Recently, I’ve been on a bit of an internet-based rampage of following artists on just about every social network out there. I’ve found that the most popular and seemingly successful artists have settled thoroughly on a style. Their portfolio is consistant and their work easily recognisable and distinguishable from other artists’ work.
I’ve recently read Fig Taylor’s book, How to Create a Portfolio & Get Hired and Mark Dickson’s Secrets of Freelance Illustration and both have put focus on how practitioners will eventually have to settle down with a consistant and unique style as they move into the professional world.
I have guessed that this would be the case and that my enjoyable world of being able to play around with any style I like would eventually come to an end, but it’s going to be quite a struggle to decide on what field of illustration works best for me, something I can enjoy doing over and over again.
Below are examples of some of the mediums and styles I work in and the ones I simply can’t choose between.
Surely it must be a good things that I can work in more than one or two mediums and formats/contexts?
I still kind of think this way, I enjoy the fact that I can deliver more styles than if I had chosen to narrow down my illustrative focus earlier, but now I have the difficult decision of where to focus my efforts for professional practice.
It’s also the formats and contexts of my images which are being tricky to choose between. I have ‘dabbled’ in a decent range of illustration commissions and projects so far… Games concept art, graphic novel character development, publication cover design. zine design and illustration, children’s books, logo design, merchandise, stationary, fine art, packaging collabs, portraiture and probably some other things which have gotten buried in the depths of my sketchbook box or hard drive.
Am I supposed to choose one of those things? Do I group them together and hope for the best? Shall I present them all to prospective clients in case they like something they wouldn’t expect to like?
This is what I’m struggling with right now!
However, there does seem to be some silver lining to all this. I think, slowly but surely, I might be naturally finding my illustrative voice…
Peers and tutors have mentioned to me that my work is building its own distinct style. I personally find that one of the best ways to determine if and what somebody’s style may be is by looking at how they draw faces.
Faces, human ones that is, are things we see every day of our lives, funnily enough we each own one as well, so we are more than familiar with the general proportions and workings of the aesthetics of a human face, its why they are so easy to get wrong, its so easy to spot discrepancies within the proportions and elements of the face. This is the main reason why they are so good at communicating a person’s style; each variation and stylisation that the artist has impacted onto the face image would be clear and immediately visible to the audience/viewer, so their ‘style’ is instantly reflected. Using this, I can sort of see a pattern in the way I draw faces when I relax into them. If I’m doodling, or sketching our character work/faces for fun, I can see this pattern.
So I’m kind of taking this as a sign that maybe I’m narrowing down my practice naturally, maybe it’ll just happen. But its cutting it a bit fine, now is the time I should be sending my portfolio to prospective clients, posting things to agencies and applying for internships, so I worry that perhaps my work is focused enough yet to be taken seriously by agencies and professionals.
I’m going to continue to work as I am for now, but with a small thought at the back of my mind at all times..
“Is this really the direction you want to take your illustration?”
If the answer is no, then I’m going to have to make a special effort to either steer whatever I’m doing in the right direction, or stop doing it all together and focus on something I enjoy, I’m good at and I want to get better at. I’m pretty sure I can do this, and I’m also pretty sure I’m already doing this to some degree, but I needed to get it down in black and white to drill it thoroughly into my procrastinating art student brain for good.