Saturday, 15 March 2014

Letting Go

I am here today to pull apart my work. Something odd happened to me this morning, and I suppose it can be linked to a myriad of things that I worry about or indeed have yet to seriously think about. To start from the beginning, first I need to consider my current portfolio. The truth, if you want to know, is that for the most part I'm not yet happy with my style. That's a bold statement to come from an illustrator that's been working professionally for the past couple of years, I know. It's stupid, even, and I do hope that any potential clients or investors in my work don't read this and misunderstand.

My work is good. It's polished, it's nice, a tree looks like a tree, a face looks like a face, but that's what irritates me. I sometimes feel like I am merely the product of my artistic education and not my creativity. I've done work that people like, but not the kind of work that I particularly like. In college I excelled at things like life-drawing because I have an eye for detail and accuracy, but frankly, the most liberating thing I ever did when studying fine art was to stick some shoes to a canvas and smear oil paints and paper clippings all over it. I understand that my ability to draw anything, and quite realistically, is a great skill. I don't take it lightly. It's something that people want to invest in because they can't achieve it themselves, and it has done me well so far. I don't mind continuing to do those kind of jobs, because they pay the bills and there is a satisfaction in doing a good job for a client. I don't even mind doing the odd traditional pencil portrait commission, but I still have that lingering feeling that I haven't found my style yet.

Maybe I just have multiple styles. Maybe my doing graphic design and illustration at university has turned me into this odd hybrid that morphs her style depending on what the client wants. That's cool, very marketable. I do secretly long for my client work to sit next to my personal work and be the same, though. My travel drawings started to come close to what I like. Not drawing the lines straight felt wonderful, and more recently with my mushroom paintings, not sketching them out first and moving straight to paint and colour felt like I'd unlocked something important. Objects are one thing, though. The truth is I've been avoiding drawing people for a long time, because I hate the way I can't leave a hand alone if one of the fingers looks a bit too long, or a face if the eyes aren't quite symmetrical. That's what this whole post is really about. My absolute favourite illustrators don't give a damn for proportions, or getting the light and shade to look realistic, so why am I so hung up on it to the point that I avoid it altogether? I'm missing out on doing the kind of work I dream of because of it.

Back to this morning though; the whole reason for me sitting down to muse about this awkward business. I sat down at my desk, and I thought I might draw another hot air balloon/air ship for practice. I drew a rough balloon, and immediately got the urge to ensure that it was more or less a perfect circle. I resisted, though, and then it just became a balloon. And then I thought I would draw a child holding it, and try to do it with the same ease and freedom. Bollocks to proportions. In fact, I'm not even going to give the little blighter a neck, I thought. It's going to be chubby, and I'm going to draw the facial features as quickly as possible, and not alter them. In the end, I came up with the drawings below, and I'm so happy with them. I think the biggest achievement was making the man's feet smaller than his hands.

I'm not saying that I've all of a sudden changed my entire style, but it has made me think more about how I like to work. You don't have to demonstrate that you're good at drawing things exactly as they are to prove you're a skilled artist. There is a talent in that, but it's not necessarily creative. Ultimately though, it's okay for me to let go.