By their styles, do your recognize the artists who did these three portraits?
What about these three landscapes? Can you recognize by these styles who painted each of them?
Even if you don't know the artists by their work, you can see within each work a distinctiveness, something that sets each artist's work apart even though they might be influenced by the era in which they painted.
WHAT MAKES STYLE
All my life I've been fascinated by listening to the different ways pianists play Beethovan's Moonlight Sonata. Even more fascinating is that when you familiarize yourself with master pianists, it's easy to recognize their playing without being told who the performer is. The same is true for artists: when an artist has command of skills and composing principles, their work is recognizable from across the room.
So, how is this possible?
Style is not something we invent. It is our natural "handwriting." It is the result of being in command of our skills to the point that we no longer have to think about the "how to" and delve straight into responding to what we see, interpreting it in a way that pleases us. To try to force that to fit into a trend or to how another artist might do it is to truncate our own artist's voice in favor of imitating a style.
IT'S ALL ABOUT BEING NATURAL
Below the word "artist" is written by seven different people. The same word communicates seven unique interpretations. Each style derived from thousands of repetitive strokes over the course of one's lifetime, writing without thinking about how it's being done. Today, the mastery of these strokes creates the word "artist" as a concept.
Just as our handwriting evolves over our lifetime, so does our painting style emerge with every brushstroke we make. When first we began to form letters, we did so deliberately, carefully forming their shapes. As we became comfortable with the skill of writing, we no longer had to think about forming the shapes. The thoughts transmit themselves through the shapes. Today, those who know our handwriting will recognize it as ours unless we distort it.
So it is with our painting style!