Style, Perhaps, Voice
I look at a lot of illustration, I follow different artists, learn how they draw, see what their process is. It helps me. But it also makes me look at my own work and think of one very important question: what is my style?
Perhaps the question should actually be "what is style?" I can't answer that but I can think of a synonym - voice. When I think of voice or style, it makes me think of writing; an author's voice or writing style- their idiosyncratic tendencies that make their writing distinctively theirs. Sometimes it's more noticeable than not but it is an essential aspect of that person. Its part of the allure - specific stories can only be told through a writer's voice. Or else, its a different story altogether.
In the same way, every illustrator has his own style. And honestly, style is what sells. I may not be good at drawing things realistically, but if someone likes my interpretation of reality, they may think "that fits here" when trying to find an artist for a cover, an article etc.
This scares me.
See, I don’t know my style or voice, and am torn between two. This may be a good thing, at least I have two options rather than no options. What makes me feel even better is knowing that there are artists out there who don’t have a specific style, who just do what they do and have been able to “make it” in that way. And I don’t mean wanting to have a style that sells, that’s something completely different. I just want to have a style, regardless of what it is.
Part of it is confidence. Right now I don’t have confidence as an illustrator (which is why I wouldn’t call myself one). I would like to have the confidence to say “if you give me a prompt, a task, an article, a something, I can illustrate that”, but I don’t. Style is a big part of that. I’ll just put myself in that person’s shoes. I can fall in love with a specific person’s painting and want something similar to it, but if all their other paintings are completely different, than do I really know what I’m getting?
It’s becoming a little easier for me to see my styles- there are two distinct ones. There’s black and white, and then there’s color. There’s a pretty distinct difference from the work I do in color, as in, my Photoshop work, and my work in pen/pencil etc. But within their own style, there’s a commonality. That gives me hope, that gives me confidence. Really, all I need to do at this point is prove it to myself.
How is that done? Well it’s the answer to a lot of things. By taking action. It’s okay to think about style, think about voice, think about things like “how am I selling myself?” (because honestly, that is what style amounts to, a way to sell/brand yourself). But that can’t be the only thing I can think about, because what does style amount to if there’s no work to be shown? I can only know my style by creating it, and I don’t think it’s right to also taint my work with thinking “this doesn’t really fit my style.” From all the artists I’ve heard speak, write, and communicate about the subject, style came after the fact. It becomes a thread that weaves (or in some cases doesn’t at all) their art together. Style superficially arises from a focused look on various works of art. There isn’t a conscious decision of picking a style and then magically being amazing at creating art in that style every single time. Your first work will usually be different from your second, different from your third, but it isn’t until your fifth, tenth, fiftieth, that you might notice “there’s a trend here, a style.”
With that, like always, I’m motivated to keep working. When I first started, months before this blog began and my work was sporadically created rather than consistently done, I was honestly concerned that I didn’t have a style, that my work was random in glances. But as I look back at past work and at recent work, I’ve started to see a voice emerging. It’s murky now, but it’s there, and as I keep getting better, more diligent, and more focused, I’ll be able to confidently say “Yeah, I can illustrate that.”
This was another illustration I started for Illustration Friday. Let me first explain Illustration Friday. Illustration Friday is a website that has a weekly topic, changing every Friday. Using that topic, you can make something out of that. Honestly, rather than getting into too much detail, I’ll just link the website. (www.illustrationfriday.com) Many different creatives have various different interpretations of a single word, it’s very fun to see all the different images.
When I created this image, the topic at hand was Explore. I thought about the idea of explore, and what kept creeping in my head were hands. Explore made me think of exploring a body, which made me think of hands roaming a body. Then, inspiration hit in the form of what was immediately in front of me; my desk. I was thinking of the hands messing around, “exploring” my desk. I felt good about it, the image was clear and the interpretation seemed fun. I was concerned however, about the hands because I knew that I was never too confident about drawing hands. This is the sketch I came up with.
I enjoyed it and scanned it, and started adding color. I don’t actually remember at what point in time I decided to keep the hands out of the reality of the regular picture. It seemed something a little more interesting and I liked the play of black and white. Unfortunately, I bit off a little more than I could chew and I never finished it in time for Illustration Friday. But, I didn’t want to just let it go. What took a while was actually getting the angle of objects correctly. I'm not sure how it might look to someone else, perhaps wonky, but it's a strange flat picture. I toyed with it the most out of any painting concerning rotating objects and moving them around after I drew them already but ultimately I found an angle I was comfortable with.
The coloring took a while and I wondered as to whether I should keep it looking realistic with different shades and tones or should I just keep it single colors a la MDC. It took a while but I realized with something like this, solid colors would be easier, and more feasible given my current standing as a draftsman. I still need to work on realistic colors but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop my drawing until I get that skill to the level I want it to. Also, mood and style dictated the painting heavily. I thought if it did look too realistic, then it would be harder for the very two-dimensional, sketched hands to interact with the rest of the painting. Keeping the entire thing more towards the cartoony allowed a free piece.
Overall what I remembered most about this piece is how LONG it actually took and it makes me feel good that I was able to diligently finish and have it come out how I wanted it to. Often I start pieces and don’t finish; either I’m discouraged with how it’s turning out, I get bored, or I just stop liking it. I can often go back to this piece and know however hard it might be to finish something, there’s an indescribable feeling to the end.
Thanks for reading,