Monday, March 17, 2008

The Style "Trap"

I used to think in terms of trying to work towards a particular style, to build something that was uniquely ‘me.’ When I was in school, I wanted to be perceived as fresh, new, or cutting-edge. Well, we now know how that turned out. But now, a couple of things have turned my thinking around (actually many things, but I’ll only focus on 2 incidences here).

For the first, I have to refer back to Paul O. Zelinsky again – the subject of my very first blog post. If you look at his work, he offers a wide variety of styles. The November ’07 issue of The Artist’s Magazine states:

“What’s interesting about Zelinsky’s work is that the tone of his work changes in response to the demands of the text.”

This makes perfect sense to me. Each story to be illustrated will have its own unique personality to be considered based on its characters, setting, overall mood, and intended audience. Zelinsky does everything from lighthearted and childlike images to work reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance.

About his approach, he says:

“My preferred way of working is to start with a manuscript and try to imagine what the ideal art should look like for that particular voice, that particular world. Then I see if I can figure out how to make pictures in something like that style.”

There are some artists who, I think, limit themselves by developing a strong individual style and not straying far from it. It becomes their signature way of working, but they face being type-cast. My goal is to try NOT to pigeon-hole myself.

The other revelation I had on this issue came from Martin Salisbury in his book Illustrating Children’s Books. He states (italics are mine):

“Style is a word that other people use when talking about your work. If drawing is to develop naturally and with integrity, it is vital that you do not consciously pursue a ‘style.’ The process of working honestly, and with passion for your subject matter, will allow your work to evolve and develop its own identity.”

1 comment:

Sean Ashby said...

Holy cow! I just finished writing about this very subject no more than five minutes ago, only I was agonizing about how I couldn't pick a style! Then I came over and read your post. Serendipity, indeed!

And you're right. I just wish I could get it through my head! I also appreciate the Zelinksy example. I'd seen his "Rumplestiltskin" book and had no idea he did "kid-like" work, too.

Thank you!