Monday, 31 July 2017

developing 'style(s)'

As I impatiently await official confirmation that I've finished my concept illustration course - results, feedback and/or congratulations please - I've been feeling quite lost. This is nothing new. It's an awkward feeling you get when one big thing in your life has ended but the new big thing hasn't quite revealed itself - although there are strong indications. Being involved in study means dancing to someone else's tune (even when you are doing a PhD!) At the end of it you are thrown out into the real world with a whole lot of new ideas and nobody to guide you through the transition. I don't like being in a state of suspension like this but unfortunately I accept I will have to hover for a while until I can clarify what the next step is.

My long time-fantasy plan is to get the occasional job doing illustration work. But it's a competitive field and very difficult to get your first break. I did my research and joined Illustrators Australia but because I am unpublished, can only get a student membership. Which - when you've been drawing forever - kind of sucks. On the other hand, I can understand it because I haven't really consolidated my style as an illustrator. I've had 2 enquiries via this website already so it's well worth the membership fee. One enquiry may lead to some work in the future. It seems that getting published is the second biggest hurdle for an illustrator, the first is developing and refining a style.

The Association of Illustrators is another organisation I will join when I have more pieces in my illustration folio. I think they are located in Britain. AOI don't discriminate between published and unpublished illustrators, but they want 8 pieces and they probably should be in the same style. I will also contact the Style File at some stage too, though they seem to stick to a limited style of work.

The illustration course really helped hone my skills in representational digital drawing as the image below should testify. I love doing this type of illustration but it is probably more suited to the 3D game industry. That's not to say book publishers wouldn't use it, but they do seem to favour less modelled, more stylised illustrations - like the image below it.  

Both 'potential' clients had responded favourably to the style above. The feedback I got from Illustrators Australia was very helpful: 

I think your work is strong, though it is interesting to see two distinct styles that (to my eyes) seem so unalike - there certainly is an argument that showing diversity is important, though I think it is equally important to show the kind of work you would like to be commissioned to do. Personally I find the flat / outlined / coloured work to be quite vibrant and fun and could imagine it attracting a lot of attention. The more tonal painting style is, on the other hand, something that is widely done by others so you might have some trouble "standing out", but of course if you are interested in working in gaming etc, then this is the type of work you should show....Your work has psychedelic elements - perhaps that could be an underlying factor that brings your work together when working with the different styles.

I remember battling a similar 'style-war' while I was writing my thesis. There came a point at which my supervisor started talking about 'voice'. It was time to commit. I tried out a couple of different writing styles which she critiqued harshly, and finally settled on something that was natural and unforced - which is what she was after of course (she certainly was a brilliant 'no bullshhit, take no prisoners' kind of academic). I have also reverted to some advice I give my own students - follow the passion, that is, find out what it is you love doing, and what feels right, because the love of what you do keeps you going through the tough times.

But what if you love 2 things at the same time? I love line and flat colour, but I also love indulging my newfound honing of chiaroscuro. Especially because I think it would be a great way to do some satirical works, like this, which I really need to get back to, but I'm distracted by other concerns at the moment.

At this point I can still see the value in developing the 2 styles, but I've confirmed what I suspected (from Googling other illustrators of course): I need to keep them separate on my website so as not to confuse people, and display them separately on different online forums. I'll keep my Artstation folio for the 3D modelled stuff, and pursue other forums for the linework and flat colour.

This self analysing has made me realise I haven't really done enough work in developing my linear style, so that's what I'll do first so I can get my portfolio together - stuff like the first image, and this one below:

But I will also develop some more 'positive', dreamlike images, like this reworking of an old oil painting, because a lot of the work on Artstation is quite heavy and depressing.
Redoing this one is a clear indicator of just how much I have learnt in 18 years, and how, although I've officially stopped studying, I'll never really stop learning.