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

Time is but the flap of a butterfly's wing



I know, it has been again a long time, longer than any time before, that I had a chance to update this blog. The good news is, I have been busy. Busy with many books and other projects. One of them being my own illustration agency, which I founded in early 2014. The agency is called Wundergarden, and to me it is truly a garden of wonderful art!
Taking the step to form an agency and support artists with that very step, has been very exciting. I traveled to New York to exhibit at SURTEX and also of course attended Bologna and will be at Frankfurt Book Fair again in a few weeks, also showing the beautiful Wundergarden portfolio to publishers. All the while I have also been illustrating my own projects, so yes, you get the picture, it has been a very busy but amazing time. And time flew by.

But this blog shall remain about my own artwork and my own projects. If you want to have a look at the magical artwork of Wundergarden's artists, you are cordially invited to step inside our illustrated garden and enjoy the wonderful world each artist creates in their unique voice.

Speaking of voice or maybe let's call it style, as this appeals nicer to the illustration business, brings me to a topic I wanted to write about for a long time. I had the pleasure of working on some really lovely projects over the course of the last year in quite a variety of styles. So this big topic I would love to dig into in my next blog post, and add my two cents to the never ending question about style :-), has been on my mind frequently. I also see it pop up in forums again and again. It is a topic that never seems to seize interest and troubles many of us artists over the course of our creative busniess. So stay tuned. I am writing the blog post as you read. Promised. Just a couple of days to go. Oh, and if you have any questions regarding this topic, please do prompt them here in the comments section. I'll do my best to answer them in the upcoming post!

From "Das Meer hat keinen Rand" published 2015 by Annette Betz Verlag


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