Develop Your Own Signature Style

by Carolyn Edlund

Does your work stand out, with a recognizable and memorable style that says it’s yours?


nature-inspired teapot by Helene Fiedler

Sculptural stoneware teapot by artist Helene Fielder


The founder of a photography school once bemoaned the fact that she constantly received submissions from artists consisting of photos of old barns. She exclaimed, “I’d rather receive almost anything else. I’m so tired of seeing the same old, same old!”

She had a good point, since many artists’ portfolios are similar. The trick is to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack and set yourself apart—and to do that on the strength of your portfolio.

When you’re just starting to make art, studying the basics in class or taking a workshop, it’s typical to copy. That’s how we learn. We may emulate great artists. Or we may carefully follow a teacher’s instructions, attempting to master a technique.

After you have gained the skills you need, you are ready to spread your wings with new ideas and directions. Then you can carve out a niche of your own in the art world. This is one  advantage of going to graduate school. In that educational setting artists can experiment in a safe environment, receive critiques and mentorship, and begin to think about art on a higher level without the pressure of selling or displaying their work.

Other artists do this intuitively by themselves. They devote many studio hours to a particular direction or technique, and creating their own unique signature style.

Some people say there is nothing new under the sun. Even if that is the case, every artist who is consciously developing their portfolio must move beyond what they’ve learned. To stand out and be memorable and remembered, you must create an exciting and original body of work that bears your own “look” and style.

Otherwise, you may remain in a rut, continuing to make the same type of art learned in class and unable to break out. And possibly to take yet more photos of old barns!

Do you currently have a recognizable signature style? How would you describe it? What is memorable and recognizable about your work that makes it your own? If your art were all shown in a gallery, would it be clear that it all belonged together, with your recognizable stamp upon it? Or do you need to put in more studio hours honing a clear direction and developing your portfolio further?



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