I’ve touched on this subject in the past, but it has been on my mind again recently. About a year ago my dad was one of those people who lost his house due to insanely high mortgages and insidious interest rates. What this meant to me was that I had to clean out all the stuff I had left at his place and go through an extensive Goodwill/dump/keep decision process. While looking through all my old junk I stumbled upon a long forgotten box full of childhood drawings. It was very interesting for me to see the kinds of things I started out drawing ( mostly toys, monsters and cartoon characters). More interesting to me though, was the way I drew them. In some of the better ones I could see a few traits that I retain in my work today.
A lot of memories came back to me when I got to some of the later drawings. One nagging, negative, repeating memory really came flooding back. What was it you say? The memory of loving to draw but always feeling inadequate. It’s very frustrating to pursue something you really love while peers around you tell you that your work sucks, and some of them seem to be doing it better than you. The biggest irk I had was trying to develop a style. The good drawers around me seemed to have very specific styles that made their work very distinct. Sometimes this was too the point of being extremely repetitive and derivative. Especially the anime kids, a style I briefly flirted with.
I was always trying to find my own style, but never felt like I did. Or if I did it wasn’t one I liked. It felt like my style was a complete lack of style/talent. Yes, it was rough, and I was very tough on myself. I remember when I was in a drawing class people would comment on my style and seemed to like it, but I never really saw what they were talking about. Then in later drawing classes I would always be praised as one of the best in the class, my drawings used as examples and it was an easy A. Even then I felt my work lack a distinct unifier, that thing that would let everyone know I drew it.
When I started Black Snow I still was longing to find my style, and really didn’t know what I was doing. Something amazing happened by the time I started Day Camp last year though. I didn’t have to over think my work, question how to portray things, or any of my other normal self loathing routines. I just drew it. When I finished it and took a look I thought “Yeah, this looks like something I drew. You can tell it was the same guy as Black Snow.” I lied, Day Camp wasn’t actually the first time this happened, it also happened when I drew Loan Boy, but nobody cares about that, and the feeling wasn’t as significant.
So how and when did I find my style? I realized that it had indeed been happening my entire life, and it continues to grow and evolve. It wasn’t from the few drawing classes I took, or attempting to copy the work of others I admired, or studying drawings I enjoyed, or any one thing. It was a combination of everything! The shows I watched, the comics I read, the classes I took, the ideas I came up with, they all continue to constantly impact my work. The biggest thing though, has just been to draw a lot. They say practice makes perfect, and I can really see that as far as the quality of my work goes. I can draw things with ease now that I probably would have struggled and failed with in the past. I’ve done it enough at this point that things just come naturally. That’s not to say that I think I draw perfectly or never have challenges. It can still be hard to conceive of the best way to portray something, but it’s far less often than in the past.
So this is really a message for young artists out there struggling to find their ways. Don’t over analyze and question your work. Don’t dwell on other people’s work. Don’t actively try to develop a specific style. Just draw, then draw some more. Draw anything and everything. Eventually you’ll get to where you want to be. I truly believe anyone can draw well if they really put their minds to it. So get out their and practice, and good things will happen. And this is coming from a man constantly labelled as a pessimist!