Technique, Style or Identity – Which Comes First to You?

A detail of Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Technique

During the recent ten years, I have wanted to learn and experiment with art techniques. It has been fun to combine all kinds of media and see what comes out. And even when using one medium only, techniques have been important to me. Like recently, when I have learned to paint like the old masters. But with techniques, come the rules: first this, then that. It feels safe at first, but then, it can also be too restricting.

A detail of Vincent van Gogh inspired art journal spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Style

To me, the personal style means something that I am comfortable with doing, and that makes my work recognizable. But for a long time now, I have felt a sense of sadness when people say that they want to find their voice. One of my favorite creative play has been to play with styles. Being very intentional about the style issues can take the play out of the game.

Hand-drawn collage art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Identity

The more I have tried to focus on techniques or style, the more I have thought about the third thing, the artistic identity. I tried to keep all that inside me, but I am not very good at hiding things, so I was about to explode before finally, in the last month, I wrote on Facebook:

“Style or Identity? – Even when working full-time as an artist, I sometimes still have problems in calling myself an artist. I wonder, why there’s so much talk about finding your style and so little about finding your identity as an artist?

It includes me too. I often talk and think about style issues when I should think about identity issues. It’s easier to analyze the line, the theme, the mark making, than talk about things that go deeper.

I mean things like:
1) Why do you make art?
2) How do you define the quality of your art?
3) What’s your role in the art community?
4) What’s different with you from the artists that you admire?
5) When and how do you know that you have succeeded as an artist?

Most of these questions are valid whether you are a beginner or more advanced. The answers change when your journey progresses.”

When your order is 1) identity, 2) style, 3) technique

you allow more play,
you take on bigger challenges,
and you connect more with other artists.

Stay tuned for a new challenge-based coaching class to grow your artistic identity!

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet with one of her paintings in progress. Read more about finding your style in art!

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