icon_facebook   icon_twitter   icon_youtube   icon_yelp


How Important is Developing a “Personal Style” at Early Stages?

In the olden days, when young artists were apprenticed to a master, they probably were not overly concerned with developing a personal, “signature” style –– at least at early stages. We can easily imagine students hard at work to develop their skills, without much thought to cultivating a personal style; the primary thing was to be able to draw and paint, first! Later, after the basic skills were mastered, they would undoubtedly become aware that their own handling of the material resulted in a certain kind of mark making, palette, subject matter, and way of approaching that subject matter. This seems like the natural way of approaching the issue; first just learning to draw and paint, then giving more concern to issues related to style.

Jan van der Straet (Stradanus) Depiction of an artist's studio

Nowadays, however, a lot of teachers put emphasis on personal style, at a very early stage. It is easy to see why this is: modern art shot off in a different direction, about 130 years ago, with the work of the Post-Impressionists. Perhaps for the first time, artists started searching for highly personal ways of making art –– ways that not only broke with tradition, as the Impressionists had, but even broke with styles of their contemporaries in a way that was far more extreme than anything that had come before. Compare, for instance, the difference between a Renoir and a Monet; yes they are different, and we can appreciate those differences and talk about them. The Renoir’s brush seems lighter, more wispy; he blends the colors together more than Monet. Monet’s paint application is thicker, with more unblended dabs –– an anticipation of the pointillism. And yet, despite the differences between Renoir and Monet, they still have more in common than they have in difference: they both paint with a loose brush, both deal with nature as subject matter, and are concerned with creating a sense of the fleeting impressions of light.



Now compare the differences between these Post-impressionist artists, as seen in these images by Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh, and Paul Signac. Their ways of handling the paint are more diverse, as are their subjects, palettes, and compositional devices.




And this trend towards the highly personal style has only increased during the last century. Certainly, it is fun and interesting to see works of art that show us such diverse and unique approaches to painting. It is also fun to explore the freedom open to us today, while we develop a personal style. On the other side, though, if too much emphasis is placed on this, at early stages of a student’s art education, then the student may feel a lot of pressure to be highly unique and original, instead of just enjoying the process of art-making for its own sake, in a way that comes natural to them. We shouldn’t make our students feel self-conscious by imposing this sort of preoccupation, early on. A good teacher might take notice if a student shows a natural propensity towards a particular kind of mark-making, and encourage them to explore it consciously. This sort of natural growth is always better than a forced, artificial effort to be “unique”, and it is –– at any rate –– the inevitable outcome of any protracted engagement with an art education. If such apparent “uniqueness” is missing at early stages, it will assert itself at later stages. Continuity in practice is all that is needed –– and all that requires is loving the process of learning.

US Arts 1


鳳凰衛視美洲台製作一系列華人海外教育的專題片,針對在中國大陸、美國及加拿大的華人觀眾,深入介紹各種海外求學與教育資訊。U.S. Arts & Design 應電視台邀約錄製美術教學專集,由本校孫老師及ViVi老師教學示範素描及水墨畫。







Lessons From Teaching

Brian Kinnaman Recaps on Experience Teaching Studio Art at US Arts' Irvine Campus.

2015-01-03 14.30.24_copy
(Photo: Brian holding a pose for a quick figure-drawing lesson.)
During my formative first few months as a teacher here at US Arts, I was busy trying to assimilate the previous teacher’s curriculum, while still making it my own. Over time, one thing became very clear to me: An art education must exercise and flex the student’s creative capacities, yet at the same time it must have an element of rigor (increasing the student’s mastery over technical skill), or else that creative potential will not be able to manifest in a way that gives the fullest satisfaction to the student.

Both of these things –– creativity and technical skill –– are equally important. If, for instance, a student is extremely creative, but lacks technical skill, they are bound to become frustrated by their inability to manifest what their creative imagination envisions. Alternatively, they may not even try –– they may feel too intimidated by the skill level required to draw or paint whatever it is they are imagining. On the other hand, if the student has technical skill, but they have never spent any time exercising their innate creativity, they may not even believe they have what it takes to come up with a “good idea”. Surprisingly, many students are much more timid in this regard, than in the rigorous engagement of rendering convincing light and shadow (which, anyone will tell you, is one of the most difficult skills to master in observational drawing).

2014-09-27 18.36.29
(Photo: Acrylic painting by David Tu (from Brian's class). A great example of combining technical skill with creativity!) 

Some teachers try to teach creativity and technical skill at the same time. Other teachers may not even see a clear distinction between these two faculties. I have found that it is useful to shift the focus from one to the other, back and forth, at early stages. Now a project focused on observational rendering, now a project focused more on creativity, originality and exciting visual design. By alternating between these two foci, I make sure the student is exercising all of the creative muscles needed to produce a well-rounded young artist.

U.S. Arts

讓孩子了解癌症, 讓希望飛翔

  • 10002KyleChen12
  • 10003FionaZhou8
  • 10009MaggieNi13
  • 10018Dylan Truong
  • 1417CodyChen6
  • 1418BennettWood10
  • 1430LorinLeung7
  • 1434OliviaChen12
  • 1435EthanTam10
  • 1438AaronLin8
  • 1440MarcelTcheng10
  • 1447EricaYang7
  • 1448SarahWang13
這次與City of Hope 和 La Ja Ja 園地一起合作讓希望飛翔, 讓孩子了解癌症. 對老師來説由於孩子的年齡和發展的程度不同,使用孩子聽得懂的語言很重要, 試著回答他們不同的問題,然後再一起討論如何創作。 不同年齡的孩子對事情的理解及反應也不同,老師們並不期待所有的孩子能完全瞭解或有相同的反應。雖然他們懵懵懂懂但他們了解生病的痛苦更了解父母不在身邊的思念.我們就已他們所了解的參加了這次有義意的活動. U.S. Arts and Design 四個地區四所學校共同參與了幾百張畫的創作,每張都是孩子們的正面力量,細胞的戰爭,鮮豔的色彩,想起讓自己開心的事物讓我們一起進入他們的希望世界.