Getting Started in Children's Book Illustration: How Can I Find My Style?
In Getting Started in Children’s Book Illustration, I’m answering your questions about getting started in this field. Submit your questions via email or check here to read answers to previous questions.
In this installment of Getting Started in Children’s Book Illustration, we’re tackling the question: How did you discover your style and it is ok to have more than one style?
How Did You Discover Your Style?
Here’s the annoying truth: there’s no easy way to find your style. There are 3 things that will help though:
Draw every day. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes. If you’re not willing to put in the work, even when the work feels frustrating because you’re not where you want to be, then you’re probably going to struggle when it comes to finding style.
Learn as much as possible. I’m self-taught so in addition to drawing every day, I spent my free time combing through books, tutorials and classes, learning as much as I could, which in turn helped me discover what I like and don’t like. Those discoveries helped define my style as well.
Be an art detective. Instead of trying to emulate someone else’s style, do a bit of detective work. Ask yourself what you like most about that artist’s work, trying to be as specific as possible. Then puzzle out how you can incorporate whatever that thing you like is into your own work.
The Important Thing About Style
It almost seems like the harder you look for your artistic style the harder it hides from you. Style is one of those things that sneaks up on you when you’ve almost given up on finding it.
Start drawing. Keep drawing. One day you’ll look down and realize ‘oh, I’ve found it!’ From there you can gently nurture it.
Style is Always Evolving
Often, we assume style is a destination when indeed it’s a journey, a path we follow. Sometimes that path will run straight and true and sometimes it will curve and loop back on itself and wander in unexpected directions.
Allow your style room to follow that path and along the way continue to nurture it with daily drawing, learning new things, and being an art detective.
Is it OK to Have More Than One Style?
Opinions vary widely on this question! My answer is, for most people, stick with one style, especially at first. If you’ve established a professional-level portfolio with your style and want to explore a second style, then go for it. Explore and have fun! But also ensure your second style is also professional-level before you add it to your portfolio.
Don’t Confuse Lack of Focus with Having Multiple Styles
If your portfolio showcases 16 different styles, how much confidence will an art director have when considering hiring you? If your portfolio lacks focus and consistency, it may be a hindrance to your illustration career.
Be the Exception
There are exceptions to every rule, right? If you’re confident that you’re creating professional work in several styles and want to show all of them in your portfolio, then do that. There are professional illustrators who make a living because they are style chameleons and because they are exceptionally talented creators.
If you choose this path, create a portfolio site that is clean and organized to display your various styles.