Drawing styles: How to find your drawing style

Drawing styles are a signature way an artist constructs a drawing.

Drawing styles depend on how a variety of ways you chose to look at drawing. Essentially, there are as many drawing styles as people in the world.

What is a drawing style?

Essentially, a drawing style is basically a collection of attributes that make drawings unique. I feel like the term drawing style should be replaced with “drawing approach”. Mainly, because drawings fall under many realms of drawing subject matters and can be achieved with many mediums.

Identifying a drawing style is a broad thing to nail down.

A drawing style is a fundamental ways an artist constructs their drawings. No matter what medium they use to draw with.

Some possible mediums to use in drawings include:

  • pencil
  • ink
  • marker
  • brushes
  • acrylic paint
  • oil paint

Even if you’re using all of these mediums in one mixed media drawing. Is it a drawing style?

Your drawing style is your signature way of combining mediums and construct your drawings.

Basic drawing style categories

Abstraction or a Nonrepresentational
An abstract drawing style is where the focus of the drawings are on shape, line, value, color, and texture. For example, artists who work in this drawing style include Piet Mondrian, Joseph Albers, and Al Held.

Art Nouveau
Artists who work in an Art Nouveau style make drawings that are illusionistic but primarily flat, that are highly pattern driven, and that usually incorporate fluid, curving lines. For example, art nouveau artists include Gustave Klimt, Aubrey Beardsley, and Alphonse Mucha.

Cartoon
This could encompass everything from cartoon characters in feature animation to comics. to more classic styles of illustration you’ll find in publications like the New Yorker cartoons. Alternatively, caricature and manga drawing styles would also fall into this style of drawing.

Surrealism
Artists who draw dreamlike and sometimes startling works based on pure imagination are practicing surrealism. For example, practitioners of surrealism include Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, and Yves Tanguy.

Academic
An academic drawing style is along the lines of a classical drawing style. One you would find in a classroom by a trained artist. For instance, this style most commonly mimics the aesthetics of Renaissance drawings.

Gestural 
This style is loose and made quickly to get a rough sense of the subject. Popular figure drawing when the artist wants to make a quick impression of the pose. For example, most sketchbook drawings have this same gestural approach.

Photorealistic 
Similar to the academic style fo drawing, the goal of this drawing style is to achieve exact photorealism. For example, these hyperrealistic forms of drawings can often be confused for actual photos.

Outsider drawing style
This drawing style is often associated with child-like aesthetic of drawing or along the lines of or folk art.

You can look at the work of each artist inside these categories to find more distinct drawing styles. These are just a few broad styles of drawing. For instance, if you look closer at each artist inside these categories you’ll discover that each has their own signature way of constructing their drawings.

Drawing styles are different from artist to artist

The biggest thing that solidifies an artists style is their own experiences and feelings.

If you were to ask fifty different artists to draw a lion you’ll get fifty different unique drawings. To clarify, each artist will approach their drawing from influences of their individual thoughts and experiences.

Every artist draws differently. Drawing inspiration from their own bank of memories. Therefore, every artist has their signature way of constructing a drawing.

Learning how to draw allows you to study these nuances in drawing. In other words, drawing is not about copying, rather about drawing in your way.

Your drawing style unique to you

One of my favorite shows online is a show called The Sushi Chef.

Each episode is about a different sushi chef, showcasing their individual style in how they prepare sushi. I know, you thought there was only one way to make sushi – cold round, and fishy. In the show, you watch how each chef integrates their backstory, personality, location, and life experiences to create a truly different presentation for making sushi.

The same is true for drawing.

Finding your drawing style

Seeking out a drawing style is the quickest way to get frustrated with drawing. Alternatively, a drawing style is a result of drawing a lot. The more and more you draw. Especially drawing in your sketchbook. As a result, you’ll develop a natural way for constructing a drawing.

We all interpret the world around us in different ways.

Observing life and translating what we see onto paper with marks. Similarly, also known as our drawing style.

The way you capture light, shadow, and form based on the world around you is a personal experience. Not just some technical feat of hand eye coordination. The way you translate the world around you digs deep into who you are – it’s your signature.

This is what makes drawing more personal and revealing than any other form of art. It’s the most direct way to capture your mind onto paper.

Your drawings don’t have to look like they’re coming from a Xerox machine. You don’t have to replicate everything you see realistically. It’s okay to breath your personality into your drawings. Even while you’re paying attention to the basic fundamentals of drawing.

Drawing styles of past masters

delacroix ink drawing style

The two lion drawings above are by Delecroix

leonardo da vinci drawing style

Sketch above is by Da Vinci

rembrandt academic drawing style

Drawing above is by Rembrandt

wilhelm lorenz pen drawing style

The lion drawing above is by Wilhelm Lorenz

These are great drawings because they’re loose and natural – while taking showcasing each artist’s natural way of making marks.

You can almost see what they were thinking as they were making each drawing.

Each drawing is confident and natural.