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  • Naomi Blayney

Trying other illustrators' styles

Hi everyone, lately I have been extremely busy with my master's in illustration so I have been absent for a little while. I probably need to find a better balance or ways to better organise my time, but that's a whole other blog post. Spinning plates, keeping my head above water, clinging on with my fingernails all sound appropriate. Between a full time job, two children and my studies I grab moments where I can and that will have to do for now.

I started my studies in October and being part time means I get about seven months to do each of the three modules. Now this sounds like a long time… but it really isn't. Assignment deadlines always seem to appear from nowhere and I panic, cramming in hours at my computer, Ipad or sketchbook, trying to just add a bit more to my portfolio.

I handed my first assignments in a week or so ago and am eagerly awaiting my marks. This is the period I hate - where you can't change the outcome but you don't know how well you've done. Butterflies and that sinking sickly feeling will be there until they put me out of my misery.

As you know, I focused on gender representation in picture books and have thoroughly enjoyed the academic research. The written assignment was fairly short - which is often more difficult. I have a tendency to ramble on so being succinct has never been my forte! On the practical side I have been exploring my artistic abilities and my style to build a worthy portfolio. I've done this in two parts.

Firstly, I have been developing a sketchbook practice to improve my skills. I've drawn my children during their piano lessons. I've drawn them on their scooters and playing in the sunshine. I've also been working through a couple of anatomy books and drawing from artist's mannequins. Having been a landscape artist for a long time I never really drew people so I have some catching up to do. I've also followed along with many tutorials learning all I can about digital drawing techniques. Every day is definitely a school day.

Secondly, I was encouraged to try other artist's styles. The idea is that trying something completely different pushes you out of your comfort zone. Hopefully you might pick up a technique or two that you like and want to develop further. I chose a character I had already drawn and set about replicating it in other illustrator's styles. I chose a few to show you here.

There are a great many illustrators to choose from so I thought I would start with styles that are very different to my own. I had to have a go at Quentin Blake's style and failed miserably. I decided that his unique sketchy style was completely impossible! Maybe I'll show you my attempt one day... but not today!

Axel Scheffler is one of my favourites so I had to choose him. We have just about every Julia Donaldson book in our house and a great many of them are illustrated by Axel. His style is very colourful and he draws his characters with a heavy outline and distinctive features. Here is my attempt…

Next I chose Nick Sharratt who uses bold block colours and heavy outlines with a cartoon feel. His character's eyes are simple dots yet they manage to convey a lot of emotion. He has illustrated for authors such as Julia Donaldson, Michael Rosen, Kes Gray and Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

I wanted to also choose female illustrators and who better than Lauren Child. Lauren uses simple lines, bold colours and a lot of humour in her illustrations. Clarice Bean is a firm favourite and my two girls loved Charlie and Lola. Lauren's fantastic use of collage really attracted me and I would like to explore this more in my own work in future. Here is my attempt…

One of the things I got from this process was an excuse, permission almost, to let loose and try something completely different. It is comfortable to stick with what you know and what you're used to. Illustrators are told to find a style and stick with it, so that commissioning editors know what they are going to get. Breaking out of that comfort zone was more difficult than I thought but once I got going I really found it liberating. I'm pretty sure I didn't do such fantastic artists' work justice but it felt brave to have a go.

What do you think of my attempts? Have you ever done a similar exercise?

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