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Visual artist Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA talks about developing a drawing style

Developing A Unique Sense of Drawing Style

Have you ever tried to define your drawing style?

If you’re like me — someone who’s still growing, learning, and trying to develop their own sense of drawing style — then you’ve probably been wondering about your own drawing style as well.

Questions I often ponder (and you may also) about when it comes to this very topic include:

  • What is (or isn’t) my/your drawing style?
  • How will I/you know what it is when you see it or do it?


  • How long does it take to see or recognize one’s own drawing style?

So now after three years (and counting, almost done though!) of working through my Illustration MFA program, I’ve come to learn the following:

Finding these answers takes both time and (lots of) practice.

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So here’s what I’ve learned about my own drawing style (and process) over the past several years.

(Hopefully, my own learnings may help you as you work on figuring this all out for yourself as well.)

  • I seem to like the hand-crafted look, imperfections and all. This means I embrace drawing (or painting) mishaps when they happen and often try to view them as opportunities to redirect or as happy accidents.
  • I accept I may not get my drawing(s) right at first and that reworking and refining them are a natural part of the drawing process.
  • Whatever my drawing style is or isn’t, I just have to draw (or paint or design) from my heart, from start to finish, and focus on enjoying the process.

Let’s break each of these learnings down a bit more for added context ????

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Imperfections add a handcrafted, human touch to my work.

Mistakes are 100% going to happen, not just in drawing but with all aspects of art and design across either digital or traditional mediums.

Sometimes, mistakes and blunders are huge and need a major correction or total do-over.

Other times, however, mistakes are much more slight like, for example, if my hand kind of wobbles a bit when drawing a line. If the wobble doesn’t detrimentally impact the art or design, I’m far more apt to keep the wobble as it makes the art or drawing more human- versus computer-rendered.

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Revisions during the drawing process are actually *GOOD* vs. “bad.”

When I first began drawing, I’d quickly become frustrated or impatient when my initial drawing wouldn’t come out perfectly on the first try.

The thought (or threat) of starting my drawing over would --- for me --- bring about a stressful feeling and debilitating pressure that would sabotage my creative mojo time and again.

With repeated practice, training, and much mentorship, however, I’m happy to report that now I actually WELCOME multiple revisions! I see now that these iterations and refinements are a completely natural and necessary part of the drawing process.

Plus, letting go of trying to draw perfectly from the start has also been incredibly liberating; severing the cord to this type of thinking has allowed me the stress-free room to make mistakes and fix them along the way.

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Drawing from the heart is a total must.

So this last point is not a small one.

No matter what the project requirements or grad school assignments demand, I always try to draw from the heart.

Instructor and client specifications are important, but pouring my heart into the art, drawing, or painting process is just as important.

If I focus too much on the art specifications and requirements, I start to lose the heart aspect of my work and the drawing task at hand becomes overly mechanical and even rote.

Three years now into my drawing journey, I’ve learned to combine drawing, art, and design specifications with my heart’s passion. And when you master this ability, you’ll find it’s what sets your work apart from everyone else’s.

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Today, I still don’t exactly know what my drawing style is 100%.

You know how people will see a particular piece of artwork and instantly recognize the artist because of their style, right?

Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out for myself:

What exactly is my drawing style? Is the style recognizable? Does it fall into any specific category?

While I’m still chipping away at these answers (and I’m so curious to see and learn what those aha moments will ultimately be), I’m trying not to obsess about this too much and instead focus whatever time I can on drawing, drawing, and more drawing.

I figure the answers to “what is my drawing style” will someday manifest in due course.

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Do any of the experiences shared here sound like your own?

I’d love to learn how YOU yourself are working towards further developing your sense of drawing style as well.

Or if you already know what your sense of drawing style is, how did you discover it and how long did it take you to “get there?”

Please share any stories, progress, and discoveries along your drawing journey with me in the comments.

Until then, thank you for reading and I look forward to learning from you as well.

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

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