I love internet art sites. I am active in both WetCanvas! and the brand new forum started by American Artists magazine (http://forums/myAmericanArtist.com). I learned an incredible amount from other artists from around the world. So I have chatted with lots of beginners, and besides the commercial side, the most common question beginning, self-taught artists ask is "How did you develop your style"?
I often hear, "My style kinda found me". What does that mean?
To me, that means learn all you can from crits, study and silently pick apart what works on pieces you like, and what doesn't on those you don't. Look at lots of art. When I went to an art show last summer, I realized that the art that I really enjoyed had some living thing in it, whether human or animal, or was so dynamic that the movement in it seemed alive.
But if you're asking about style, it tells me that you haven't been making art that often to feel comfortable to find it. If you're struggling with drawing skills, with color mixing skills, with basic composition skills, etc., you can't relax and try things out. If you're afraid to deviate in any way from a photo reference, you can't develop style. (The really good photo realistic artists make their art look MORE real than the photo!)
There comes a time when you have to step away from your mentors and teachers and books and have the boldness to do it your way. This is the start of style. But you can't get to that point without the foundations and the grandaddy of foundations is putting in the time. Make art every day. You can draw every day. You can look at art every day and pick it apart. You can read crits online of art.
I collect art postcards from galleries around town and print out small images of art I like and post it in my workstation. Every day I have some time to think about why Vermeer did this, or whatever. And I have a postcard from a Chuck Close show I visited and have Chuck looking right out at me all day. He inspires me to make art. Being tired after working all day is not an excuse, with Chuck looking at me! I'll talk about finding style more, but first I have to make some art! I have a long way to go, there's never going to be time to learn everything I can about art. And I don't want to be one of those smug artists who become static and stale because they know it all. I've seen that...and their art reflects it.