The Courage to Have Style.
What is style? Who has it? Have you? How can you get it? How many areas of life can we have it? We can think of being stylish in what we wear and how we wear our clothes and hair, and we can think of artists and authors having a style, but how else can we find style and how can we create our own? We can have it in some areas but not others, and may be aware of the need to further develop our individuality. We may even already have it and not realise it. People told me I have a recognisable art style, but I couldn’t see it myself. I talk a bit about this further down. At the bottom, I have listed some definitions of style for you to peruse and you can see that it is quite a wide topic and shows plenty of scope for developing it.
I believe that style is something that distinguishes us from others, something that is unique only to ourselves. We can copy styles, but they are not really our own, and deep down they are not comfortable, they don’t fit properly. Exploring our inner natures and revealing our own styles can be hard work and usually involves wrong turnings along the way. So how do we proceed?
Having style demands courage and independence of thought. It’s not merely shaping ourselves into forms that we think might impress or are fashionable. True style is much deeper and more authentic. It’s a plunge into our own hearts, souls and minds, bringing to the surface the essence of who and what we truly are. Easier said than done though, when we are bombarded with countless images, fashion magazines dictating what we should wear, so many arts and writing courses with a myriad of styles that we might feel we should emulate, and also styles of behaviour that become the norm in any given society, which can make it challenging to alter our own behaviour outside of these mores.
So many people conform, and expect everyone else to do so, and in fact often resent changes in their friends and relatives. They like to pigeon hole us into a recognisable shape, a form that has predictability. To step out of our allotted roles is threatening and must be stopped. On the other hand, if we were to become famous for being different, suddenly it’s all right, and those very same people will be copying us. As Quentin Crisp said, “Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are”. That man knew about style!
I can give you the example of my own struggle with my artistic style, and something I’ve only just realised. You can fight your style. That’s right, you can suppress your style, and as a result lose your way by hoping your style will mould itself into to what you think it should be, rather than allowing it to just be. I have looked at other artists’ work and wished I had a style of my own like that, blind to what I might already have of my own that is just as valuable. You can over-experiment with different styles and not see that you already have one! This is something I see I have been doing, and creating confusion and lack of confidence in myself as an artist as a result. There are so many online art courses, with so many teachers in so many styles, that there comes a time when you have to stop and regroup. I’m grateful for the many techniques I’ve learnt from wonderful teachers, but I see the need to become my own teacher now, at least for the time being. Perhaps you can relate to this and the anxiety that arises from exploring too many possibilities, whilst ignoring your own Muse. I would love a good old-fashioned art teacher who could help me to develop my style, but lacking that, I can only fall back on myself, and the helpful critiques of friends, which I greatly appreciate.
I’ve come full circle and better understand some of the components of what my style might be, which it was before I took all those lessons! Funny that! Haha! Elements I can see are strong colours, textures and clear design. Adding it all up so far, it looks to me to be an unfashionable way of working in today’s art market, but I can only be true to myself and look for my own market. Every painting finds its owner, right? So, I’m resolved to listen to my inner voice and hopefully see the development of my style and my own art message, expressed in my own way. We all should, and nothing is stopping us from trying out other styles too. We’ll probably see our own styles in the way we do them anyway!
To have style, in whatever area, means first identifying where you already have it. You do, we all do, even if in small ways. Look at your home, your clothes, your personal appearance and lifestyle and you’ll see it. Ask yourself if you are happy with what you see, and if not, have the courage to make these things more of what you really want. Sometimes we need to discard to make space for what is better. We only need to recognise our style to develop it further. This is important, it’s the foundation from which to rise.
Of course, we can learn from others, but need to keep in mind that what others teach is their own style. Look to see where you are inspired and take what is relevant to you.
You never stop learning of course, but how you progress depends on getting the balance right between outer teaching and inner guidance. This calls for a leap of faith. You have to believe you can be different, impressive and successful and have what you need inside yourself to be so. Real style is made up of honesty to oneself, authenticity, an ear to the inner voice that is so much quieter than the clamour outside, and then add in a big dose of bravery to be the real you! Let us wish each other blessings and good luck on the journey.
So, if you want to wear a red hat with a feather on it and paint your cheek bones gold, do it! If you want to paint in a formal style, do it! If you have things to say, say them! If you want flocked wallpaper in your house, have it! If you have dreams you are not living, as far as possible, live them! Be yourself, express yourself and enhance the world with your precious presence.
I leave you with a few more words from by Quentin Crisp -
“You must decide who you are and be it like mad. Do not decide on a lot of bizarre mannerisms with which to encrust our self - just as a writer does not decorate boring material with bejewelled phrases. Take away all the words that are irrelevant to your meaning. In other words, style is a process not of accumulation but of denudation.The reason why style is so important is because if you are sure of yourself you do not seize upon a group style - your class, your nationality, your sex.
Stay with it! Never give up!”
Some Definitions of Style
A particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character.
A particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode of action or manner of acting.
A mode of living, as with respect to expense or display.
A mode of fashion, as in dress, especially good or approved fashion; elegance; smartness.
The mode of expressing thought in writing or speaking by selecting and arranging words, considered with respect to clearness, effectiveness, euphony, or the like, that is characteristic of a group, period, person, personality, etc.
Manner or tone adopted in discourse or conversation.
A particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode or form of construction or execution in any art or work.
A descriptive or distinguishing appellation, especially a legal, official, or recognized title.
The rules or customs of typography, punctuation, spelling, and related matters used by a newspaper, magazine, publishing house, etc., or in a specific publication.