Finding your art style and Pictorial Vocabulary by Scott McCloud

Like many an artist, I’ve asked myself what sort of art I want to create, what’s my voice, my style?

Realistic representation? Abstraction? Emotions? Ideas? Stories? What can be depicted by art is broad, and where we stand on the spectrum is the journey of an artist and their art.

Not surprisingly, such confusion has made it difficult for me to find some coherence to my work.

However, I’ve come across a diagram in the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I’m not a comic artist, but I like to branch out and read elsewhere.

Pictorial Vocabulary

McCloud describes how images convey meaning, from what we see (what’s real) to ideas and the painting itself can become the subject matter.

It sets out the idea that art style has three dimensions

Reality, Meaning and the Picture itself.

Visual artwork falls within this area; finding out where you live in this space is part of the artist’s journey.

I found it a valuable heuristic to think about my work and the art I create.

All over the map

Many Art Styles

When I’m not outdoors, I’m playing with ideas in my head, along with the writing I do; I’m something of a philosopher, so ideas and an abstract style appeal to me. 

Yet reality still has its pull; painting or drawing what I see gets me out of my head and the anxiety accompanying it. It’s one reason why I became an artist to address my overthinking—skies, coastlines, water and more.

But also what matters to me is how good the picture itself look, the brushwork, the texture, the thick paint.

When it comes to specific art and artist, it’s the same.

Henry Ascenio and his expressive realism call to me. Turner’s evocative seascapes also inspired me, expressive and abstract.

Birds, animals even dinosaurs have a realistic slant; paleo-artists are there to create plausible reproduction of these animals based upon research.

I’m also fond of the Symbolic art of ideas, such as the art of Asian religions, of sublime mountains, rivers, birds, bamboo, waterfalls, rivers, trees, mountains.

The art of myths and legends as well as modern fiction like Star Wars. Stories I loved growing up.

Also, Henri Matisse, such as his Dancers. The work of the Greeks, their vases, frescoes.

Abstract art also inspires me, Rothko, Pollock, for example. Map art, whilst they have an abstract quality, are often still tied to the real world.

It shows I’m all over the map when it comes to my artistic interests. It may mean that I will try my hand at all of it.

The diagram helped me organise a little jumbled mess of ideas and feelings about art. What I like and don’t has become a little clearer.