Debating Styles

I have been fighting this for a long time: establishing a "style." When doing freelance illustration, I'm finding that my mentors weren't lying when they said you have to define your style as your unique product... that when they call you, they should basically know what you're going to do before you do it. I love the idea of growing, learning, experimenting, and rarely have enough free time to do it outside of paying work (don't be mislead, I don't do a LOT), but it's getting to where I feel I need to streamline, simplify, or just CHOOSE what I'm going to do from now on. I have several ideas, including marketing as a 'studio' with a look, or even marketing myself as 3-5 different artists! This isn't too crazy, if you think about it - it'd satisfy my creative and explorative itch. (was that even worded correctly? o well.) I'm sure I'd get sick of the demand for one of those styles, but I think it's time I define my 'product' for illustration. The frustrating thing is, I feel like I could do almost any gimmick and whatever happens to be 'hip' or popular at one time will be far more successful.. and WHO knows what those crazy editors and art directors will find kitch?!

Here are two illustrations I did (compare to work on my website, if you want to see what I mean) that were low-paying and I told the art-directors that I didn't have a lot of time, nor could I put a lot of rendering into it: that I'd do a quick cartoony look. The robot is from about 4 months ago, the pig from this week. They're usually pretty cool with it, but I'm wondering if I shouldn't just do it all the time and save myself the guessing game.


SEILER said...

I really dig the pig, really cool look and feel, is that a combination of illustrator and photoshop, or is that all photoshop? Looks great!

Marco Bucci said...

Yeah, that pig is pretty cool man! Looks like he's part of the Hell's Angels.

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen by thumbing through magazines it seems like they aren't looking so much for how well you can render as much as how well your piece sells the article.
I've seen some ass ugly pictures in a lot of magazines and thought to myself "Damn, I could do better work than this." I'm sure you know what I'm referring to.

Joe Bluhm said...

Very true, Eric... that's my frustration most of the time. There's another dynamic to it - not that it's crap, but that "I could do that" feel, when it's not that complex. I have heard ADs and Editors say that they seek looks for certain articles, or they know that an artist will deliver what they have in mind. Usually, they go with a look more than anything, because they have their minds set on what this article should 'feel' like. I guess settling on a style would market an artist best. Perhaps something to consider.

Jason - it's inked by hand with a little Japanese brush pen, scanned, lines colorized individually, then colored in Photoshop. It's pretty basic and quick. I actually wanted a bit more time to play with this one, but they needed it by today.

Chris Wahl said...

Joe- My advice is don't limit yourself stylewise.

I've been doing freelnace illustration, design and boards for almost 10 years now and having a diverse range of styles to offer clients has never been a problem when it came to getting regular work. Sure, those artists with a definite schtick will generate a whole heap of work and most likely become very popular because of it, but eventually the novelty of a particular style will wear off, and you're left with an out of work 'one trick pony' artist whose style no-one wants.

Diversify! Become the 'go to' guy who can accomplish any style of art. Mixing it up definitely keeps the work more interesting and it's guaranteed to give you longevity in the industry.

Tom R said...

With respect I disagree with Chris's advice. All the mentors I have had and the illustrators who have offered advice to me have said that establishing an "identity" as an illustrator is very important. I heard the old adage "Jack of all trades, master of none" quite often from illustrators who I greatly respected. That doesn't mean you should try being a one trick pony with some gimmicky style. It means establishing a recognizable look to your art and gaining a reputation as a communicator within that style. Your style might continue to develop and evolve over the years as times and you as an artist change, but it still should be recognizably you. Trying to market yourself with many styles just confuses art directors, who are often not too imaginative. They want to know what to expect.

Tom R said...

BTW, I happened to have this very question put to me on my blog, which I answered today.