"I don’t have a style yet” … is what I hear so often from students when I visit various BA Illustration courses around the country. You can see the nervous look in their eyes and the sweat on their forehead as they imagine you’re going to roll your eyes and tell them “get out and don’t come back 'til you've found it." In fact I was exactly the same. So much so that it ruined my train of thought during the final year of my degree. I was so obsessed with having my own signature look that I didn’t focus enough time on what I was creating. Instead of having brilliantly thought out well executed projects, I had vain attempts at creating beautiful artwork with no substance, work so shallow that any art director could see through it. It wasn’t until I spoke to legendary illustrators Oliver Kugler and Paul Blow that my thinking started to change, and that was, annoyingly, after my course had finished! However the learning doesn’t stop once you leave your course, for me it doubled. I came to understand that everyone has their own natural style and that by experimenting and practising with different techniques you can find your style quicker. It is so much easier to express yourself and find what fits the more mediums you know and try. Consequently my ‘style’ didn’t start to take shape until after I left university.
Fast forward 5 years and I have a well oiled but fairly broad look. My work stretches from narrative, expansive scene images to straight forward portraiture. In-between is my favourite type of work, combing both the extremes and bringing it all together is ‘My Style’. Being able to do various types of illustration enables me to be considered for all types of work and stops me from being pigeon holed as just an editorial illustrator or advertising artist.
My most recent personal project is a great example of how I have fused together the low-fi look of mono-printing with much slicker cross-hatched pencil drawings. The mono-print is great for simple signposting towards the focal point of the image, which will usually be drawn in the distinctive pencil etched-like style. Combining these two different methods enables me to pick out parts of the image making it more informative. Running through it all and knitting it all together is the colour, completed in photoshop but trying to mimic one of my favourite techniques, screen-printing. If I could I would screen print everyone of my images, and etch as many of my drawings as I could. However due to the quick nature of all my deadlines that would be very hard to do, so being able to mimic these techniques using photoshop is crucial for me! Without the time spent experimenting with these mediums (and many others too) it would have been almost impossible for me to have a versatile style that feels natural to me and best portrays my personality.
So how do you find your style?! The best advice I can give is to echo what I was told by people who are still very much at the top of the game; draw every day, in many ways. Try new things. There are so many ways to communicate your message, don’t do what I did and just copy the mediums that are popular at the time. Do lots of work and practise as much as you can, you will naturally start to gravitate towards a method that feels natural to you, your confidence in your work will grow and in time you will develop your own unique style.
Don't be shy, tell me what you thought of this post!! Get in touch using the links below.