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Today I brought you a new subject. I have been asked about having an Illustration style many times. How does it work? Is it even a thing?What in earth is that?
I thought it will be nice if I talk about it from my point of view, which means, why is so important and how you can have your own. So let’s begin.
The easiest way to explain is: If you see a melting watch, you now it’s a Dalí
Style is the unique identity you put on your art, is a bunch of elements that you have put together to form a piece that is easily recognized as yours (or an artist / person / creative).
The style or the artistic identity * can branch out in several ways, could be a writer or could be a painter, for example: when you see a paint with cold tones, long strokes, distorted landscapes, you know that is a Van Gogh, you can listen in the radio the screams of Steven Tyler and you know is Aerosmith, you can know a film from Wes Anderson only by the history or color palette, etc.
In conclusion, the identity can change depending of the author in any creative field and will have the uniqueness of the author.
*An artistic identity and the identity as an illustrator usually have different markets, normally the artist works for himself while the illustrator works to communicate something specific.
The world through you
You are probably thinking that being unique is impossible because everything is already done, and well I used to think that too, but let me tell you, that is a lie.
You are a unique, complex, human being, different from the rest, but possessing traits from your parents, your grandparents, perhaps from your friends and fellow workers, who have their own history, tastes, etc. You are a person with an identity that is influenced by your surrounds. That makes you an unique being, able to create and express yourself in the same way.
Maybe everything is already created but that doesn’t mean that everything is created by you, so when you are an illustrator or creative, you create a version of the world through you.
For example, you’d think that anyone who knows about architecture can make a nice and functional building, but it isn’t like that. The architect Zaha Hadid was one of the few who renewed the world of architecture with hers deconstructivist designs and that is the reason she was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize (it’s like the Nobel of Architecture)
The same goes for any field of creativity, we innovate, creating versions made by ourselves through what we absorb from around us.
Why it’s so important
To work on the illustration field is important to have an identity that makes you stand out from the others. Not in the sense of creating spectacular things, rather in the sense that you must, and can be different (but if you do want to do spectacular things, go ahead!)
Your style is the way you creatively communicate to the market.
For example, I can say that my style is quite emotional and sentimental by the strokes and the way I use the colors and elements in my arts. And as an illustrator, it’s what I want to give to the world, a way of expres through my hands the emotions of the universe, so I know that a potential client is a publisher where I can do things for writers, novelists or poets.
Developing a style
– Yeah but, how do I get to discover my own style?
I wish someone told me this as soon I started to draw or when I understood that I needed to have my own style to be an illustrator:
You don’t discover your style, you have to develop it.
If you know how to draw or not, the style of illustration is something that comes from you, it is already yours, but it’s your identity as an illustrator, but to develop it requires time and effort.
I know it can be difficult because learning by imitation or what we believe is “drawing well”. We take drawing classes, and we come to understand anatomy, technical drawing, perspective, color and all it’s rules; and that’s great, but we end up drawing like the anatomy book, and not like ourselves. When I understood I wanted to be an illustrator, I realized I couldn’t keep on drawing only anime; there’s nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t work with the kind of market I wanted to dedicate myself to, I needed my own identity.
Looking for other illustrators I figured out they make a whole ecosystem by drawing everyday, combining all possible references, reading, taking photos, observing, changing, breaking all the rules and then putting them back together.
Part of developing your style is to absorb everything around you and express how you see it, is something that you must build every day, doing test back test, searching and taking many references. And not just one reference, you should have thousands, or your style mighy end up looking exactly like your one reference.
What’s more, you don’t even have to “know how to draw”, just take a pencil and express yourself. There are many illustrators who don’t have careers associated with art but they end up grabbing a pencil and falling in love with drawing.
What I love to think of illustration is that nobody illustrates/draws wrong, it’s just different, but cool different.
I got you some examples of very different illustrators that I admire, so you can see what I mean.
• Zoe Si (aka @Zoesees) is a lawyer, but also an illustrator and now author of her first book for children. Follow her in Instagram and you will see how she tells her funny daily anecdotes with a rough style.
• Conrad Roset (@conradroset),*sigh* He’s my illustration crush, he has these beautiful arts about his muses, he’s already published several illustrated books. His colors and lines are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
How to get started
The moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I became very frustrated. I did not understand where to start and it was not clear which guide I could use, so that you don’t suffer like I did, I made you a list of steps on how to start in the path to develop your own style, even without being an illustrator.
Illustration is a profession like any other and if you want to be part of that world you better investigate a lot. About history, what’s happening at the moment, the move in your city, the events, the techniques, etc. We are fortunate to live in the era of social media, which helps us a lot to connect with other illustrators and their content.
2. Inspirational board
Don’t investigate only the profession by itself, remember to also get references. We are sponges and it is important to always absorb everything, even what we dislike. Have a notebook or a board with everything that inspires you, it doesn’t have to be just only artists, it can be music, photos, colors, textures, a cactus, whatever, you set your limits.
3.Break the inspirational board
No, I’m not crazy. Don’t stick to your board, remember that they are references, take what you like and combine, test and take things to build your own structure of everything you have gathered, play a lot.
4. Draw, every day
Don’t believe them when they say “you’re not good at drawing” because it doesn’t matter. Everyone can draw, the important thing is to illustrate. Practice every day and take constant notes of your process. Try as many styles as you like and make them yours. But never stop drawing, even an hour a day will make a difference. It is important that you’re aware that you have to try something new or different whenever you can.
This is how it works for me, I like to look at my progress and know that I can get important points from them, after my experiments, I seriously analyze what I like and take note of it in a separate sheet or on the sketch I did. Also take notes of the things you want to try, or you can always write in the phone.
6. Let it go
Continuous practice is important, but so is letting go. Remember that you are discovering something new, sometimes you will have to take a break from it and move forward again. Let yourself be carried away by your instinct and you will probably discover unexpected things, don’t press or stick yourself to getting immediate perfect results.
It is important that you always get feedback from people about your work, do small projects and show them to people who are in the illustration field and they can give you constructive opinion. But if you don’t have that kind of people, ask your friends and family, but ask the right questions, not only “Do you like this drawing I did?”. No, ask the right things: “What do they feel?” “How about the colors?” “What they see from you in the paper?”, take their answers seriously and don’t discard anything.
8. Enjoy the process
I understand this can be frustrating because, if you are like me, you want results right now, but that doesn’t happen. Try to enjoy the process, see how you are building something valuable to yourself and treasure it, that will make it more special.
I don’t know if is noticeable but I’m still developing my style, but this guide has helped me to get a clear path of how to start.
I hope you enjoyed this post, leave your thoughts in the comments. Did you like it? Any suggestions for the next post?
Also remember to share it and follow me on social networks, I’m @esvaleriadiaz everywhere.
¡See you soon!