Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some recent work. My varied styles.

Recently I spoke to a children's literature class at the University of Texas, and someone asked a question that comes up often in regard to my various illustration styles: Why do you illustrate in so many styles, and does it help or hurt you?

And my answer: I don't know. But I like working this way.

To each is own. But for me, having many styles has worked to my benefit. I get a variety of illustration projects because I offer variety. Art directors have rummaged through my portfolio like they were selecting taffy from a candy store. "Oh I want this one and that one and this one!" But some have argued that by having so many styles, an artist never gets very good at one thing.

To that I say, maybe.

I understand that because I have so many looks, people might not know who I am. It's like covering my face with a mask, a different one every day. That might confuse people, I don't know.

I'm a self-taught illustrator. I took a few so-called illustration courses in college. But they weren't instructional, so I learned how to illustrate on my own by trial and error. I read instructional books and studied other artists works. I learned to paint with acrylics by painting and painting and painting. But I never settled on one style because I was always eager to try something new.

Early on in my career editors and agents advised me to pick one style and stick with it. Preferably, they advised, a portraiture style or something very realistic, since my career would likely focus on books with African American subject matter. They advised me to develop a portfolio of 10 to 15 pieces of my best work—to make it my trademark. It's about branding, yes—But ack!—sameness is not fun for me and neither is realistic portraiture.

I don't want to create the same thing every day, any more than I would want eat chicken for every meal. And I love chicken!

Lately, however, I've been giving sameness more consideration, particularly for trade books. There's a good argument to be made for having a trademark style. Problem is, I'm not entirely sure which look to settle on. My personal favorite, which has drawn high praise as well as painful pans, would be this look. Some love it, others hate it. We'll see.


Ruth Horowitz said...

Painful pans? Really? I like all your styles, but if I had to pick one (especially for trade books), I would definitely go with that last one, too.

Rebekah Joy Plett said...

I love chicken, too!

I think what works with your different styles is that they all look like they are from the same person, even though they are unique. There is something collectively similar about them.

Keep doing what you love because it seems to be working!

Thanks for the post.