Why finding your style as an artist might not mean what you think - a look at the holy grail of many artists from a different perspective


Much of my work as an online course teacher and general creative encourager is oriented to finding your style as an artist – or more specifically, uncovering, exploring, and developing what’s unique to you about your art.

This wasn’t my initial intention when I started creating courses, but came about organically from my own experiences as a student, from observation and listening to others, and from receiving so many emails about it that it was clear that this is something that troubles many artists.

Most of us are familiar with the overwhelm and feeling of chaos that can come with making your art. There are just so many possibilities out there, so many things we want to try, so many aspects we love to explore when it comes to art, how can we possibly narrow it down to that mythic ‘one thing’ that we can then be known and recognised for?


How do you create with any kind of consistency when you basically want to do pretty much everything?


Below is a selection of posts in which I’ve written about this topic, if this is an area in which you feel you could use some help:



But, as with any subject long studied, I recently found a new layer of clarity around this whole idea of ‘finding your style’.

Usually when we ask this question, we’re thinking about it from where we are right now – up to our eyes in ideas and courses and materials and things we want to try. And Pinterest.

Let’s look at it from another perspective for a minute.


What do you think will be true once you’ve reached the holy grail of ‘finding your style’?


  • Will you suddenly find making art really easy, all the time?
  • Will you always know exactly what to do at every stage of a painting?
  • Will you only ever make ‘good’ art? {Don’t even get me started on that one!}
  • Will you suddenly start finishing all your paintings?
  • Will you bash out a perfectly cohesive body of work, find a gallery that wants to sell it, and live happily ever after?
  • Will all your work look more or less the same? Does that feel exciting to you?
  • Will you be confident about your work and your abilities all the time?


I’m not saying none of these things will happen or that they’re not worthy goals. But I think it’s worth being aware of what we’re actually – and perhaps unconsciously – assuming will be the case when we talk about wanting to find our style, and assume our current perceived lack of it to be a ‘problem’.

Why exactly do we want that, and what do we think it will bring us, and what will we make that mean if it actually doesn’t?


At this point in my art journey, people quite often tell me they recognise my work as mine when they see it. I find this very interesting, because even though definite recurring themes, colour palettes, shapes and marks show up in my work – even though I can see for myself that my work carries my essence more clearly than it ever has – I still actually feel like it’s a bit chaotic and all over the place sometimes.

One minute I’m doing these:

morning paintings in the kitchen // tara leaver

Punch-you-in-the-face brights, almost fully abstract


And the next this happens:

tara leaver

Much more muted palette, lots of white space


Then there’s a bit of this:

Towards the Mount // Tara Leaver

Sudden introduction of more realistic drawing, and a LOT of turquoise


And while we’re at it, why not some of this as well?!

work in progress // tara leaver

New subject {Venice, rather than Cornish harbours}, and a strange mix of representational with some more abstract shapes. {Admittedly I’m still working on this one!}


I look at all these and I see inconsistent colour palettes, jumps between abstract and realism, and differences in mark making. It would be quite easy for me to worry that I’m ‘still’ too erratic in style, and I’ve been painting regularly for almost a decade now!

And yet there are common threads too – nautical colours, boat {or boat shape} and harbour/coastal themes, this idea of freedom that I come back to over and over, and some essential ‘me-ness’ that’s more about the energy of the work than the look.


Never ‘just one thing’


At any point in an artist’s journey, due to the inherently curious nature of the artistic mind, they are likely to be exploring something that doesn’t necessarily ‘fit’ with what they usually do.

Those that aren’t will also often talk about feeling stuck in a rut, or bored with the sameness, or tied to making repetitive work for a gallery that doesn’t want them to change. It’s a fine line!

It’s easier for an outsider to see consistencies in your work, so bear that in mind when looking at what you’ve done and tearing your hair out at how disconnected it all seems to you.

Try asking an artist friend – one who knows how to construct and read a painting – what they see. You may find it surprising, and perhaps even start to see commonalities that you’d missed from inside your solitary bubble.

Don’t lose heart if you feel like you’ll never find ‘your thing’.

Perhaps take some time to really think about what it is you’re wanting when you talk about wanting that, and when you’re seeing your perceived lack of it as an obstacle rather than a potential strength and way to grow as an artist.

Ask yourself the questions I mentioned above. And don’t fall into the trap of assuming that everything will be easier just because you’ve found your style!

I’m not suggesting you don’t bother to keep refining and honing your work.

There is of course huge {and essential!} value in that, from personal confidence and satisfaction to selling more of your art. Recognisable art is undoubtedly easier to sell because an artist who sells 27 different types of painting can be hard to trust. It looks as though they’re still discovering who they are as an artist, and that’s probably because they are.

We want to know what our thing is right from the start; for some that does happen, but for the vast majority of us it takes years {yes, years – this is a life’s work, not a week – or even year – long workshop!} to refine what we do to a sharp{ish} point.

Have faith, and keep going! It can’t help but evolve and develop, and you along with it.


Abstractify courseIn Abstractify we go into these kinds of basics in a little more depth, to gain a really good grounding from which each of us can create our unique art. Click the image on the left to see all the details and sign up!