My style is not trending

  • The more I study the world of children's illustration the more I realize that my style is so far from what is being represented that I'm beginning to feel defeated before I really begin. This is very evident on sites like SCBWI..the illustrators are all miles from anything I do. Please know I'm not talking about skill..I'm just talking about this one sketchy style I see all over the industry right now.

    Does anyone else feel like this? and if so how do you manage?

    On good days I feel like I know that if I just keep on growing and pushing and creating portfolio pieces I will magically find my niche. Maybe by the time the styles change my portfolio will be ready! 😁 Today's just not one of those days. Wondering if anyone else here feels the same way.

  • @djlambson I feel ya. My style was more popular back in the 90s but I am adapting to it by bringing in modern elements that I like to create a fusion I am comfortable with. People seem to like it on social media so, maybe that’s what you have to do.

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    @djlambson Your style is quite sketchy too! 🙂 I don't think you're as far off as you think. The main difference I think is your work feels very overall dark, heavy and ominous. Which isn't necessarily the feel children's books are going for! Even scary or Halloween type books are actually "scary lite". I think this atmosphere in your work is mostly created by your very dark backgrounds because the last two illustrations of your portfolio, the one from "The potty book" are the ones out of your whole portfolio that feel most children illustration to me. The white paper of the background really balances out your dark lines and the contrasted coloring, bringing out a lightness to the art. They also have bright colors! These 2 illustrations also have less textures than the others which I feel is a good thing.

    A little texture is great, but when applied wall to wall over every inch of an illustration it makes it feel a bit heavy. Some of your illustrations look like you have added in noise and texture effect in Photoshop after the piece was finished, like this one:

    Others look like traditional painting textures like watercolor, but have some bits that look blurry or blended in after the fact in Photoshop. In both cases, I feel this unnecessarily makes the illustration look heavier, more processed, less natural. And the whole point of a sketchy, traditional style is the charm of the "natural" look, is it not?

    In short my 2 cents is to try less dark backgrounds, less ominous atmospheres, and less super processing and texturing. It would still look like your style, but more light, airy, natural and accessible. That's just my opinion, but I hope you found it somewhat helpful! 🙂

  • @djlambson I don’t have much to add because I am still in the exploration phase of trying to pin down my own illustration style but, coincidentally, I was watching videos on the ‘How to Discover Your Style’ class this morning and Lee, Will and Jake do touch on this topic in the Style Discussion chapter. Trends do come and go and having your own individual style will hopefully give more longevity to your art’s lifespan.

    Personally, I think it is great to have something unique to offer the world but to avoid the potential frustration of not getting enough of the work that I want to do I would probably tweak my style to add marketability/desirability and also have another completely contrasting style (in a separate portfolio) to appeal to a different aesthetic to double my chances of work in the industry. That might be easier for some than others; my personality leads me to be easily influenced and flexible (hence the difficulty finding even one main art expression!)

  • @Lovsey I agree..that's how I think as well. I do enjoy making the art I make. I enjoy the subdued palette and heavier line and to change my style doesn't interest me. So the challenge becomes how to 'tweak' a style to flow with the trends yet remain true to who you are. I'd love to find that balance.
    Maybe in my case, it could be as easy as adding in white space or brighter areas as @NessIllustration has suggested.
    Thank you for pointing out that particular image @NessIllustration That was a Christmas card and I no longer have on file except for a low res one. I kept it because I thought it was a sweet scene, but you're right..its very noisy and should go. Maybe I'll redo it.

    Thanks for commiserating @chrisaakins I love your style! I think there is a whole lot of sameness out there right now and I guess we just patiently wait for the tides to turn. Arthur Rackham, Lisbeth Zwerger and Freya Blackwood are some of the artists I aspire to and am stubborn enough to think that sort of illustrating can't possibly really die for any length of time. 😁

    Just having a bit of down day..this pandemic thing is not going away and Ive been stuck in Texas with my husband in Turkey since March. 😞 It all adds to an outlook..we all know this too well. Thank you guys for your perspective.

  • Just because it is not the in style does not mean you can't get published. You only need one AD to like your work.

    Try writing a book of your own and approach a publisher as an author/illustrator.

    Also, why stay narrowly focused on childrens book illustration? There are magazines, greeting cards, paper products, textiles, collectibles, licensing, print on demand and other publishing besides children publishing and the money for all of these spends the same once they send you a check.

    SVSs focus is on childrens books but the principals are the same across all areas. Maybe SVS needs to expand on that.

  • @djlambson for what its worth I LOVE your style!! I love the watercolor look and your art is amazing! Keep up the good work! Hang in there and don't mind the trends, trends come and go, but good art stays. ( I don't care for the current trend either. But I am trying to keep an open mind and have resolved to learn something from it) We were in Turkey years back. They have the best bread (ekmek) in the world!

  • @jimsz there is a great licensing video on SVS. Actually maybe two by the same Lady. I should re-watch them. But you are so right. I've been staring down at getting picked up by a publisher but I'm getting increasingly frustrated and feeling a bit hopeless. It's good to be reminded there are other options. And yes, maybe SVS should bring it to the forefront a little more.

  • @jimsz Those are some very valid ideas and I have batted that book idea around. I might look at that more seriously soon..Thanks for the encouragement!

  • @fullerj Thank you for your kind words! Yes..the bread in Turkey is very good. Also the kabab! 😋 😁

  • Merraba @djlambson!

    I’m no expert, but I’ve heard from many pros to avoid trends and keep making work you love. There’s a market for your work, you’ll just need the right agent to find it for you!

    Best of luck and stay strong! Soon, your husband will be back and you’ll both be grateful for the sacrifices made!

  • @Jeremy-Ross those kind words just made my day..thank you.

  • @djlambson I feel the same way! I'm still developing my style, but my illustration heroes are Greg Manchess, N.C. Wyeth, James Gurney, Frazetta, Drew Struzan, Craig Davison, Tony DiTerlizzi... basically a certain stylized realism that's as far as you can get from the sketchy graphic-designy trends of the current moment.

    Still, I'm not discouraged. I've been ping-ponging around for a while, and what I've found is that as long as you're patient, deliberate, and very honest about exactly what YOU want and what you like to DO, you'll find there are plenty of options. Every time I bump into an obstacle is my cue to slow down and clarify, and each time I get a little closer.

    In my experience, this problem mainly arises from looking at where you think you want your work to end up and trying to work backwards to find out what your work should look like. I think it makes a lot more sense to start with the work, be really honest and true to it, and keep an open mind about where it ends up. You can always tweak, but you've gotta know which parts make up the core of your vision so you don't lose something essential.

    I like what @jimsz said, about the wide range of markets outside of children's book illustration. Plus--just because lighter images might be "in" doesn't mean there isn't a story that needs subdued colors and "ominous atmospheres" as @NessIllustration put it. If that's something you like doing and looking at, you can also play around with matching your subject matter and storytelling to that mood. It all depends on what you decide to prioritize in your style, what you're willing to play with and what you want to hang onto.

    Don't be discouraged! Take some time and seek clarity. Then stick with what you want to stick with, make everything else work with that, and keep an eye out for the opportune home for your work.

    Anyway, that's my two cents, and what I'm trying to do myself. Hope it helps ☺

  • @chrisaakins It is very interesting because when I saw your "dragonfly" piece I thought it is a very nice mix between old and new but it definitely looks modern. I think you are doing great job on incorporating new style into your art.

  • @Marta-Kitka wow! Thank you so much!

  • @MarksByMallory Thank you! very appreciated. I love Tony Diterlizzi and N.C. Wyeth as well. Will go look up the artists on your list.

  • It might be helpful to get some fresh inspiration--look at lots of current illustrators and find things that excite you, that can be integrated into what you do. There is a wide variety of illustration styles out there that do well and I think you'll be fine as long as you keep working on making YOUR work better and making those killer pieces. Have you done the finding your style course on here from Lee White? You might find it very helpful!

  • Hi @Natalie-Lundeen I did get part way through some time ago! Definitely need to take another look at that one. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  • Well I feel a bit the same way. It is as though here at SVS I am "in the wrong room" because of my medium, style, subject and primary industry. My heros are never mentioned: Karen Hull, Patricia Reeder Eubank, Susan Wheeler, Mary Engelbreit, Jill Barklem etc. I have illustrated a picture book, though, and got paid very well, so that helped. However what I wanted to share is that I also am here biding my time and soaking up all the awesome knowledge at SVS, it is wonderful! And yes I agree, by the time we are ready maybe things will change. I focus on being ready not just for picture books but as an artist in general, creating the content I want skills to create. Plus it may help for you to find a community of artists outside SVS that are in your style or medium, it did really help me to have both SVS and "medium mates" friends colleagues...

  • SVS OG

    @Amanda-Bancroft Those are some of my favorite artists too.

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