My journey in learning to become an artist has been nothing like I thought it would be when I first decided to seriously pursue this hobby of mine. I started out with a very different outlook on what it meant to be an artist and how one develops a personal style.
This is the breakdown of my progress in the last ten years, from 2005 to 2015. It's been an awesome experience and, if you happen to have a very set idea of what it means to develop a personal style, I hope this inspires you to broaden your horizons a bit.
When I first began posting my artwork online I was really into anime, furries, and Loish on Deviantart.
I did my best to keep my "style" consistent, which meant I had to stick with very stiff and similar poses across the board, otherwise I easily lost control of the "style" and things looked really wonky. I didn't really know very much about proportions, so I made up the anatomy as well as I could and called it part of my "style".
By 2006 I began to stray away from my anime influences and got a bit better at emulating Loish's work.
I still continued to use very similar and rigid poses for all my drawings in an effort to keep the "style" consistent. The proportions and anatomy continued to fluctuate as I slowly learned to draw the human body more convincingly (still without using reference).
This was the year when I decided to try to take my style in a more cartoony direction and began experimenting with poses and angles just a bit more. I drew more often and began to loosen up in regards to making everything look perfect, though I still put pressure on myself to try to create a cohesive style.
At this point I also ditched the stumpy legs and giant hands and began to pay more attention to drawing limbs in a more anatomically correct fashion.
This is the year I began creating and posting most of my work on tegakie. At this point I decided to forget about making my drawings look perfect and developed a decidedly more cartoony style. This new style was characterized by lots of teeth, crazy long tongues and loopy limbs. I had fun with exaggerating facial expressions, poses and making things look crazy and funny instead of pretty and cute.
I got a very positive response from the tegakie community back then and it's probably the best experience I've had in an online art community to date. At least it's the most fun and stress-free I've ever felt. Instead of trying to impress others I was just having fun and others seemed to like what I was doing, so it became a great learning environment for me.
Once the excitement of the crazy-loopy style wore off, I went back to drawing my favorite furries and fan art. But by now I had gained a new understanding of what it meant to be deliberate with stylistic choices and I was much more aware of my weaknesses, which I tried to work on while still creating work that I liked.
By now I also had a better understanding of anatomy and proportions. I rarely used references, but I at least made an effort to experiment with more complicated poses and took on what I considered bigger challenges.
By 2010 I was back to wanting my characters to look super cute and pretty, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. My style regained some anime characteristics like big heads, wide eyes and tiny hands/feet.
I also stopped experimenting with poses and focused on improving the aesthetic quality of my artworks. I worked on perfecting the lineless style I had fallen in love with and spent a lot of time choosing nice color schemes for each piece.
This was the year that I started going to art school. I stopped working on personal projects almost completely to focus on schoolwork. Schoolwork was a lot of what I considered boring stuff, like still-life drawings, design principle exercises, perspective drawings, value studies, etc.
I didn't know it at the time, but doing these "boring" things was actually really helpful and it would give me a stronger foundation to build my skills on top of.
Like I said, I didn't draw very much outside of schoolwork this year, but in the examples I have above I can see my style began leaning toward a simpler, less refined look. The eyes became simple dots and the aesthetic beauty of the drawings became less important than showing emotion or personality.
Although I worked on a few more personal projects this year, I still wasn't nearly as prolific as I'd been a few years prior. At this point I'd taken a few figure drawing classes, some painting classes, etc. and I had a much better understanding of anatomy and proportions.
I didn't go crazy with poses or angles, but I definitely felt much more confident drawing figures from my imagination. I think the more confident I became, the more comfortable I was with keeping my drawings and coloring simple. I no longer felt pressured to impress others or make things look "good".
I began to feel comfortable changing certain aspects of my "style" whenever I felt like it. I decided I didn't want to be a one-trick-pony and that, as an illustrator, I had greater value being able to be diverse. It was also more fun that way--the predictability of having a set style didn't sound so great to me anymore.
This year was one of the busiest at school, so all of these projects are school-related. As a Junior in college I decided to allow myself the freedom to experiment with my work as much as I wanted to, so I felt free to try different things.
You might look at the examples above and not see much of a style difference between them and I don't blame you. My works look similar because by this point I had a well-developed personal aesthetic, so I experimented within the boundaries that I'd already developed from years of trying different things. This ties back to what I mentioned in the video above, which is that we all have a unique personal aesthetic that continues to develop as we continue to experiment and try new things.
This was the year I graduated. The top three artworks were part of my final portfolio for school. There is a bit more stylistic variety within these examples, which I personally really like.
This year I finally felt like I had complete control over the final outcome of each piece from the very beginning of the project. I can't believe it took almost ten years for me to feel this level of confidence! That's not to say that I think I'm an absolute master of drawing. I just finally know what it's like to be able to identify all the steps I have to take from the very beginning. The hardest part is still doing all of them well.
We're barely halfway through 2015, so I can't say what the rest of the year will bring, but I'm very happy and excited to see how far I've come in ten years. I'm glad that I'm no longer holding myself back from trying new and different things because of wanting to keep within a specific style.
I love that I'm not so concerned with making things pretty or perfect anymore. I've learned that I like simplicity, cuteness, curved lines, limited palettes, lineless or semi-lineless rendering styles, lots of personality and story-telling. But none of these things are limitations and it's a great feeling knowing that there is still so much more room to grow as an artist!
I hope you enjoyed seeing my progress through the past decade. Thanks for reading!