The long road finding my illustration style
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
As a not so new artist but new illustrator I'm have spent the last few months struggling to find my style. Everyone wants their style to be instantly recognisable and commercial if they are to make money at it. But how do you get there? I hear a similar story from many others who I'm connected with on courses or peer support groups. It seems to be a very common problem, especially when starting out. But equally for seasoned artists, does your style become a bit stale after a while? Do you decide one day to try a new style? Or does it gradually evolve? I guess I’ll figure that one out in time.
I come from a background of traditional pen and ink, drawing everything the hardest and most time consuming way as it turns out. Part way through a recent course I realised a lot of people were working digitally so I thought I’d give it a go. I downloaded Procreate which is inexpensive software for the iPad. It's not as complicated and scary as Photoshop but it has loads of great features. I was a bit overwhelmed with all the options but one thing I've found it really helpful for, is experimenting with different styles.
I quickly became a brush addict and downloaded a few sets including the Bardot Brush master bundle and the lovely Lisa Glanz watercolour set. I set to work trying every single brush. Unlike with traditional media I was able to try out watercolours without buying a set of watercolours and getting paint everywhere. I was able to experiment with an oil pastel effect without buying more kit. I've found this ability to experiment absolutely liberating. I know many others still love the feel of using traditional materials but having been in that gear for many years, I'm finding it refreshing to try something new. I'm particularly enjoying the 'undo' button which means I probably try more things than I might have before. It's astonishing how much one little button can change!! I tended to stay within my comfort zone rather than risk ruining the picture by experimenting. This experimentation has really helped me develop my illustration style.
I'm a big fan of trying out different styles by doing tutorials. I’ve taken quite a few on skillshare and YouTube. I've taken some lettering tutorials and others on getting the most out of procreate and they all do the drawings in their own unique way. They all encourage me to try something different, in a different style, using different skills. Often I'll adopt an technique or an effect from each one that feels natural and I incorporate it into my style going forward. Trying out different styles, some of them very different to what comes naturally, might just help you stumble on something that you love but hadn't tried before.
Others say that your style will gradually appear the more you draw. Just keep drawing, just keep drawing. That reminds me of Finding Nemo and I'm now singing 'just keep swimming, just keep swimming' in my head! Swimming or drawing, it's all the same… practice does a lot for your style. It helps you to become more proficient and therefore more confident at drawing. I think only once you are comfortable with the basics of drawing can you then add some individuality to it.
One thing I've learned from the many courses I'm doing at the moment is that the market you want to be successful in is a factor. Some styles lend themselves to one market more than another. My style at the moment lends itself quite well to children's books but perhaps not as much to an adult audience. Or it could be more about the subject matter than the style. I’ll let you know when I figure that one out! In any case - drawing different types of things for different markets has been helping me to refine my style and develop variations in my style.
The overriding thing that sticks in my head is something Lilla Rogers says on all her courses. 'People buy your joy'. If you do what you love it will show in your work. If you naturally arrive at a style that you love and you work hard at refining your craft, your enthusiasm will show through in the quality and recognisability of your work.
I'm on my way finding my style but I suspect it will be an ongoing battle! Let me know in the comments below ways that helped you find your style?