1 a manner of doing something
• a way of painting, writing, composing, building, etc., characteristic of a particular period, place, person, or movement.
That's how Webster describes style. I've been thinking quite a bit about style lately, and the meaning behind the word. There is a world of weight placed on that word. All artists search for a style from an early age. They are told they should have a particular style, and if they don't, they're floundering. Their careers are built on a style that they're known for. I've come to a conclusion. Style is simply a person's interpretation of something within a set of restraints and resources. Style changes when those restraints and resources change.
The first restraint or resource isn't something we have control over. It starts with the period the artist is born into, and when they enter their professional stage of their life. For example, the illustration industry is drastically different in 2010 than it was in 1910, or even in 1990. I have no doubt that the industry will be noticeably different a decade from now.
The second restraint or resource is someone's raw ability, and that ability varies from person to person. Over time that ability may grow, and from that growth comes a style. Within that period of growth are other variables. What type of influence or drive do they have. Did they go to school, and if so where? Who were their mentors, or what other influences did they have? What is their ability to retain what they've learned. Once they found a direction, what level of focus did they have? All of these factors, among many others, mold an artist's ability.
When an artist finds their direction, they generally start to move toward their professional career. This is another major set of restraints or resources, and they are the ones we deal with as professional artists on a day to day basis. Commerce steps in and influences style. Finances, workload, client involvement, tools, personal and professional relationships, all play a part, positively or negatively, in artistic style.
All of these constantly shifting factors lead to an artist's current set of resources. It's what you have available right now. It's these resources that we carry with us when we create. Add to your resources the one thing that we all need to create... time.
Resources + timeline = style
These resources and restraints will constantly shift throughout our lifetime. And so will our style.