Uniquely You

Cassandra Tondro, "Circle of Life," abstract painting

Hi Friends,

My painting style isn’t exactly conventional. I push the canvas into wet paint, use household tools to make marks, and scrunch the canvas up into a tight wad and pour paint over it to create texture. Some of these techniques come from my background in fiber art, and others are things I’ve discovered along the way.

I’ve tried painting as artists are taught to paint, with a brush, and I just don’t have what it takes to paint like that. My work never looks good when I use a brush.

In the past I’ve felt like my art was subpar because I don’t follow traditional rules of composition and design nor use conventional materials or tools. I was often working to improve my art and mold myself toward more accepted artistic standards. But I always come back to my odd ways of working, because they feel natural to me, like they are a part of me.

The other day it occured to me that this is the way I paint, and it’s worthy for that reason alone, because it’s uniquely my style. There’s no need for me to aspire to paint like anyone else or to follow formal artistic rules. My art is notable specifically because it’s uniquely mine.

It makes me think about the other ways we feel compelled to conform to societal norms. The way we look, the way we dress, our beliefs and attitudes, our lifestyle choices. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just be our own unique, individual and wonderful selves!

What makes you uniquely you? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.

With love and appreciation,

Painting at top: “Circle of Life,” 30 x 48 inches, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas. You can see the development of this piece in my Artist Studio Update videos, numbers 40 – 43.



  1. I also have a style one that is unique to me. I am the individual, the real self. I see things in my life as necessary and God given. Art is everywhere, I love the earth and the trees. The Forrest and the desert is my art to observe and cherich then paint or create on a tile or a rock. So I would say Nature is my canvas.

    1. Hi Rose. How wonderful that you have developed your own unique style, and use nature as your inspiration. I think it can be difficult to break free and unlearn the ways we have been taught, in order to find ourselves and our own voice.

  2. I think I started drawing and painting to learn how to see. I don’t think I have my own style yet, or maybe I have a style but expect to evolve from here. I looked at the Hellboy graphic comic book and feel in love with the art, which is a bit abstract, maybe the art of shadows. When I do a portrait, which is one of my favorite things to paint (though I haven’t done a lot of them– maybe 7 or so), I measure a lot. I want a very good likeness of a person that I love, not something that will bother me or them a lot. That means getting it as exact as possible, and for me that seems to require measuring a lot of positions of corners, eyes, lines. And as I’m measuring I’m thinking, “Real artists don’t have to measure”. I don’t know how true that is, except I have seen that my portraits class teacher, Robert Sherrill, does not have to measure. Other people seem to go in the opposite direction and tell me to trace a photo. But I want to draw. Am I the only one trying to be an artist who measures for portraits meticulously? On the one I’m doing now, I am trying a grid instead.

    1. Hi Chris. Who even knows who the “real artists” are?!! I think it’s pretty safe to say that there are many different ways to approach a portrait, and you have to find what works best for you given what you’re trying to achieve. I’m not a portrait artist, but if I were, I’d do something like blind contour drawing. I like that out-of-control look, and blind contour gives such unusual results.

  3. Hi Cassandra,
    I don’t use a paintbrush either. My art is totally abstract. I paint to please myself. I, too, use kitchen tools to make marks, and use many layers of paint. Our paintings should reflect all the tings we have learned , art-wise, over our lifetimes.

  4. I love what you said, “The other day it occurred to me that this is the way I paint, and it’s worthy for that reason alone, because it’s uniquely my style. There’s no need for me to aspire to paint like anyone else or to follow formal artistic rules. My art is notable specifically because it’s uniquely mine.”

    I think that is sooooo powerful and liberating! We are all notes in a grand orchestra and we need to play our part joyfully without questioning it all the time. Much easier said than done! It sounds like you have made a brilliant breakthrough in that awareness.

    As for myself my uniqueness is that I like variety and am all over the place in mediums and techniques. I think it scrambles me up but I have always been that way, and everything I experiment with eventually comes out to help me in an unexpected way, mixing up my skills and making me the unique olio that I am.

    I think the best thing to do is to learn from a lot of sources in order to blend your training enough to find a voice in your own particular style. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just as long as it makes your heart sing and you challenge yourself to have the courage to continue on. Learning art is like learning the letters of the alphabet. First you learn to write a sentence, then a haiku poem, then a novel. You don’t need to know everything to express yourself! It is one profession you can keep growing in and never get bored your entire life. The only artist you compete with should be yourself–just like in golf!

    Bling! Ta-da! Follow your muse!

    1. Hi Cinthia. The thing that really helped changed my thoughts about this was giving up on selling my work. Not that I don’t sell it anymore, but I’m not trying to sell it. And ironically I sell the same amount of work I sold before. But by letting go of selling, I don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks. It frees me up to paint whatever I want.

      I’m also all over the map in the things I do, and you’re right — each technique informs the others, and they blend to help create a unique style.

  5. Thanks, Cassie! I too have decided it is time to just enjoy painting and sculpting for its own sake as a way of expressing Spirit, and lo and behold sold an painting and a sculpture both in a couple of weeks from random people I would never have expected! Letting go is a great thing.

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