I’m starting with a term that I typically can’t stand. Style. Not because I don’t like the word, but because it’s been so overused and bastardized and adopted by so many sources. There’s a magazine. A network. It makes me think of Joan Rivers critiquing every star on their way to the Oscars.
And yet, for an Artist, style is important. It’s arguably the MOST important. Let me explain.Recently, a close friend of mine said he was done with style. Now, he was talking more about his choice of dress on a given day and less about his artistic choices, but it got me thinking – aren’t these things almost one and the same?
I’ve quoted High Fidelity before, and I probably have used this exact quote, but it’s a standout and I’m going to do it again. Deal with it. “…I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth…”
Obviously, ol’ Rob was talking about dating here (c’mon, it’s John Cusack. What the hell else would he be talking about?), but it really can apply to you as an artist, and probably should. Because the difference between Art and Craft is Style. Plain and simple. There’s a recipe for everything – a pie, a script, a song, a painting. You can teach yourself to do any of these things. I learned that from Bob Ross. But if you just follow the recipe, you’ve only accomplished what someone else laid out for you to accomplish.
Style is choice.
Style is about the way you choose to solve the many problems in front of you as an Artist. It’s about what drives you to create. It’s about communicating yourself to the world outside. And I’m beginning to think it should cross all boundaries and bleed into all parts of your life.
And why not? If you can’t express yourself in everyday ways, how will you make those decisions when there’s more on the line? Now, don’t take me too literally. I don’t mean that you have to spend your time choosing an identity and all your money on the clothes you wish you owned. But take Magnus Walker, aka the Urban Outlaw, for example. He partially inspired me to even bring this up. He’s a Porsche collector, customizer, and designer. And choosing Porsche was a style choice. So is his appearance. Look at the guy! If you saw him on the street, you might think he was homeless. Would you take his word on how to revamp your precious collector 911 turbo?
On sight, probably not, which would make you the loser in that situation. And you may think that if he really wanted to be taken seriously, he’d clean himself up and be presentable. But his choice to grow out his hair and beard and wear a trucker hat is part of what made him the guy he is today. See? His choice to look the way he does, in the face of “proper” society is partially what bolstered his choice to pursue such an unlikely career to fame (or notoriety).
Even the choice to not have a style is a style choice. You can choose not to give a shit about how you look and that’s fine. But keep in mind that it’s still a choice. It’s still a style. And it’s still a reflection of you as a person as well as an Artist.
I’m not telling you what to do or how to do it. This is really all to say to take all your choices into consideration. They don’t have to match or be part of some big theme. Just keep in mind that all your choices, even the ones that don’t seem to be part of your Artistic milieu, are defining your style. And that, in turn, will help you define the style of your work.
Because style can’t really be taught. It’s an instinctual response created by all the things you like. And even though it may seem trivial, when you choose to wear black and brown, which some argue is a no-no, you learn to trust your instincts. So when it comes to writing a song without a typical structure, or making a dessert with black pepper, those same instincts come into play and your trust in them will sell it. Learn to trust your instincts on the small stuff and you’ll rely on them for the big stuff.