Trends come and go, but the mark of a true artist is a confident and distinctive style. We asked illustrator NVM to give us some essential tips on how to find a style that works for you AND how to stick to it.
To say that I’ve revised this short rant a few times would be an understatement, do I sugar coat this and make it a fluff piece palatable enough in bite-sized cliche’ chunks for somebody to swallow and feel good about themselves, or do we be honest and get down to it?
This is a rather subjective and difficult to nail down subject, but hey ho, lets try our best to work something out through the chaos.
So..let’s face it, we’ve all been there. “What am I doing, why do I bother” It’s so easy to feel disheartened or lost and drowning in the shadows of others. Going from one style to another or jumping on “trends” trying to find some sort of gratification through likes and comments. It’s just so easy for us to feel so visually overwhelmed and get lost.
Though jumping from one trend or style can in fact do harm to your career in the early stages. Your audience wants your voice, not an echo. To be able to stand out and people hear your voice is what we all strive for. To see a piece of artwork and automatically know the artist without second guessing.
Be A Sponge
To quote Picasso “Good Artists copy, great artists steal” These are words to live by. To surround and immerse yourself in other people’s work, their process, their application of method. The search to find art and have that “I can never do that” moment or just can’t look at something it’s that good, you can only benefit from. Surviving in a bubble and not taking in influence will only starve your creativity and limit your own voice.For me personally I’m heavily influenced by flash sheet tattoo work, McBess heavy black ink and Klimt.
It was never a forced process, over the years the development of style comes hand in hand with what you love, what gets your juices going.
Creeping into small details, frame of mind and eventually your own aesthetic. The more excited you are to create something you really enjoy doing, chances are that somebody else might absolutely feel your vibe, where your head space is at and completely connect with what you’re doing. Creating a following for the work you want to create, not what people expect or what they think they want from you. Nobody knows exactly what they want unless they’ve seen it.
Experimentation is key, from varying how you apply your brush marks, materials, processes, there are so many variations you can try and play around with. You may find one particular medium that suits you, your work and what you’re trying to convey.
For example I used to be completely terrified of black ink full stop. I found it somewhat intimidating and harsh so you’ll see in my earlier work the majority of it was coloured pencils, Pantone markers and felt tips. Though having conquered the intimidation by actually trying and seeing where things go, black is my happy colour. Just go for it, don’t let the fear of mistakes hold you back, sometimes mistakes can be a good thing.
Let’s not sugar coat this as stated above, finding your voice or visual identity is not an easy process, it’s damn hard work. Some people make it seem easier, others play the suffering artist. Though let’s look at some generic google based “research”. Some say that it takes from 6 – 10 years to actually become good / better than average at something, obviously depending on how long you spend on a craft, we are talking 10,000 hours of work. Style and identity don’t fall in your lap from staring at trees, waiting on the Prince Philip of creativity and luck to come and sweep you off your feet. To quote somebody else again to better explain myself.
“Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work” – Chuck Close
So let’s say you’ve built up a portfolio of work and you want to start setting up shop. Any portfolio should tell a visual narrative whilst retaining style and flow. People want to see your work but also different moods, subject matter. A heavy black piece followed by something lighter, then in between to balance everything. Variation but integrity of the strongest version of yourself. Through this building process you can perhaps see what artwork would suit more on certain products than others. Some may perhaps work as a tote bag, as a print and something else may perhaps work as a t-shirt, so don’t be scared of uploading a piece in fear of it not working on every product. Promoting those items on your social will obviously really help, so whatever product you thing is badass, let other people know it. Same goes for a website, try to create it around your own aesthetic, what fits your and your work, show your strongest self.
TLDR – Burn your bridges, be a badass and get to work