Why Having A Unique Art Style is Overrated

(Originally Published in 3/16/2017)

Quite recently I observed a very intriguing thing: People participating in a lottery.

How some people believe they have a chance at winning when the obvious statistics suggest chances are like 1:16.000.000 (Where the 1 is you). Some do this and put $600-$1200 a year into the tickets for the excitement of watching the lottery drawing! Really? Man, you can have Netflix, Spotify premium and full Adobe CC all year for that money!
And you still have something left to support a living artist on patreon and earn lifelong gratitude, did you know this?

What does this have to do with art and art styles?

Leyendecker Tribute + Streetfighter + Darkstalkers
Going to be published in SFvsDS Comic Issue #1


Very much, believe me.

We humans are very individual by nature and everyone approaches things different. In terms of drawing or mark-making, that is what some refer to as artistic style. 

In our culture we celebrate certain art styles more than others. A Picasso becomes worth millions, while art created by other famous artists seem worth far less.

Art is very subjective and yet, capitalism dictates trends, trends set demands and demand creates jobs or kills them.

To get to the lottery aspect again; Some artists believe they are the one-in-a-million to become famous because of their unique voice.

So what people are drawn to, is the fascination around the myth that a distinctive style is equal to fame and fortune. This is ridiculous if you think about the fact that everybody is unique and an individual by nature. The fame and fortune of some particular artists has just to do with their ability to stick to their true nature and the luck that they attracted some very wealthy people in their lives.


What Is Your True Nature?

I can’t say what your true nature is, so I have to speak about myself here.
From the onset I have tried to be unique and do stuff that I would call original, but no one wants to see or buy that. ( Not true right now, but at the beginning it very felt this way.) Every artwork that I put up since around 10-15 years is in one way or the other a homage to another artist but always original.
Brom Tribute + Fullmetal Alchemist Inceptionism
When I put time and effort into a new inceptionism piece, I study the nature of the referencing artwork deeply. It is as if I would get a very close mentoring session with that particular artist and the outcome does reflect that. There is a dialog within the process in which I ask questions and I do get answers. These answers help me to learn adapting the style, light and composition like Sherlock Holmes was able to analyze a crime scene. I love that. I even try to enhance compositions with new details and build upon the existing work instead of subtracting from it. The result resembles me, but also my love for the artist I work after. I never try to copy an artist, I try to create something new with their unwritten (or in case of Brom – written) consent.

Every artist that had a mentor, resemble their master artists in one or the other way. So there is really no difference. If you have many mentors you will resemble certain parts of them into your unique signature.

Why Ideas Are More Important Than Your Skills

Much like a director of a movie, photographers have a far better understanding of a signature style than artists or illustrators. Their medium is more common and less unique. And yet, when 100 photographers turn a subject into 100 different photographs, only 1 or 2 might be really outstanding.
The more reliable thing than skill is: Context, Idea and a viable Concept.
Circe – mother of Pokemon Inceptionism
after Waterhouse
From a psychologic point of view, artistic creativity and style are very intriguing things to observe;When you consider that many artworks and styles are born from pure accident, things become very surreal at best. People are always drawn to bargains. It is easier to admit something was intentional than to admit it was a failure.
As a result we are surrounded by museums and galleries that show thousands of failures. And we believe we get a glimpse of the process by watching a piece of art on the wall? How ridiculous is it now to believe I get answers from artworks that I work with?

Not so much anymore.

Art Style = Limiting Your Growth

When you are familiar with your artistic voice you have the feeling that the fun is everywhere but in your comfort zone. That is the best time to dive into a completely new project.
The inceptionism project was my personal choice to get out of the comfort zone.The Landscape series has gotten so much attention which, for me as a figurative artist, would have remain untapped if I would stick to my figurative working habit.

Iron Giant at Lake in Switzerland – Savrasov Inceptionism


Abandoned AT-ST in forest, H. Böhmer Inceptionism
In a way, I never loved landscapes, but these painters have taught me how to love the subtle structures of leafs and how to harness them to create depth.Now I can appreciate landscapes far more, even if there has to be a Kaiju or rusted vehicle in there for me;)

The Takeaway

This is all very theoretically and has more to do with fine arts, the high or low-brow art sector. Where is the takeaway for artists and illustrators who want to get their foot into the door these days?

The general takeaway might be that style in itself is an illusion.

For illustrators it is easier than for fine artist.
Illustration clients always have a certain go-to style that they need.

Joker inceptionism in Sebastian Krüger Style
For example, editorials or cover art, whenever you see those articles and illustrations, if this is what you can do, do that.

Then approach the agencies and get the job. If your goal is working for Wizards of the Coast, do what every artist they commissioned did and do it yourself, then you will get there. Of course, giving yourself enough time for this is important. Sometimes it takes 2-3 years, for others it takes 5- 10 years to get that important call and job.

For fine artists it is a bit more difficult but also it bears more stylistic liberties.

The most important aspect for fine artists will be that they have to know their customers. These are not agencies or publishing companies. Galleries work in a very different way.

Working without galleries is even harder .
In my case, I just need to know there are fans of a certain character and these fans own everything of their favorite screen figure. My take is not everyone’s cup of coffee, but it is certainly different than what everyone else does.

Poison Ivy – Gil Elvgren Inceptionism
In general, fine artists are more depending on trends or fads that inspire the art scene as a whole.

If you do portraits you might need to keep up with all artists in that field doing what you do and find a way to stand out. On the other side, standing out means probably a huge setback or an enormous gain, it bears huge risks going into a new direction.

Book Cover Commission Inceptionism based on Haderer
That is why I started out with many different styles in the beginning.
Here is an older article about that matter with other styles not even shown here.It felt always easy to deal with rejection because there was always one style of art that did not get as much love as the other. I simply was used to that. When people were done criticising this or that, I was already 2 art styles away from that, delivering to a totally different group of customers.

The biggest advantage of this approach is, due to different styles, something is always in demand = always a job.
The downside is that I can not get so much fame and fortune as other artists sticking with just one art style. But the gain of learning so much makes up a lot.

How are your experiences with different art styles? Do you separate them in your portfolio?


About the Author Oliver Wetter

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