stop! You are good enough, the next artist is good enough, the 12 year old kid who just uploaded their first marker drawing is good enough. Art, nor craft, does not have some magical point where someone is good enough, qualified (at least in the sense of this article), etc. Any art or craft is a journey and not a destination. The best artists can improve, styles can change. Pressure is the enemy of your creative mojo… so don’t become your own worst enemy.
“They are better than me…” If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this, I’d be rich. A 15 year old just starting out on their design journey is never going to be “as good as” a 30 year old professional… FACT. Should this dissuade the 15 year old? No. It should inspire them, show them what 15 years of hard work can do, and get them moving along the way. Social media, however, is not working this way for many of our younger artists and crafters; instead, its even turning them away from even pursuing creative pursuits as a hobby let alone a professional endeavour. I don’t think I would have got many likes for some of my early pieces either; comparing likes has become the downfall of many of those starting out.
I, also, don’t like to watch videos of products I have in my stash. It’s too tempting on one hand to have an idea to get you started etc. which leads down a dark path. It also starts off the whole comparison thing if I watch them after… “Why didn’t I think of that”, “It’s better than mine”. Yes, even I have my dark crafting days… today was one of them: set idea, can’t find the stash I’m looking for, get annoyed that I can’t create it just so.
4. What is style?
If you can’t answer this question, then how can you hope to find your own. What makes a Jennifer McGuire card a Jennifer McGuire card? Start breaking down the designs and approaches of others to understand style better. Then, apply that same level of thought to your own work: what elements do you see consistently between your projects, is this something you could emphasise or build upon? You may already have a style, just you haven’t recognised it due to moving onto the next project and the next project, without looking at your projects as a whole. This is not a comparison exercise though, so stop and take a break if you start thinking “it’s not as good as…” or “I prefer…”.
5. Style with a positive mental attitude
Sharing in itself can be a negative experience, as you will always get that “one person” who out of jealousy, nothing better to do, loyalty to others, a dislike of the brand(s) you are using will be a TROLL. It is not the case of the artist needing a thicker skin… it’s down to the person behind the bad comment being plain rude. Don’t put the onus back on you, its most definitely them – they could have just scrolled by after all. Learn when to heed what a person says only when they have some form of your respect: a background in the industry, a recognised figure etc. Joe Bloggs commenting on the quality of your photography when they have no photos on their media – ignore. Someone telling you you need to do X Y Z when they don’t do what you do – ignore.
Realise your style has to come from a place that is you… not what others think you are, or think of you.