One of the hardest things about being an artist is growing up, learning, and always being told 'find your unique style'. Nearly everyone I know has flailed about that, struggling to find something that brands them as uniquely them, makes their art identifiable in a mass of other artist's work. Somehow, I stumbled upon my own style, and since then I've had a lot of people ask me HOW I ended up with this style that's all my own. I never really sat down and thought about it until Sarah and I started working together. Then the realities of our styles hit home and I began to realize that what it takes to make your own style, is actually... what NOT to do.
I've made a lot of these mistakes in the past, and I'm sure I'll make the same mistakes in the future. But let me talk about them now and maybe together we can avoid them!
The very, very first and most common mistake in looking for a style is assuming that a lack of knowledge, or a consistant mistake made.... is a mark of style. This is the most pronounced when it comes to anatomy. For the LONGEST time I really really really hated drawing hands. So I would hide them, always have poses that would tuck them behind the figure, or up in the hair, etc. I would say 'that's my style, who needs hands. I'm making an expression about how we are too reliant on our hands!"
Yeeeeeah. I was young, don't judge me lol.
Over the years as I started to teach others, and studied art, I came to realize that rather then making a statement, I was letting my inexperience show. When people would say 'that's not your style Jess' it wasn't out of a meanness, it was out of experience. Everyone and their dog goes through a 'hide the part you hate to draw' stage (and it's almost always hands), and so my work had a lack of maturity in it because of the poses I chose. It was not believable as style, nor did I want my style to be 'that girl who never bothered to learn to draw hands'.
Now disorted anatomy CAN be a style choice, if it's done as a choice and not as a lack of knowledge.
is a perfect example of this. If you look at her drawings, she does a different way of drawing eyes then most do. A very almond, enlongated shape. Now I have seen her draw very realistic eyes when she was paid to/challenged to. She's capable of it, but it isn't interesting to her. So she chooses an enlongated and overly large eye shape because she feels that eyes very much are the window to the soul. She wants to emphasize them. It is believable because it is a unique choice and not simply a lack of education that every artist goes through. There are also past masters, van gogh, picasso, etc. who chose a stylistic distortion in their work. But it is obviously a choice for them, and matches their overall style as well.
This is why when people call out artists for anatomy flaws, saying 'it's my style' doesn't really fly.
So the first step is to take stock of what you do as an artist, and make sure that you're making a conscious choice to draw the way you do, and NOT that you're avoiding it because you haven't learned how to draw that yet.
After that? Honestly it is simply taking stock and evaluating what you like and what you don't like. Style doesn't necessarily mean limiting your subject matter. But it does mean making sure you draw something that appeals to you. I think one of the reasons why art teachers say 'learn the techniques first, the style will come on it's own.. is because that's entirely true. Sarah and I learned techniques well before we met one another, and we have always had a roughly similar style. Now that we work together whole heartedly, we flat out work with one another's styles (even trying to draw in each other's style), and learned from that where the differences are in each other's art so that we know how we are unique from each other as well as how we are similar. And it's true, no matter how much alike Sarah and I are, we still have something slightly different that makes our art unique to ourselves.
So don't despair about 'finding your style'. Draw what you love, put your whole heart into it. Learn how to draw EVERYTHING, learn the 'right' way, learn about anatomy, perspective, color composition and so on. Then go from there and incorporate the parts you liked from your lessons into your art. That's how style grows, it's just an expression of what you like, what's YOU. And you'll only know what's you by learning and experiencing as much as possible.