How did you develop your own at style?
Years and years of trying out different things and studying other art, and eventually giving up on ‘finding a style’ entirely and let it come naturally to me instead. Don’t be obsessed with finding your own style. What you need to do first is to experiment, and one day when you realize ‘oh, I really like this thing I’m drawing now’, add that as a mental things of things you like to draw. Eventually you’ll have a whole list of mental notes and that will all become your own style, one day. One day, when you feel like you’re more confident with your style and strokes, embrace that. I feel like I’m at that stage now. But there will always be a time where you’ll want to change something and improve, and never stop yourself ‘because it isn’t your style’. I mean hell, even Mickey Mouse didn’t stay the same during his years of development.
Did you know I used to be a sonic artist? A really cringy, awkward sonic artist.
I must have been around 12? I wouldn’t say anything of what I did back then translates to what I draw now, except my love for drawing original characters. It’s extremely bad but this was the first time I felt I belonged to a community (ah yes, good ol sonic fandom), and it was about then I joined DeviantArt and I got a real confidence boost, knowing I wasn’t alone in my passion for art. (Thank you, internet!) My influence was the sonic games, obviously, and their comics.
I can literally still hear ‘cRAAAAAWWLING IIIIN MY SKIIIIIIIINNNN—’ I was still drawing sonic-styled art but I was slowly losing my interest in it. Once I attempted to draw humans, I noticed that my skill in them was… lacking. So I eventually gave up on sonic-styled art in favor of drawing people, which used to be my main thing when I was younger and before DeviantArt. You might notice a style difference here, though, and actual attempts at shading. The style was a lot more ‘grittier’ compared to the drawings in 2006. My influence? Good question. Anime, probably, which is probably why my sonic figures started to have more humanoid anatomy.
This is when the idea of a ‘style’ really started to come into mind, however. I struggled. Did I want a more ‘dark’ style or a more cute one? I kept shifting between the two styles in 2008, and my style would sometimes have dark, strong lines with contrasting colours, or soft, near invisible lineart with pastel themes. However, drawing sonic-style was not something I did anymore, only occasionally if I was experiencing some kind of art block. I always enjoyed drawing humans one way though, and it was definitely pretty boys and girls with soft features (even when they weren’t soft characters, ack).
2009 was certainly the year where I decided to just do my own thing entirely. I was sick of trying to suit into one category of art instead of drawing everything I enjoyed in one. The result was this, really odd-looking style, and these examples aren’t even the worst. The bodies became extremely long and slim looking, and the faces small with often giant eyes. It was without doubt a very experimental year and I knew it, but I figured I would have to let out all the monsters or never see my full potential one day. This was also the year I discovered the wonders of character design and colour theory!
2010 was the year of traditional sketches, even though I don’t show them here. I was drawing so much on paper because I’d go to school and just spend the hours there sketching to no end. So, when I came home, I’d try do so more colour theory, and try different colour methods. I started to find more colour palettes that I enjoyed, and I also started to learn anatomy on a near medical level, which is why the bodies ended up looking a lot ‘fleshier’. I also continued with the character design, and I tried to see if I could mix genres and whatnot to make unique looks.
However, the ‘fleshiness’ of 2010 wasn’t something that I was particularly happy drawing. Personally, focusing too much on correctness drained my creativity and put me into a huge art block. 2010 kind of shows that, but it also shows what I was trying to do to break it. I focused on using my anatomy knowledge to be able to bend the rules instead of breaking it, making the stylised look believable and not disastrous. I started focusing on digital sketches and drawing characters more diversely. That year I focused less on design and more on body features, such as hair, face, and body shapes. I also ended up using a different brush to ‘free’ my linework a bit. Not a good look, but it worked at the time.
The year of blending! This is where I started to go outside my comfort zone to see if I could find something between a rough, painted look or a soft, airbrushed look. My style finally started to balance itself out and I finally began to see and feel what I enjoyed drawing and what I did not. But most of all, I put most of my effort into painting and focusing more on my colours and palette and the way I coloured more than how I was drawing my art in the first place. Basically — the sketch became less important, and it was the ‘result’ I was trying to perfect. I would later come to realize that’s not the best mentality to have, but hey, I learned from my experience.
You can see I started to find balance between a harsher painted look and something softer and sketched. This is when I started to get very understanding with my choice of colours, and slowly went back to my passion for character design again. But I wouldn’t go back and recycle old ideas, I’d keep pushing. How could I bring these designs to life with what I’ve learned? With colours, brush strokes, and shapes? This is when I really found out the importance of a good silhouette and good contrast in colours.
A very, very quiet year. Little activity happened here and I barely drew anything at all. I’m not sure what it was; lack of inspiration and motivation, distractions with real life… whatever it was, I wasn’t drawing much. But, strangely enough, this is also the time where I discovered key elements with my style, and the few times I did draw, I’d make sure they were noticeable. The things I drew, I really loved drawing, and that’s something I’d bring with me the following years as well.
2015 was a year that went boom. I was so flooded with motivation and inspiration and I felt myself improve in all ways possible. My inspiration was actually my boyfriend who wrote amazing stories, to which I tried to illustrate. He also helped me boost my confidence and see how I could take inspiration from myself as well. It makes me still so happy to think about. I feel like I tried near everything and I never put myself down for trying something out of my comfort zone. I experimented, I drew much, and I learned so much — and most of all, I had so much fun. Every single thing I drew, I’d keep in mind for next artwork.
The following year became more fleshed out, but it felt like just another step forward in my style, rather than trying to ‘improve’ it. I worked with what I had and I embraced it. I wanted to illustrate the feeling of the things my boyfriend wrote, I wanted to capture the atmosphere and scenarios. And finally, after years of struggling with it, I’ve finally found a balance between something soft and harsh looking.
It’s 2017 now and I still feel like I’ve got plenty to learn, but instead of stopping there, I’m making that my goals. And I can already feel myself going there, and I’m happy with what I’ve done in the process and what has helped me to get where I am now.
Notice how, with time, I became less obsessed with trying to ’find’ a style, and instead embrace what I have? Find things that inspires and motivates you, and keep trying. Keep pushing. Keep having fun! A style might be a thing for the observer, but for the artist, it’s just an expression.