Why Having A Unique Art Style is Overrated

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?
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. very interesting post! I really enjoyed reading it!
    I do have many different art styles, and I switch them kinda often, but only because there are so many styles im interested in
    (sidenote: I am not in art industry or something, neither do I earn that much money with my art. for now, I just do it in my spare time, and rarely I have to draw something for clients)
    best example, there was I time I was very much into Manga and Anime. But kinda suddenly, I wanted something else. these manga-drawings, they weren’t fun to me anymore, like a fire which is already fading. so I got into (semi-)realism and voilá: my inner fire was lightend up again. since then, whenever I see a new style, that is appealing to me, I really want to give it a try to learn how to draw this.
    but not only my enthusiasm for art came back, it showed me, that every art style can help me building up my personal and inner idea of art. My personal „signature“ in every piece. Not my –style-, I think this signature is much deeper in every painting I do.
    (I can’t describe it, because ... I can’t see it. My friends often tell me „these definetely looks like you made this“ though the paintings have totally different art styles and I don’t get it, where they see „me“ in there.)
    in general I think, having many art styles (or know to draw in many art styles) is very good. Not only that you can have multiple different clients, I think you also learn more from the world around you, like ... „looking through the eyes of this art style“.
    Yeah, so ... I think that’s it. sorry for the long post ^^’’
    (and I hope I wrote unterstandable, english isn’t my native)

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the post and found the time to comment, much appreciated!

      That is exactly the same reason I still love to develop different styles; to keep the flame burning.

      In a fast developing environment and industry that, if you decide to join, squeezes you out like a fresh lemon, you have to find a way to motivate yourself.

      In an environment where great artists have to sign "Non-disclosure-agreements", what should they do to show something or someone they are still doing art? They need to create personal stuff in their morning breaks. This stuff can eventually save their butt when they get fired because Studio XYZ is closing its doors, etc.

      It is great if you can do this as a hobby and develop everything with your own pace. That is the same way I got there and by the time you can make the jump, you have 2,3,4 or more different styles to work in and get clients or just the fun back that you need.

      There are people who say that once you take the plunge and start doing art professionally, the fun will go away, but that is not true. I can say that I have way more fun doing my work full time than ever before, but this is something that no one ever can tell you, except you by trying.

      No worries about your lengthy post, maybe you should try to blog, that is a great way to share what you learn as you go ;)


  2. Anonymous11/02/2017

    Maybe for concept artists,but "Art Style = Limiting Your Growth" isn't exactly truth.

    Kentaro Miura,although an mangaka,prove that you can improve even with the same art style.


    You just have to keep practicing and adapting these studies to your own lines and compositions.

    Also,style is great for creating identity.
    We have many awesome artists these days,but I can't really tell what's the different between some of 'em.

    I tend to look at Blizzard games art but is too similar to other creations,with eye-candy effects (exaggerated lighting on characters and background),bland creatures and overall generic design (though is technically awesome).

    And that's why I appreciate unique art style + techniques than just techniques + great imagination but lack of originality.

    I look at Dark Souls art and I can identify it ; I look at Akira Toryiama's "squared style" and I can identify it ; the old trilogy of Star Wars is astounding because Ralph Mcquarrie and other artits had IDENTITY and techniques ; Syd Mead imaginated an whole world built to fit Blade Runner,using saturated but clean designs (very much like other works created by him) and that created ORIGINALITY to it.

    Anyway,you can evolve your style at any time if you keep practicing,and imagination alone is nothing if you don't have a style.

    1. Thanks for your comment and thoughts! Much appreciated!
      Actually, as the title says, I feel that a unique art style is just overrated – not that it is superfluous.
      Personally I believe there is a perfect style for every need. In that regard I rather tend to think as an art-director than as an artist. The artist in me does not think beyond a certain point, the AD does.
      I even agree with you about the unique styles and talents that artists like Syd Mead and R. McQuarrie or even Moebius have put to the table - however, these styles are established and coined with a specific use already. So you can either go and re-invent the wheel or use what has already been used to communicate certain things.That just involves a lot of study. I like to play with what exists and have decided that there exist enough styles to communicate my ideas - I welcome everyone who goes the hard route and likes to establish a new and unusual style. That requires a lot of guts besides the study. It is just not for me. Or maybe it will happen someday by accident (as most art styles do) so I better not say never.... ;)



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