What is consistency in art?
To be consistent means to behave or perform in a similar way and in art it’s understood as an ongoing, recognisable style, or artistic voice. Consistency in our art can feel like the peak of the creative process. We want to have our own unique style and it marks a level of success or professionalism for many artists and the people who enjoy their work.
Why do I need to be consistent in my art?
This is the question my rebellious inner artist still yells when I’m juggling a mind full of ideas and possibilities. I’m a naturally multi-passionate person and that means wanting to try lots of things. My creative mind is buzzing with new projects and does not want to be put in a box and labelled with anything, especially to do with my art.
I have switched between many styles from heavily textured abstracts to graphic coastal landscapes and wandered through bookmaking, zines, fabric sculpture and more. Having many different projects on the go is wonderful because they elevate each other with new creative sparks.
However, there are clear benefits to having a consistent art style and practice.
Having a unique artistic voice
This means making similar work, in a similar way through our own processes. It can also mean discipline, routine and many hours spent focusing on our art to get there. The more art we make, the closer we get to this unique voice and a level of consistency. There’s no better way to improve our art than by practising our techniques over and over again.
This is a big topic, better given it’s own blog.
Putting in the hours
Developing consistency means putting in the hours necessary for creative development and making better art. From scheduling every Sunday to paint or an hour of writing after dark, setting ourselves creative routines are key to doing the work.
Keeping habits like these permits us to prioritise our art and keeps us on track for the long term. Of course, scheduling doesn’t work for everyone but consistency also means dedication and commitment to our goals.
Consistency and marketing
There’s no doubt having a recognisable style makes marketing your work easier. It’s easier to find your customers and sell to them. Having a clear style, voice and tone across different platforms also makes sense. You want your audience to recognise you, wherever you are.
As much as you might be uncomfortable in a niche, having a well-defined audience makes marketing a whole lot easier.
Galleries and events also applaud consistency of style. When your creative voice is recognisable it’s easier to decide if you are a good fit for them. And if you are, it’s easier to sell you to their customers.
On the other hand, if you don’t intend to sell your work, this might not make sense to you. Nevertheless, if you are sharing your art online, having a clear style can be helpful when making connections and finding followers.
When consistency holds you back
Consistency looks attractive from the outside and our brains naturally look for patterns and to categorise things as a way to manage our environment*. Seeing similar and familiar work from an artist makes it easier for us to connect with them. But there are aspects of consistency that hold us back too.
Schedules provide structure and permission to make art but we can find ourselves feeling trapped, uninspired and under pressure. Creative people often need the flexibility to explore ideas rather than a factory-style production line.
Complete freedom is not possible for many people but allowing room for inspiration and play outside of art on demand, is part of the creative process.
Showing up to an art practice can feel exhausting and demanding. Daily art making or work can quickly feel like a chore to tick off the list. If we squeeze our art into the corners of our lives, we can leave no time for rest or wandering thoughts.
Trapped by a schedule of productivity, the demand to create can lead to being starved of inspiration and creative people also need input. I like to walk at the beach or through the city, others sketch people in cafes or take photographs.
There has to be space in that allotted creative time for you to add to the well of inspiration and make new connections.
Keeping creativity alive
Consistency means creating similar work but artists are also creative by nature. They enjoying trying new materials, techniques and ideas. They get inspired and want to make something new.
This creativity goes against consistency. It throws new ideas into the mix, shakes up old work and breaks the predictable patterns.
The art world that likes to categorise or label people is confused by the artist’s curiosity and shifting styles. Artists can appear to be flaky, unreliable or just inconsistent! When we follow our curiosities we become expansive but also harder to pin down. This, we are told, is not a good thing.
Our expansion is not only a good thing for our art, it’s necessary or we become stagnant, not to mention, deeply unhappy. Consistency can be a rule imposed upon our development and we must resist it.
It can take time to develop and refine new waves of our art but they must happen and we should embrace them, share them and let our audience come along too.
Balance consistency with creativity
Consistency is a part of art practice that can feel both valuable and unattainable. Finding our unique creative voice is a high point for any artist, especially when selling our work. But it’s also misleading.
For any artist, it is necessary for us to develop and try new things outside of the work we do. We must pursue other interests, styles and techniques and pool these things together into new art.
This requires a balance between the familiar art and processes that we have developed and stretching out into new ideas. For some artists, this happens frequently and fast and for others, it’s a slow steady wander.
However you approach your creativity, it’s important not to get stuck in consistency. Find fresh ideas and embrace how your art shifts between techniques, styles and genres over time. It is all valuable and should be enjoyable.