let's explore style together - Part 1

I've been wanting to write a blog post about style for a long time. The very topic and it's sheer endless way of answering and approaching it somehow felt a bit intimidating, though. But here I am giving it a go and adding my two cents to the style issue.

My digital style when I first started out as an illustrator

It is not really an issue, if you ask me, but something every artists struggles with from time to time. I think especially artists starting out and making their first leaps into the business feel heavily intimidated by the style question.
What style am I and do I have a style?
The good thing is - everyone has a style. Style is like your unique handwriting. The moment you start drawing you start creating your style.
Too simple you say?
Not in my humble opinion. But like learning how to write and developing your own unique handwriting, style develops over time too. When you draw your first pieces, be it fine art or illustration or pattern design, you mostly do not know the direction your creativity will lead you. You might have an idea or a passion towards a certain art form and of course with this the masters you look up too. Here is the point were you start out, your style but a tiny dot in the many great pieces you study that will influence you quite a bit at the very beginning. And as long as you don't copy, but really just let those masters inspire you and explore your own "artistic handwriting" you are fine.
And I guess, this is the point when it gets a bit spooky or intimidating. Copying is a big thing among artists  and looked very badly upon and let me tell you, it is bad. Simple as that! If you are a copy cat word will get out and it will eventually lead to you not being able to even start a career in arts. But if you stay true to yourself, your style will evolve!

This was one of the first postcards I sent to publishers
Let me tell you how I started out and maybe this will make the point I am trying to get across a bit clearer. When I first started to build a portfolio I felt heavily insecure. Especially when having to draw traditionally. Hence, I decided to go the digital route first. By picking a medium I set the first step for the art style I was to develop. The second decision I had to make was the market I wanted my art to appeal too. That was a simple choice - kids books :-)!

I then experimented with environments. How detailed and realistic did I want to go? How reduced and graphic maybe even? I came up with a background design approach I felt comfortable with and this is what I took as the next step for my style, the third step, in the equation of creating, or maybe rather getting to know, my own style.

Next I tackled characters, number four if you want to put it in extra into the whole picture I am trying to conjure up. As I was aiming for the children's market it was of course kids I needed to practice and study. I needed to come up with a kind of scheme my characters would follow. Publishers need to see you can draw a figure more than just one time and in different angles, so studying figures and breaking down your characters into head size, body size, limp size and looking at how each works in proportion to the other does really help. The size of the head to the body plays a big role. The way you do your eyes and noses plays another big part. You can stand out and have those elements be part of your style! Eventually, after almost a years time I had a portfolio with 12 pieces in one style I called digital style. But this very style of course evolved over time. Today I do not even call the style digital any more but mixed media, as I am mixing lots of traditionally painted textures into the paintings to give them a more hand-made feel.

My mixed media style
This is of course just my approach and one of the styles I have. Some illustrators are fine with just one style. However, I think I am more the exploring kind of artist, so it didn't take long before I tripped over a technique that led to having more than one style. But this I would like to go into in my next post on style and also into why I think having more than one style is a very good idea.

I look forward to your questions and feedback and hope you enjoy my ramblings!

My mixed media style today

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful work Maria and some good advice.

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  2. Thank you for writing this, Maria! I am such a great admirer of your art and style, so I'm very interested in your evolution. Beautiful pieces!

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    1. Thank you so very much, Bella! This means a lot coming from you!

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  3. Thank you for your insights and advice!

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    1. Happy you found my thoughts useful, Kate!

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  4. HI Maria! I really enjoyed your post on style:) I discovered you about a year to a year and a half ago and have been admiring your work and your progress as an artist. Your comments are so accurate about style...it is a bit paralyzing at the start. I am a traditional artist who is trying to add digital techniques to my art so my path is a bit reversed from yours, but still similar. I would say I am at the character development stage. I do well with animals, but need to work more on my children. Thanks for sharing your path, it was fun to read:)

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    1. Hi Heather, thank you so very much, it is great to learn that you can relate to my thoughts. I haven't been on here for a long time, so only saw your coment now. It is interesting your path is reversed to mine, but traditional is always good. Have fun creating!

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