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Jun 11 17 9:01 AM

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Hello, everyone, I would like to open a discussion about style, what it is in the artistic sense and how it develops. The purpose of this thread is to help any potential artists (including myself) to understand more about style and how to achieve it; as such, I´ll open the thread with what I currently think about ¨style¨.

Style: The development of a unique artistic expression

One of the many mistakes beginning artists (in any medium) commit is trying to justify their lack of prowess with the phrase ¨its my style¨, as if uttering those words alone could raise their current status to the highest rankings of artistic expression. It´s such a common thing nowadays that anyone can excuse themselves through it and clueless people will fall for its charm, echoing the words to others and, sometimes, even defending them from those who try to say otherwise. But the phrase itself is not the problem, the problem is the misconception that leads to its misuse, a misconception that only beginning artists refuse to acknowledge and dispell.
  The concept of style in art is defined as the distinctive form of an artist´s expression based on their use of techniques and meanings (techniques in this context being the medium of expression, and meanings being the concepts expressed), with the purpose of conveying a clear message to an audience. A style is the epitome of a lineage of carefully selected choices done by an individual with focus, and it tells about their skills and experiences as well as about their faults and limits. It is different from others because of the arrangement of its contents but unique because of its effectiveness at fulfilling its purpose: the expression of the message, and it will always strive to improve itself.
  When beginning artists talk about style, however, they focus solely on present difference, thinking that superficial appearance is what makes it unique and thus missing its purpose entirely. An artist with a true style doesn´t care about appearance for they are willing to use any kind possible just as long as said appearance has a purpose; they are willing to discard appearances in favor of a clearer message, while the beginner sticks to a single appearance even if their message is blurry and incomprehensible.
  The artist develops their given style not because they were actively looking to be different but because they followed these 5 stages:

Stage 1: Intention

  All artists begin with the intent of expressing themselves however they can, whenever they can. Their message can be anything (from the ridiculous to the serious business) but the intention is the same: expressing it to someone as clear as possible. This intention must drive the artist to adquire the means of expression, the medium through which their message will reach their audience no matter the context and time, and only by adquiring said means will the artist succeed in their endeavor, for intention by itself means nothing to others.

Stage 2: Research

  An artist with a focused intention knows that they need to learn what makes them understand their own message, and how this same understanding translates to the perspective of others (the audience). This can only be achieved by educating oneself through research, focusing on the basics of communication (spoken language, written language, sign language, gestures, sounds, etc.) and artistic mediums (visual art, cinematography, sculpture, music, literature, etc), with the purpose of identifying the techniques that allow mutual understanding between individuals of different backgrounds. Doing research ensures that the artist and the audience know the same concepts, which in turn ensures a better chance of a clearer message; however, this alone is not enough since the artist has yet to master the knowledge itself, leaving plenty of room for mixed messages.

Stage 3: Practice

  An artist with a strong intention that adquired knowledge through research will eventually practice, and it doesn´t matter the quantity and quality of said practice, what matters is that the artist is practicing. At this stage, the message is trying to take form through experimentation of any kind, with both failure and success taking equal importance (and sometimes feeling indistinguishable from one another). The artist is putting their knowledge to the test to prove whether it holds true or not, and whether they can use it without thinking too much of it, throwing all their available time and effort into each instance. Things are looking promising, each try meaning a greater control and understanding of things, but the message is far from polished.

Stage 4: Structure

  Practice was the groundwork for the eventual rise of the artist´s personal structure, the result of their efforts to master techniques that compliment each other regardless of arrangement. A good structure supports the message in any medium allowing the artist to express themselves without fear, knowing that their message will be clear enough to be understood by everyone. To some extent it could be said that the structure IS the artist´s signature style, since it can be identified almost anywhere; however, while the structure is indeed an embodiment of all the successful techniques mastered by the artist, it is not without its mistakes that blur the message, and it should be given emphasis on the fact that a structure only guarantees the most basic form of the message. There is still room for a clearer message and the real work behind style.

Stage 5: Purpose

  Let me put it simple: a structure is useless if it´s devoid of purpose. Anybody can have a structure and yet achieve nothing because they are aiming for factory-made products. It is the reason why emulating the ¨style¨ of someone else often results in a poor copy of what already existed, because no matter how good the structure is, if you don´t know its purpose you are bound to use it in the wrong place (much like installing a beautiful toilet in the middle of the living room). Purpose is the definition of success, the reason why good artists choose to express themselves a certain way, it gives their experience meaning and it turns their failure into evindence as to why success works. With purpose their intention is always strong, their research has goals, and their practice yields master craftmanship in the blink of an eye. Their structure is not only solid, each technique holds a meaning that will enrichen the message as a whole, regardless of present mistakes, because the artist is aiming for the clearest message possible and will not stop searching for the best techniques until they have mastered every single one of them to ensure their success. As such, good artists acknowledge when they reach a limit and bow to find newer techniques that will fulfill their purpose, leaving behind entire superficial appearances if they don´t express their message as they wish. They don´t stay the same and yet they feel the same, unique, because their message is what unites all their work, because their message is their style, their chosen purpose as artists.

  Make no mistake, beginning artists can seem professional due to their mastery of techniques and even structures, charming you with things like colorful drawings or characters with complex backstories which do abide to a signature style nobody else has. But upon close inspection you may realize that such things hold no weight, they are just random things strung together because they have superficial harmony, not because they have purpose as an individual piece and as part of the whole. If the art you are looking at feels like its just stuck together with no rhyme or reason then its not a style, its just a featureless brick, a product of a soulless factory.
  Always ask yourself: what´s the purpose of this? Through your answer you will find whether you are looking at the conscious choice of a good artist or the pretentiousness of a beginner, for beginners can have intention, do research and practice until they have a structure, but will never have a purpose. This goes beyond just the technical aspects of a piece of art, beyond the visible mistakes in its composition; this is about whether its structure carries a message you can understand without any prior background information, and whether said message is the clearest it can be. You will find that once you understand the message of the artist you will start identifying it anywhere, and that´s when you will see the artist´s true style.
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Jun 11 17 5:50 PM

Hmmm... this sounds like a really interesting topic to discuss, and you brought up alot of awesome points :D One thing I noticed when concerning style, esspecially around younger artist is that they tend to fall in a trap of art-style dissonance when tranfered to a particular story. I refer to younger artist because I find when a chipper child artist go through the yonder years of puberty, they want to start writing stories that have more mature content. However, the only reference they have is children's programming like Spongebob or Sonic the hedgehog, so when compared that  to those mature themes, you get... art dissonance. This can be one reason why a continous development of your style is important. Though deep in your wee heart, those old influences are fine to be apperant in later years, but unless you plan on making material aimed for childern, you should be aware of your style and how they can effect the mood of a story... or whatever you're making for that matter. 

One question I have for you Sir Charles (hope you don't mind if I call you that :P) is if you had any examples of artist that you would considered having a developed style, and examples of artist who are still in the process?

Also, I think it would be really cool if people on this forum would show examples of their art style progression throughout their development of said style. Perhaps just showing how their style has changed from each year. It would be great for anyone who are struggle with this aspect of their art, and need a little nudge in the right direction depending what type of content they want to create. I wouldn't mind doing this myself, but alas... I am a shy lil kitten. 

Here's more stuff on art dissonance

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Jun 11 17 8:40 PM

I don´t mind if you call me Sir or just Charles, I´ll answer nonetheless.

On the topic of Art-Style Dissonance: like anything it depends on its purpose to define whether its effective or not. Dissonance in anything depends on the contrast of clashing concepts (be them childish or mature, comic or tragic), with one side fulfilling expectations while the other breaks them apart, but never having one given side ¨eating¨ the other away. A good artist knows that dissonance can be a powerful tool to express their message if, and only if, the contrast present leads to a greater whole (a harmony) regardless of which side the audience sees first. Experiencing dissonance is like going on a roller-coaster, it is safe to ride but fast and high enough to make you believe that at any time you will fly and smash against the ground. A good roller-coaster keeps you on edge and yet you remain safe, while a bad roller-coaster either bores you out of sheer comfort or it outright kills you by not keeping you on your seat. Beginning artists commit the mistake of building a roller-coaster with a single prominent feature (be it safety over fun or viceversa) because they often copy different structures but don´t give themselves the time to research and practice what defines them, what gives them purpose and makes them unique against others. Granted, the younger the artist the more chances there are that they won´t know any better, but all artists begin the same and the solution is always the same: research, practice, develop techniques into a structure and give them purpose. It doesn´t matter if the artist begins doing Who Killed Bambi´s Mother? or the Wonderful Teachings of the Happy Xenomorph, if they are willing to learn and improve they will eventually create the best mature story about cute fluffy animals or the most endearing story about eldritch abominations.

  A good example of an artist with a developed style would be Katie Tiedrich from Awkward Zombie, her current artwork is impressive and that´s because every detail she puts on her art has a purpose that helps deliver the clearest message on each page. If you go to her website you will hardly find a detail that detriments the comic, and ,while there is still room for further improvements, you can feel that each picture has its own presence within the whole. This carries over to any other projects she runs: not only can you identify her particular art style, details have weight no matter which thing you look at first. (Here´s a link to her comic)

  Another good example is Coelasquid from Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, who employs greater detailing in her art compared to Tiedrich and still lets no detail detriment the comic in any sense. Every page is rich even if you strip it of details such as color, shading, or even clean linework. You can put it side to side with other comics where the protagonists are buff dudes and you could still recognize her because her style has presence. (Here´s the link to that one)

  An example of an artist in progress would be Valsalia from Out of Placers, he only has a couple of years drawing his comic and there is still a lot of room for improvement but his writing style and attention to lore for the purpose of enriching the story will keep you interested and waiting eager for the next page. He goes out of his way to ensure that each page is interesting on its own and yet important within the whole, even pages with bonus information feel rewarding to read. (Check it out here)

  From my part I wish I could share something but I haven´t drawn anything relevant in 5 years so all my work is outdated, though I have been writing a lot but that´s information I choose to keep private for now because it´s all under development.

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