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Finding your unique art style

Design and Shine Podcast episode- finding your unique art style. Picture of Rachelle and Lesley

In this podcast episode, I talk to Lauren Leslie, who is a textile and surface pattern designer from Atlanta, and she has her own successful design practice as well as her own website and YouTube channel where she has lots of really fantastic information on becoming a textile designer. We talk about a few different things, including developing your signature design style and design portfolio.

A bit about Lauren’s background

She started out, going to art school where she was a BFA major in studio art with a concentration in oil painting. After finishing she decided to enter the commercial world and become a graphic designer. She had the foundations from her studio art degree, but she did an extra year of school, to learn the software and the basics of graphic design. She was a graphic designer for four years but didn’t love graphic design.

With her fine art background she really wanted to be drawing and using her fine art skills but in a commercial way. On Pinterest and Etsy she came across artists who were designing prints and patterns and decided it was a commercial way to use her art. She then went on to get a job as an in-house as a textile designer for seven years. In this time she became a senior designer but the next step was to move to management which she didn’t want to do. She loved the creative process too much and didn’t want to give that up so became an independent surface pattern designer.

Our conversation turned to developing your signature art style.

Your signature art style

We talked about the importance of developing your own art style if you want to be known for something. If you are going to work in the house or if you were going to work with clients where you’re really working in their style or their brand, then it’s less important but if you want to be a successful designer, who is well known for their look then this something that is important to develop. It becomes increasingly more important if you want to be independent or get into art licensing. Clients will want to come to you because you’re going to help sell their work or their products. 

If you’re just starting out..

Leslie’s advice for those just starting out….

If you are brand new to design, like if you’re an entry-level designer, then I wouldn’t stress or worry too much right now about developing your style. I would say if you’re a brand new designer, maybe try to focus more on just developing your skills whether that is,  hand drawn designs, hand painted, vector art, or whatever your method of working. I would just become really, really good at that first. 

I  really recommend going back to basics and keeping a daily sketchbook practice. I think that just keeping a daily sketchbook practice, and working it into your routine so that is becomes a habit is the first step. I also recommend just doing a lot of research to start out in terms of researching design color and also how you want to be working. You need to be creating for your portfolio, the work that you want to do, right. Not just, not necessarily like a broad spectrum of everything that you can do, but in your portfolio, you want to really be showing the work that you want to be doing so that yo get the jobs that you want to get.

So first you have to figure out what you’re even attracted to in the first place. And in doing this research, you can kind of start to piece together the patterns e.g, I’m really attracted to this modern style. And I keep pulling really modern and contemporary looks over and over and over again, you know, and maybe you have some other things sprinkled in, but when you can kind of start to pick out those patterns, what you’re attracted to in terms of inspiration and design, research, color research, and then also researching the industry that you want to be in, then that gives you some clues as to what your real style is like, what you’re just naturally attracted to. It taps you into that intuitive place as who you are, or as far as who you are as a designer or as an artist, and kind of getting, you know, getting in touch with your true self, which I think is difficult when you can do any style.

If you’re feeling intimidated by drawing something I recommend is having a little teeny tiny sketchbook which is sometimes less intimidating and it’s a quicker, like five minutes type of sketch. Right? So if you’re feeling intimidated by that, by a big blank page that I would recommend starting out with just like a tiny sketchbook,

Limiting beliefs

Designers who are really struggling with developing their style are often inspired by everything and they can’t narrow it down. They get bored quickly and give up when they try to, start an art style practice, they can’t seem to prioritize their art style practice because they’re just busy and it’s not worked into their schedule. They don’t really know what to do or where to start. They just feel totally lost and overwhelmed. Some people just feel totally paralyzed by the fear of failing and they may even be people pleasers and they don’t want to disappoint others or like embarrassed themselves or they don’t know what to create because they feel like they have to create what other people will like. So again, being a people pleaser can be a  distraction from getting you in touch with yourself and developing your own artistic style.

Those limiting beliefs are always there. I mean, and we’ve kind of grown up with that limiting belief that you can’t make money from art. It’s not a real job or you can be an artist, but you’re going to be poor, you know, those kinds of things. The last one I hear a lot is I can do any style. So how do I choose one? Especially if you’ve been working in-house or for clients for a long time.

It’s really when you’re feeling insecure, that you easily get sucked into shiny object syndrome and seeing what other artists are doing maybe on Instagram or Tik TOK or whatever. And, you know, just trying to chase all these different styles because you’re thinking this is hot now. This happens when you’re feeling insecure in not knowing who you really are as an artist and being confident in that.

How does Lauren present her portfolio to clients?

I create art sheets and I tailor my portfolio to the clients that I’m pitching to. When I reach out to a client or a potential buyer, I have art sheets that I send to them. I’ll include at least three sheets in an email and I’ll have one hero print or illustration, and then I’ll have two to four coordinates, depending on what it is within that art sheet. I also have my name and my logo and contact information on the sheet so that if they decide to pull it off and put it in a folder or something thenthey can come back and contact me. I do have a link that has my full portfolio, if they’d rather just dive in and look through everything and I have it divided into different sections. For example, if a buyer wanted to just look at Christmas art, they could scroll down and just look at the Christmas category. So I do have it divided by theme, um, within, you know, my private collection, that’s on my website.

Lauren and I dive much deeper into your signature art style, sending your artwork to clients and your portfolio and website so make sure you listen to the podcast episode to find out more.

And here’s how you can find out more about Lauren:

You can sign up to Lauren’s free mini course ‘Art Style Secrets’ here

And find out more about her on her website here 


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