With Skill Comes Style

I feel like every time I pick up a pencil to attempt portrait drawing, I am back in elementary school learning the basics of how to draw a face all over again. You know that art argument about whether you need natural talent to learn how to draw? Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t true because I’ve got zero natural ability, and yet I know that my skills have improved tremendously over the years.

Self-Portrait by Kathe Kollwitz, woodcut, 1923. Kollwitz was always so brave with her line, unhesitating and bold. I quite admire that!
Self-Portrait by Kathe Kollwitz, woodcut, 1923. Kollwitz was always so brave
with her line, unhesitating and bold. I quite admire that!

But what I want and struggle with the most is figuring out my style of drawing. I want my works to have a look that unites them, and that is uniquely ‘me.’ Something that distinguishes them in a viewer’s eye, but also connects them to the work of the artists and draftsmen that I admire.

It’s a tall order, and what I’ve come to realize is that with skill comes style. Every step I get closer to figuring out how to draw faces with technical accuracy is a step closer to drawing ‘my’ way. So if you are like me, give yourself a break! Focus on learning the skills of drawing portraits—how to draw a nose and how to draw lips—and trust that your style is in you, and that the way you draw is your style!

The Lovers by Rockwell Kent, wood engraving, 1928. Kent was masterful in his use of black and white and the way he could turn line upon line into just about anything.
The Lovers by Rockwell Kent, wood engraving, 1928. Kent was masterful in his use of black
and white and the way he could turn line upon line into just about anything.

There’s no need to struggle with how you draw. If you are drawing, your skill and your style are growing together. Look at your work with new eyes knowing that every drawing technique you master like drawing hair realistically is putting you on the path to a distinctive style with each mark you make.

I’ve also found that I make the greatest strides with my drawings when I’m in the studio working without distractions and the environment is one where I’m not intimidated and can really focus. That sweet spot was hard to find until Drawing: The Complete Collection came onto my radar. You get top instruction on drawing from instructors who know their subject matter so well and the tools you need to really stretch yourself when it comes to drawing people. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “With Skill Comes Style

  1. Yea know it’s funny you mention this – I’ve never much worried about my ‘Style’ per se, but I think I have a good feel for what it is and isn’t; Most Readers of the Forum will be familiar with Lee Hammond’s books on Drawing Technique; which would very often show a Drawing in four stages, from outine, to Line, to Line with tones, to a full tonal drawing.

    What I always found was I very much liked the 3rd Study best; the linear elements made the drawing look like a drawing; and not to dis such an accomplished Artist and Teacher; but the full tonal drawing always looked flat and waxy to me; and where never nearly my own cup of tea, even if they were more technically demanding work; because I love drawing for it’s own sake as an art and not just a means of doing studies for painting or sculpture; I do prefer a drawing that never forgets it is a drawing. BB.

  2. Thank you, Courtney, for sharing this. It is great encouragement for beginning artists and for those who have been at it for a while and are reaching that point where they have developed some skills but it all still looks a little like someone else’s work

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