Lately I’ve gotten more and more annoyed with my black ink. For about six years I’ve had watercolor and ink as my preferred medium, and I’ve become very comfortable using it. Too comfortable.
I mean, I do a lot of experimenting with different styles and mediums, but this is my safe-card, and I always return to it. However, as I’ve developed this big passion for children’s books, I’ve also come to question this style of mine. I’m questioning if this is really how I want my books to look like. And the answer is: not really. It’s not that I don’t like how my work turns out, but it’s starting to feel as if something is missing. Or rather, there’s too much of something. Too much black. I’ve realized how the ink outlines makes everything look so sharp and hard. And I’d much rather make things more soft and friendly.
Using ink is unquestionably a great solution for many problems. It makes character consistency easy, and coloring is faster and easier, as there’s no problem in defining the contours. But it’s not about making it easy for myself. It’s about making the best art that I can, and I’m not sure if the ink is helping me in that anymore. I think it might actually have a negative effect on my work. Partly because taking the easy way out is no way to improve, and partly because the easy way is the boring way. It’s just not that challenging anymore, and the work that used to bring me so much joy is now only another thing that has to get done.
So I decided to start experimenting, in hope to find a way to “go softer”.
Making these, I felt that excitement I’ve been missing for a while. The joy of creating for the sake of creating only. Not for documenting, escaping boredom, marketing or getting payed. But making something out of pure motivation. It feels fantastic!
It’s of course just a small step in the process of finding a new way. And when I find the perfect way (which I’ll get bored with and start this thing all over again, but that’s then) the transition from ink to something else will be slow.
When listening to other illustrators, one of the things most frequently spoken of is “your own artistic style”. This is a very important thing, for many reasons I guess, but these are the two that seems most important:
1. Sticking to only one style means that clients will know what they’re getting. Being able to handle many different styles can be an advantage in some cases, but being too fluid style-wise might make potential clients doubt your ability to keep the work consistent.
2. Having your own artistic style is simply just the one way of making sure your work is distinguishable from other artist’s.
These are the reasons to why I won’t be letting go of the ink for some time. My clients hire me to do the work that I advertise, and at the moment, that is ink and watercolor. This is the work that people know me for, and a drastic change of style would be confusing for my audience, and probably bad for business. It’s just that simple.
But this discussion amongst illustrators is not only about sticking to your style. It’s just as much about finding it. This is a huge problem for some people. Especially for those who likes to mix it up, it seems as if only having one style is impossible. And there’s nothing wrong in having multiple styles. Just as long as they’re distinguishable from each other, characteristic for your work, and somewhat consistent, you will be fine.
Then there’s the people like me. Who’s been sticking to the same style for years, and have forgotten to try and improve it. Which is, like I just said, quite boring. Or, you know, if you’ve been having the same style forever and you love it, and can’t see why it would need changing or improving, then nevermind! If your work is fulfilling to you, keep at it!
In my own case, I’m quite happy with my style regarding my choice of colors and how my characters look these days, but something is not quite there yet. And I see no reason for not keeping on experimenting and evolving (or “finding”) my style.
To me, this is a never ending learning process, and my style will change no matter if I do it consciously or not.
For now, it’s all about having fun, trying out new things, and see where it leads me. The most important thing is that I’m happy doing it.
I hope you’re having a good day.
If you have any thoughts on this style-thing, I’d love to hear it!