Emerging Illustrator or Artist? How To Discover Your Own Unique Style In 3 Easy Steps
Everyone has something they love, a dream... something that they would love to spend their whole life doing. Five years ago, I decided I my dream was to illustrate and write my own children's books.
My mother always placed a high value on reading to us when we were young and subsequently my brother and I always had access to many beautiful picture books by authors and illustrators such as Alison Lester (Magic Beach), Shirley Hughes (Sally's Secret), Graeme Base (Animalia), Mem Fox and Julie Vivas (Possum Magic). My father often recited Australian Bush poetry from the likes of Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson and C.J. Dennis so I was completely surrounded by the wonders of poetry and prose.
I used to draw and write frequently from a young age and these were always my most liked tasks at school. Whenever I had a free moment I would spend it drawing and had some wonderful encouragement from my grade 5 teacher as well as my high school art teachers. I ended up working in the early childhood field for a few years before having my own children and due to this I just love reading picture books to children and seeing their faces light up as they immerse themselves in the story.
When I realised I wanted to illustrate my own stories, I also realised I had to find my own unique style that I was comfortable with, so that others could recognise my work. Below are three easy steps I've put together to assist any potential emerging artists to discover a style that is unique to themselves and how to embrace it.
1. Choose Your Materials
It sounds obvious, however sometimes if you have too much choice, or use too many different mediums, it can be hard for others to identify the works you create as your own.There are so many various art materials out there such as acrylics, oils, water colours, ink and more. It could seem tempting to use them all in order to cover all bases, however this will not help you develop that unique style you are looking for.
For me, I generally stick to my Derwent Water Colour Pencils. I received a full set of these pencils when I was grade 10 for coming first in my year for art. I still have that set today so I am very comfortable with them and how they work. Recently my husband bought me the 'Inktense' range of Derwent Water Colours which gives a deeper, more vibrant beauty to the colours. These are what I use for all of my colour illustrations. It means my colours are always consistent and it therefore makes my works distinctive. The only other materials I use are ink illustrator pens when I want to create a black and white image that might be suitable for a logo. These, along with my paint brushes and medium grade art paper (water colour or drawing paper) are my choice of materials.
2. Discover Your Style - Try to Try Again
This can be the tricky part. It can take persistance and a lot of mistakes until you are finally happy with the result. You might want to take a look at other artists work you admire or just have a go yourself. For me, because I knew I wanted to illustrate children's books I had to decide how I would consistently draw a person, a child, a dog, a hill, a tree, a house. It may not sound like much, but there has to be something unique about the way you interpret those things within a book or single piece of art, so people can continue to recognise your work.
Something unique to my own illustrations is the round faces and round cheeks on my characters. This is consistent between my black and white ink work and my coloured work. I discovered I was happy with that look for my characters when I was just drawing for fun and experimenting one day. It is hard to say what made me stick with it, but I can say I was happy within myself and felt I could reproduce that style with various sorts of characters in the future. You need to find what you are happy with and improve from there.
Step 3. Practice Makes Perfect
This step is vitally important. If you really want to develop your own unique illustration style, then you need to practice. Once you have found the materials and methods you are confident with, then embrace them and go for it. Practice really does make perfect. I came a very long way in a few years by constant drawing. Every time I created an illustration, I would become just that little bit happier with what I was producing. Once you are producing that consistent style that people can recognise you by, that is when you know you are onto a good thing. Persist with it and try not to get disheartened when some days things are just not working for you. I know professional well-loved artists who have days when they feel they could throw in the towel. The key is to keep going no matter what. If you believe in yourself you can go further than you ever anticipated.
So if you have patience and persistence, once you discover your style, the sky really is your limit. After years of practice and pushing past my own fears of failure and insecurities about my work, I am now finally in the process of completing illustrations for my own original story to be published next year. It has taken time and tears and struggles, but it has all been worth it in the end. And if I can do it, anyone can. If you are passionate about something then you need to pursue it, and never let go of your dreams.
Please note all the illustrations used in this article belong to me and cannot be reproduced without my permission.