So as I've been trying to put together some new work in "my style"--whatever that might be--I keep hitting walls. What do I want to do? What are the defining characteristics of "my style"?
What do I even like?
So I decided to do an exercise I've seen a few times on other artist's blogs--an "influence map". This seems to have been a thing a couple years ago, and I saw a bunch of them around and then the trend kind of died. I liked the idea of it even though I never really used it until now.
So, here it is:
The map is arranged the way it makes sense to me--its my map, I can do what I want ;-). Obviously, I'm in the center. The artists whose pieces actually touch mine are closest to the type of style I'd like to work in. The bigger the piece, the more I'd like to emulate their work in my own.
A little about each artist:
1. John Singer Sargent--The man was crazy awesome at what he did. Painterly portraits, fabric textures described with just a few brush strokes, expressions and colors and shapes that tell you about each person. Man, that guy was crazy skilled. His piece doesn't quite touch the "me" in the middle because, most days, I don't want to paint portraits, I want to paint stories. You can argue about how different those two things if you want, but in any case, If I could create pictures with a fraction of this guy's skill I could die happy.
2. Norman Rockwell--also doesn't touch the little "Me" piece in the center, but I seriously love so much of his work. His story telling ability, his sense of humor, and especially his ability to manipulate the human face into any expression while still maintaining its real-ness... wow.
3. N. C. Wyeth--wow. This guy was awesome. I kind of want to be N.C. Wyeth. I could say that about most of the people on this map, but I'd probably say it about him the most. Could we please go back to the golden age of illustration where novels were illustrated with awesome huge painterly colorful paintings? Because that would be awesome.
4. J. C. Leyendecker. Man, that guy knew how to use a paint brush. He has the most deliberate brush work I've ever seen.
5. Alphonse Mucha--he only gets a little sliver, because I don't really want to be Mucha... but I do really like to draw pretty ladies with swirly hair and drapey clothes. And this guy is seriously the master of pretty ladies with swirly hair and drapey clothes.
6. The Secret of Kells. Yeah, it's a movie, not an artist, but this movie really helped me to understand how much I love simplified shapes and highly stylized characters. I love watching it to this day. It doesn't touch "me" in the center of the map because I don't really want to make movies, but I want to make art with cool textures.
7. Jake Parker. Above my computer I have a little not to myself, which I picked up from this guy--"FINISHED, NOT PERFECT." I need to remember this, to help me to push through to the end of each project. I think this saying is great because it addresses what I see as two of the most common problems creators have--either jumping from idea to idea without finishing any of them, or not moving on from one idea because they have to noodle with it until it's perfect.
In addition to the "FINISHED, NOT PERFECT" mantra, watching and listening to his videos about sketchbooks has really helped me to love my sketchbook. I'm not sure I can say I ever really loved sketching before--It was something I did because I was an artist and I was supposed to. Now, its fun. I don't really like drawing robots or monsters or anything that Jake seems to love drawing, but he was a huge influence just for helping me to love my sketching.
8. Tom Whalen is the king of vectors and color schemes, in my opinion. Ironically maybe for someone as in love with painterly art as much as I am, Illustrator always made more sense to me as a way to work digitally. Photoshop just frustrates me. I would be for book covers or childrens books what Tom Whalen is for movie posters.
9.Tom Duxbury is an Illustrator I only came across recently, but I love his simple shapes and color schemes. He is definitely one that I'll keep track of.
10. Margaret Chodos-Irvine makes the coolest prints--to illustrate childrens books! She also writes. Yeah, basically I want to be her.
11. Charley Harper is known for his simplified animal illustrations. Look them up, they're super cool.
12. Shaun Tan wrote AND illustrated my favorite short story collection of all time, Tales from Outer Suburbia. Each story in it has a different illustration style, but each style is well executed and interesting. I love his textures and weird creatures.
13. Jon Foster paints the coolest book covers ever. And he works both digitally and traditionally, sometimes moving back and forth between them for one piece. Cool, eh?
14. Gregory Manchess does awesome painterly illustrative work.
Whew. Looking at this list, I'm inspired and intimidated. I've got some work to do.
By putting this together, I am able to see some gaps in my work that I need to fill. They are:
1. Backgrounds/environments. I'm bad at them. I need to do more with them.
2. Textures. I love it when people incorporate textures into their work, but I haven't done much of that lately. I need to figure out how to use them more in my work.
3. I seem to have two loves--painterly, on the left side of the map, and shape-y (pretend that's a word) on the right. This might mean that ultimately I'll have two portfolios. I think that first I'll work on shape-y, and then after I've got that together, I'll move to building up a portfolio that is more painterly.
This ended up being a really fun exercise. If anyone else puts one of these together, give me a link! I'd love to see it.
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