How To Find Your Own Style As An Artist | LaurieAnne Gonzalez | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What is style?


    • 3.

      My style


    • 4.

      Learn the tools


    • 5.

      Best Practices


    • 6.

      Inspiration Etiquette


    • 7.

      Inspiration vs. Copying


    • 8.

      Me and Monet


    • 9.

      Trust Yourself!


    • 10.

      Cross Training


    • 11.

      Final Thoughts


    • 12.

      Class Project


    • 13.

      12. Extras and Suggested Reading


    • 14.

      Check out my other classes!


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About This Class

Finding your own style is THE most important thing when it comes to being an artist. Especially in our age of social media where we have access to millions of photos and influences.

It’s important to protect your own style and make sure you are being true to yourself so you can stand out from the crowd.

Whether you are a painter, photographer, ceramicist or whatever, this class is for you.

In this class, I am going to talk you thru my own practices on how I have developed my own unique style along with some tips and actionable steps to help you discover and develop YOUR own style.

Together we will identify different artists styles and learn how to be inspired by your favorite artists without copying their work.

Developing your own style isn’t nearly as intimidating as it may seem.

All you need is a little direction and you will find your own unique style in no time!

This class is "lecture style" where I will be taking you through a series of slides. Feel free to take notes or pull out your sketchbook to work on something while you listen. Be sure to check out the class project, as that is the MOST IMPORTANT part of this entire class. Take action on what you learn and start developing your own style today!

I hope this class inspires you!


Class Resources

Cross Training class suggestions on Skillshare:

Suggested Reading:

Suggested Movie:

  • Loving Vincent 

My Other Skillshare Classes:

My resources for Artists:

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, I will make a small commission, if you click thru and make a purchase.

Meet Your Teacher

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LaurieAnne Gonzalez

Painter | Dog Lover | Bob Ross Wannabe

Top Teacher

Hi Friends! I’m LaurieAnne and I am a full time painter in Phoenix, AZ. I mainly work in acrylic to capture all of my travels in paint but I also teach online painting classes and created a course I offer to professional artists on my own website called Art to Print where I teach artists how to make professional quality prints from their original art. 

Subscribe to my newsletter exclusively for artists and be notified of new course announcements.

To keep up with what I am doing, hop on my email list or follow along on Instagram! 

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Finding your own style is the most important thing when it comes to being an artist, especially in our age of social media, where we have access to millions of photos and influences. It's important to protect your own style and make sure you are being true to yourself so you can stand out from the crowd. Whether you are a painter, photographer, ceramicist, or whatever, this class is for you. Hey everyone, I'm Laurie Anne and I am a full-time painter in Phoenix, Arizona. I mainly work in acrylic to capture all of my travels in paint, but I also teach painting classes here on Skill Share. I created a course I offer called Art to Print, where I teach artists how to make professional, quality prints from their original artwork. In this class, I'm going to talk you through my own practices on how I have developed my own unique style, along with some tips and actionable steps to help you discover and develop your own style. Together, we'll identify different artists' styles and learn how to be inspired by your favorite artist without copying their work. Developing your own style isn't nearly as intimidating as it may seem. All you need is a little direction and you will find your own unique style in no time. 2. What is style?: Hey, everyone. Welcome to how to find your own style as an artist. Let's go ahead and get started. What exactly does style mean as an artist? Style is the way an artist expresses their vision through their craft, which makes the artists so recognizable that you can pick them out of a crowd. This is depicted through composition, color palette, brushstrokes, whatever. You see a piece of art and you go, oh, that's a Picasso or, oh, that's a Monet. Let's look at a few examples. Here we have two very similar landscapes. One is by Paul Gauguin on the left and the other is by Vincent van Gogh on the right. Both of these landscapes are super similar in terms of subject matter and composition. Both have trees, people in the field, and the building in the painting yet they look so different because of each artist's style. The most obvious difference in style here are the brushstrokes. Both artists paint in short brushstrokes but the way their hand applies that brushstroke is so different. Van Gogh's painting on the right has a looser short brushstrokes and gives you a sense of movement in the piece, almost like it could be animated. Paul Gauguin's painting on the left has short but sharp and close together brushstrokes, which gives you a sense of structure and stillness. Both artists could paint the exact same landscape, but their style would make that landscape look completely different. That's what's so beautiful about one style. Everything you paint, even if it's the exact same scene as your friend who is sitting right next to you painting the exact same scene it will be uniquely your own and unique to your own style. If you are a fan of Vincent van Gogh, I highly recommend you check out the movie, Loving Vincent. It is where they actually animate his paintings. It's a really cool movie because it gives you a really good background on him, but also is a really cool movie just seeing his paintings in motion because they really do look like they're in motion. Let's move forward. I love these two photographs so much because they're just like epic photographs of these women surrounded by their paintings. On the left is Helen Frankenthaler and on the right is Joan Mitchell. Both are abstract expressionist artists that made a really big impact on the art scene in the 1950s but were overshadowed by the male artists of that time. I love how different their work is. Helen's work is filled with large blocks of color that look almost poured onto the canvas. Whereas Joan's work is made up of smaller brushstrokes charged with energy that you can feel when you look at it. It was almost as if she was painting in a rage. I don't know that she was, but you can feel the energy that was behind her paintbrush when you look at her pieces. With Helen, her work is almost peaceful and more meditative when you look at it. Both of these women were expressing themselves through color and mark making. The end result is so different because of their own personal style. A really good book that tells a story of these women during that time is called Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel. A great art book about these women is called Women of Abstract Expressionism by Irving Sandler. I will link these books in the about section of the course. I wanted to show you some portraits as well. Here are two self-portraits, one by Andy Warhol and the other is by David Hockney. These portraits couldn't be any different if they tried, but they are so spot on with each artist and personal style. Andy Warhol is famous for his pop art in the Campbell's soup cans and also the Marilyn Monroe portrait. He's incredibly famous. They were all created in this style of his own self-portrait. David Hockney, he's more of an illustrator and has more of an illustrative style of painting, which is very evident in this self-portrait as well. Both artists are painting portraits, but doing it so drastically different. It's just really neat seeing their unique styles coming through in their own self-portraits. I just want to recommend any of your favorite artists look up and see if they have any self-portraits because those are usually very interesting to see. Now that we have established style and what it is, since I'm a painter, I'm going to be talking in painting terms, but whatever tools you use, just replace paint for whatever that is, whether it's a camera, clay, etc, just swap it out whenever we're talking about it. 3. My style: A question I get asked all the time is, how did you develop or learn your style, and how long did it take? I think it's really important to point out that I did not learn my style. My style is just what naturally comes out of my hands. I've been painting intentionally since I was 13 years old. I say intentionally because I took many art classes as a kid but I didn't pick up a paintbrush on my own outside of an art class until I was 13. From that point on I took art classes all through high school and then went on to college to study painting. My style has evolved over the last 21 years, but there has always been a commonality through it all. I can see my hand and all of my work. I've had loads of practice and gone through many different versions of myself. Like you can see here, these are two large paintings from college. I was very much into birds and bright vivid colors. My style has morphed with time and it will continue to as I keep painting. That is the natural progression of an artist's style. 4. Learn the tools: In order to find your style, you first need to learn how to use the tools. To start, all you really need to know is how to use a paintbrush, how to mix colors, understand how paint works, meaning how it moves with your brush, how fast it dries, and that's about it. Don't overcomplicate things for yourself in the beginning. Personally, I think sometimes, it's good to not fully understand the rules of a material you're using at first because it causes you to try things you wouldn't have tried had you known what you're supposed to do. Learning the rules eventually is good but if you're just starting off in your craft, practice just using your tools before jumping too deep into specific techniques which will be easier to learn if you have a grasp on how your brushes and paint work together. If you're new to painting, my acrylic painting basics class is a great place to start but keep in mind, you do not need to learn how to paint in my style. Just let me teach you how to use the tools and then go out into the world, take your own photo or ask permission to use someone else's photo and just paint. See what naturally comes out of you and that is where you will begin to develop your own style and your own unique voice. Also, check out all the student projects in my classes to see how different everyone is. Most of them work from the class examples and everyone is so different. It's really cool to see. 5. Best Practices: A question that comes up a lot when people are learning is, is it a good idea to copy the masters or not copy the masters? Some art schools teach students to copy the masters in order to develop technical skills which can be very helpful. Even the masters copied their masters. It is a very normal practice and really good to learn technique and just to learn how to paint. I was not taught this method in school. However, if you were or if you do plan to go this route and copy the masters in order to learn, in order to not develop a dependence on another artist's work, you have to also practice creating in a way that feels natural to you and from your own ideas, photos or imagination without looking at another artist. Important note on this: if you must copy an artist's work for practice, please only copy the masters in art history. Try not to copy any living and working artists. Imitation is not flattery when an artist has spent years struggling and developing their own style to find others copying their work. It's honestly one of the worst feelings. It also does the copier a disservice as they are missing out on the crucial work that makes you into an artist. In our day and age of social media where everyone shares everything even if it's just for practice, it can come across as plagiarism and you could face legal issues for infringing on copyrights; which this leads us nicely into my next point of inspiration etiquette. 6. Inspiration Etiquette: As an artist, you should be looking to all sorts of things outside of your chosen medium for inspiration. Such as fashion, sculpture, interior design, architecture, nature, people, photography, patterns, fabrics, textures, Look at all the things. Even as a painter, I am greatly inspired by other mediums. I love looking at art. I save all kinds of art on Instagram and I have tons of art books that I love, but there's something really important to note here. I do not ever look at someone else's art when I'm creating my own artwork. There's a fine line between inspired and copying. I think this is really tricky for people starting out because you are drawn to art that makes you want to create. But looking at another artist's work too much can influence you to the point that your piece really isn't your own. This is one of the biggest problems I see with budding artists these days, especially with social media and people sharing every detail of their lives. Let's dig into inspiration etiquette. Do not look at another artist's work when creating, especially those artists who paint the same subject matter as you. This is for your own good and to protect your own work. It is hard to live in a world where we are bombarded by thousands of images every day and not be influenced by what we see. When it comes down to it, you will copy someone if you're referencing their work too much. Even if that was not your intention, take precautions to protect yourself. Rarely do I ever go back and look at my saved art on Instagram because I do not want to be influenced by anyone else, especially another living and working artist. The only reason I save art on Instagram is so I can find it again one day to either purchase. I love collecting art or to remember that artists to keep up with their career because I love following artists and keeping up with them. But I do not use another artist's landscape painting as inspiration for my own landscape paintings. If you are using another living and working artist's work for practice, do not share it to social media. I know it is so tempting, but for your own good and for the integrity of your own work and reputation, keep that practice private because I promise you it will come to light and that artist will see it and it's just a messy situation, just keep it private. But once you have created a piece that is truly yours, did share it all over the place with confidence and with pride and tag me because I want to see it. This last point is very important for students, especially. When you take a class from an artist, usually that class is sharing a classic example that is available for students to work from. Work from that piece only and feel free to share that class example, but credit the teacher who you learned from. Do not go to their website or social media and paint from other pieces of theirs. Please just stick to the class examples. Your teacher is generously sharing their expertise with you in order for you to go and make your own beautiful art and mark on this world. Stick to the class examples and do not take what has not been offered to you. I have seen this done to a lot of my peers as well as to myself, and it just does not feel good. Now that we've gotten through the don'ts, let's look at some dos. Do study and admire many different artists and try to recognize what you like about their technique, aesthetic, and composition. Drawing influence from many different artists is an excellent way to develop your own style in a healthy way. As you paint your own paintings, you'll start to recognize little things you learned from other artists showing up naturally, subtly, and uniquely in your work. I can't stress this next point enough. It's so important to make a habit of painting from your own personal photos or surroundings, objects, experiences, or imagination. There is a gorgeous ocean cleft photo on Instagram that has gotten super popular, and I can't tell you how many times I've seen artists paint from that exact photo and passing it off as their own inspiration. It's awkward because it's not their photo and I know it and probably a lot of other people know it. This is why I only paint from my own personal photos and also limit sharing my inspiration photos on Instagram because I don't want anyone else painting from them either. If you do not have access to go and take your own photos, reach out to photographers and ask permission to paint from their own photos. I'm sure there are many out there that would be delighted to see their photos in paint. There are also some services out there that are like a gallery or a database full of photos that are free to use that you can also paint from and that's totally fine. But I do recommend trying to paint from your own photos because you know nobody else out there is painting from the exact same photo that you are. Finding your own inspiration to create from might be frustrating at first, but I promise you will find your groove and be so much happier and this is where your own unique style will start to shine. 7. Inspiration vs. Copying: You may be asking yourself, well, how can I be inspired by someone without copying them? Look at the artists that you love and ask them questions. What is it about this piece that I love so much? Is that the color palette? Is it the brush strokes? The subject matter? Does it make you feel a certain way? What is it? Start to answer these questions and take notes when you see a piece that you are drawn to. We will talk more about this when we get to the class project, but this is a good place to start. Artists, Henri Matisse here on the right and Richard Diebenkorn on the left, are an excellent study on how to be inspired by someone's work you admire without copying them. Also, just FYI, these two artists were alive at the same time. They were 52 years apart in age. Diebenkorn, he was an American artist who was a huge fan of French artist Henri Matisse. I want you to take a good look at this painting on the right and just get a good look at it and see if you can see any similarities to Matisse's painting on the next slide. Here is Matisse one of Diebenkorn's biggest inspirations in his studio working on a sculpture. Diebenkorn loved Matisse. He studied him in school. He would go to see as much of Matisse's work as possible. He would go visit galleries, art shows, museums, etc. He just was so inspired by this artist. Do you see the similarities in these two paintings? Notice the goldfish in Matisse's painting on the left and the colors in Diebenkorn's painting on the right. The hint at possibly a goldfish or the orange. Diebenkorn uses a similar color palette and there's a lot here, but let's keep going as we're going to talk more about this as we move on. In 1952, Diebenkorn moved to Urbana, Illinois for a teaching job. He hated it. He was so not happy. He was uninspired by the job and he could not stand the surrounding landscapes. He was so uninspired by the surrounding landscapes that he blacked out his windows of a studio. Which is just crazy to me not having natural light. But he did this just because it was killing his inspiration and he drew inspiration from Matisse's work that he loved so much. Matisse was literally the only thing that he could get inspired by. Also, keep in mind, this was in the 1950s. There was no Internet or social media where he could quickly look Matisse up and see what he had been doing and what he'd been creating. He had a few books of Matisse's work and the memories of the decade he spent studying and looking at Matisse's paintings. This is what fueled his inspiration during this time of living and working in a place that killed his inspiration. Let's look at these pieces right here. Here on the left, this is Matisse's Interior at Nice. Diebenkorn's on the right is called Beach Town. When you look at these two pieces, you can see the inspiration, the color palette, the way the canvas is divided, their hints of color, and Diebenkorn's piece that hint at an object and Matisse's piece. This is such a great example of how Diebenkorn admired and studied Matisse's work and used that to make his own unique style. He didn't paint an interior like Matisse. He translated this piece that he loved, Interior at Nice into his own non-representational painting. It's really cool to see all of Diebenkorn's Urbana paintings specifically. Because we know that this was during a time in his life where he had little access to inspiration due to where he lived, but he used his love and admiration of Matisse as inspiration and created incredible paintings from that. But just look at this, look at the curtain, the shape of the curtains in Matisse's painting, and then this triangular shape in Diebenkorn's. There's a lot of things that you would never look at Diebenkorn's painting and think, "Oh, yeah that looks a lot like Henri Matisse's painting." You wouldn't think that at all. But you can see how this artist was inspired by an artist he admired and loved and created his own work that doesn't look anything like Matisse's work, Diebenkorn does this over and over with Matisse's paintings. An excellent book about this is called Matisse and then there's a slash, Diebenkorn'. It's just Matisse/ Diebenkorn by Bishop and Rothkopf. It is filled with beautiful photos and commentary on how their paintings are connected. I highly recommend it. I will link it in the about section of this class along with some other favorite books on this subject. 8. Me and Monet: On a more personal note, I want to show you some of my own work that has been inspired by the great Claude Monet. I love Monet. I have always been a fan of him, but when I saw his giant water lily paintings in Paris, I was forever changed. They are overwhelming by their size and their beauty. If you look at me on the left, I'm pretty sure I was almost in tears because I couldn't believe I was standing in front of these. But they are just truly unbelievable, and if you can ever get to Paris and go to the Museum, the Orangeries in Paris, please do it because it is a 100 percent worth it. There's a great collection of other artists there too. After we got to see those beauties in real life, we then went to Monet's house and got to see where he painted and got all of his inspiration for his paintings. It was truly an amazing experience. Look at these, I just love this comparison. The middle photo is one that I took of his pond and the photos on the left and on the right are detail photos I took of his water lily paintings in the museum. These are very zoomed in crops of his giant paintings. But it is so incredible to see what he was seeing when he painted them. Look at the way he painted the reflection of the sky in the water. It's incredible. I could stare at these for days. I'll just sit here a little bit for you, or you can pause this and just stare at them. But it is so amazing just to see his paintings and then totally see how he got there by looking at his pond and seeing the sky reflected in the water, lily flowers, it's incredible. I just love it. Moving forward. My painting, Desert Glory is on the left and a crop of Monet's Water Lilies is on the right. I love the way Monet paints his Water Lilies with his quick gestural brushstrokes that suggest there is a lily pad and a flower without being too detailed. I'd do the same with my desert plants. It's very different, but I can see his influence in my own style. Does Desert Glory look like a Monet painting? Not at all, but I love seeing bits of his style sneak their way into my own paintings. 9. Trust Yourself!: Trust yourself. This is one of my favorite subjects to discuss with the young artists. A lot of times, people including myself, may be drawn to a certain type of art, but when they go to create something completely different comes out of them. For example, I'm drawn to muted colors like in my home decor or even an artwork that a purchase. You can see that in my bedroom in the photo on the left. But if you look at the photo on the right of my studio, you can see that I paint very colorful. The rest of my house looks like my bedroom and my studio is the most colorful room in our house. I just can't help it. Color pours out of me, even if I like living in a more muted colored environment. The same goes for style. You may be drawn to a certain style of painting, but the exact opposite comes out of your hands. You may love abstract art, but realism comes out of you or vice-versa. Do not fight what is coming out of your hands. This is so important. Learn to love, or at the very least, be interested in what comes natural to you. This is you. Is the way your eye, and your brain, and your hand work together. That is uniquely you, and that is something to recognize early on and to develop. Practice, practice, practice because you will start to see trends and find your groove and things will start to feel natural to you. When you start to feel comfortable in your own style, then you can start to tweak it. Maybe you have a signature brushstroke. That's something you can't really develop until you know who you are. Be you. Don't try to be like anyone else, just be you and love it because it's going to be amazing and I would love to see you and your unique voice and style. 10. Cross Training: Cross training is one of the most important and most fun practices an artists can do. It's a way for you to work in different mediums and become a really well-rounded artist. For example, I'm a painter, but I love ceramics and block printing as well. So when I'm feeling bored or in a rut, I like to create in other mediums in order to stay creative, and it's really fun to see my same style show up in those other mediums. To help round out your practice as an artist, check out a couple of my friends skill share classes. Jennifer Daily is an abstract collage artist and makes the most beautiful and peaceful paintings that I fully intend on owning one day. In her class, she teaches you the technique she uses to create her own work. I will link all of these classes in the about section of this class. Juliet is a graphic designer and also fine artists all in one. She paints vibrant florals and patterns and has five classes for you to choose from. Sarah is a photographer and uses the sun and objects she forges in nature to create beautiful cyanotype prints. In her class, she teaches you how to make your own cyanotypes. These are just a few of the many other art forms you can practice, but the point is, play around with different mediums. The more your experience, the better artist you will be. 11. Final Thoughts: Finding your unique style that is undeniably yours is the most rewarding thing as an artist. I can paint all day long and confidently know these paintings are a hundred percent mine. I want you to be able to feel that same freedom and satisfaction so you can confidently put your work out into the world. The artists that we admire, created the work they did because they embraced who they were. Trying to look like someone else is boring. The world doesn't need another Picasso, Monet or Laurien. It needs you. The world needs your unique style. It needs you. 12. Class Project: Let's take action on what you learned today. This is the most important part of this entire class. This is where you will start to develop your own unique style. I have three class projects, feel free to pick one or do all three. I recommend giving them all a try. Project number 1, start a 30 or 100-day challenge where you create something every single day. It could be that you draw or paint the exact same thing or something different every day. Some examples would be your dog, your breakfast, the scene outside of your window, self-portraits, or something from your brain. Whatever it is, just do something every single day. This is one of my favorite practices to do and to see other artists do. It is the easiest and quickest way to improve as an artist and also really rewarding to see how much progress you make from start to finish. It takes commitment, but it is so worth it, and truly, the best way that you can start to develop your own style that is truly yours. I highly recommend this project. Also, just a fun tip, this is a really fun project to document on Instagram. I have followed many peoples' 30 or 100-day projects or challenges, and it is really fun to see, and people will get excited about it and they will follow you just to see where you end up. So I highly recommend this, definitely document it because it'll be really fun to watch. Look at this photo, is this not an amazing photo? This is one of my favorite photos of David Hockney, and it's home with his dogs and all the paintings he painted of his dogs. It was amazing. So you could be inspired by this. Maybe just paint your dog in all these different positions and see how you improve. I just love this photo. Project number 2, have a tough conversation with yourself and see if you are too influenced by one particular artist. Consider muting them or unfollowing them on Instagram or wherever it is that you see them, so that you're not influenced by their work anymore. Work on your own style for a solid amount of time and then come back and check back in with that artist's work and see how you have grown since you muted them. This is a regular thing that artists do. I was just having a conversation with an art friend the other day talking about this class actually and telling her about this project, and she was like, "Yes, I do that from time to time just to protect my own work and my own ideas because I don't want to be influenced by people." It's a really good practice and I highly recommend doing this if you find yourself being too influence or worried that you might be influenced by another artist. Project number 3, pick 5-10 artists that you love and make a list of what exactly it is you love about each artist's work. Is it their color palette, their brushstrokes, subject matter, try to be as specific as you can, and then working from your own photo, use that list to help inspire an original work of your own. 13. 12. Extras and Suggested Reading: Here are some books that I suggest checking out. The first one, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon is really good. It is all about finding your own style, and "stealing like an artist" which is basically being inspired without copying. He has written, I believe, three books that you should check out. But they're all really good and they go more into this subject of finding your own style without copying. A couple of the other books we talked about, like the Matisse/Diebenkorn book, and the Ninth Street Women, and Women of Abstract Expressionism, those are just some really great art books to check out. But the other two, I Know An Artist by Susie Hodge, this is a book I recently just got. It's a beautifully illustrated book of how famous artists that we know like Monet, different artists, and even some not well-known artists, how they're all connected and how they are inspired by each other, or just connected to each other. It's just an interesting book, you should check it out. The other suggestion is that Taschen Basic Art Series, I have about 12 of these books. There was a sale, so I bought a bunch of them. But they're really great. They're not big books, but you can get one just specifically on an artist or on a type of art. So I am looking at two right here in front of me, one is Impressionism and the other one is Vincent Van Gogh, but I highly recommend those. I will link all of these in the about section of the class. I hope you all enjoyed this class and I hope that this inspires you, encourages you to find your own style and to really protect your own style because it's really precious. It's just going to change your whole art practice once you find that unique style that is truly yours. 14. Check out my other classes!: If you enjoyed this class, I would love for you to check out the rest of my classes, for more.