Finding who you are as an artist...

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I think we all struggle to find who we are as an artist. Wait, no I don't think, I know we all struggle at some point as an artist to find our "style". I think this weekend it really hit me and I hope I am taking it in the right direction. Since the last Inktober I have played with different styles and techniques. If you saw my latest post on the Draw 50 Things I mention I keep coming back to this style. It just comes natural to me. I don't struggle with it and I really enjoy it. I created a few brushes and I use a few from Kyle Webster. It's fun and that is what art should be right?

    So I put this here for feedback not only on my Draw 50 but the two pieces I did this weekend. Does it work? Is there a market for it? Cause I really do enjoy it the most of all the different things I have tried.





  • Moderator

    Hi, Chip! I don't really know you much--I just joined the forums a month ago. It's clear, though, that you're a go-to person here. I feel like I struggle with my own style being appropriate for anything, let alone the Children's Lit market or even YA or New Adult markets. If I can even say I have a "style". (I've heard style sneaks in the back door and starts eating dinner while one waits on other styles--with actual invitations--to arrive. They don't even seem to RSVP, either. Hm.)

    What I see when I look at the four images you've shared here is a much less "studied and polished" style than the stuff on your website. These are grittier, faster, and less "packaged". It relies upon more graphic elements to compliment the drawing--the skull backgrounds, spattering, solid white outlines, for example. I think the subject matter has a lot to do with that. These have more mature themes. I can see you're a fan of Matt Groening. His early work was in the same spirit, I think--faster, flatter, and less "studied". There's a raw quality about these that isn't on your website.

    These come across more "comic art" than the "children's illustration" feel of your other work, if the two can even be artificially distinguished like that. I mean, it seems there are plenty of children's illustrators that use a comic art style, and the world of comic art is becoming more and more "illustrative" (?) as the years roll on and technology develops...

    Is the subject matter, in part, what helps makes the art come easily for you? Have you tried doing a personal project that is less about the children's demographic and more about the New Adult demographic? Perhaps it's not the style of art, but the framing of it that needs to change. Surely there is a market for everything--you just have to find the right consumer who wants it. I wonder if it might help if you shook up your subject matter and tried using these to create work that speaks to a different audience?

    Because I, personally, have to believe that there is a "right fit" for even my own work somewhere. And while I'm going to continue to discover and try new things and apply my preferences and habits to specific tasks and projects at hand, I have to believe that's a strength not a weakness. It's just finding the right audience at the right time, that's all.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @Coreyartus thanks for the reply, I agree these do not fall into the childrens illustration feel, but I was also told in the past my more polished work doesn't either. At least its not in the style as what is trending for childrens Illustration. I am working on a personal project, it is 100 horror paintings. Again not very children illustration LOL. But at this point in my life I basically come to the conclusion that I will not make it as a professional illustrator but I will make it as a hobby illustrator and if I can make a few bucks on the side, then that is a bonus.

  • Pro

    @Chip-Valecek I think it's really exciting that you've had a breakthrough about what style of drawing makes you happy! What I am wondering is, if you are not aiming to make it as a professional illustrator but instead a hobby illustrator, then is it that important if there is a market for it or not? I'd say, follow your enthusiasm, develop your style in the ways that make you happy, experiment and have fun!

  • Moderator

    Yes, I hear you. I am in the exact same boat--I'm 50, and too old to shift completely to illustration as a full-time career, so I also have a distinction between the "hobby" and "professional" perspectives. My art will never be able to replace what I'm doing as my job, but it can perhaps augment my income as another (smaller) revenue stream.

    If that's what you're looking for--doing this as a hobby that you can perhaps make some money off of, I would think there's a lot less pressure to conform stylistically. The novelty of uniquely-styled fan art appeals to the pop art crowd a lot. It seems to be a trend. If that's something you're interested in, then I would urge you to perhaps push this style even further. Define what makes it different from your other work and exploit those elements. Try taking it to the extreme and see what you end up with. Use the techniques you're being taught in the children's lit world as tools instead of definitions, and see what happens.

    I believe it's finding the right consumers for your work that is the challenge. It's not that your style has to fit your consumer. You can't ask people looking for chocolate ice cream to buy lemon sorbet instead. You have to find the people who are looking for sorbet. If the children's lit market isn't interested in your style, put it in front of others who aren't looking for that.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @Coreyartus you nailed it on the head. 41 years old with a family of 4 kids all in different activities. I been with the same company doing web design and development for 18 years. @NessIllustration with what Corey mentioned finding that extra income would be great. I used to get a lot of freelance work with web design, but with square space and wix in the mix most of my customers (small business) have moved to using services like that. I am only pulled in when they can't figure something out. Being able to have fun with art and make money from it is where I want to be at this point in my life.

  • Moderator

    I think that it works. It has a fun quality to it. On a couple of these it reminds me of cutout paper doll stickers that were placed in a picture, like those sticker books. Very graphic. Except the zombie one. I like how you used the white line to accentuate the important things but not like an outline around the whole object. The thickness of the line giving emphasis. It definitely has potential in my opinion. 👍

  • I think your first one is really strong and I was thinking this isn't what I have seen you do (I am use to your BIG submission style). Minus the blood I really like the last one too. I can't say Children's book or not because older kids might find an interest in it (so maybe more like covers for older fiction), especially the second and third one (scooby dooby doo -I watched as a kid so you know). I think this group of work is more playful and you can experiment with more brush textures and have a lot of fun with them. I am happy for you, looks like a good comfortable fit!!! I too find it a conflict if I want to go into children's books but my work doesn't necessarily fit into that category as of yet. But a better fit is doing what your good at and what you like and then work forward not backwards.


  • Pro

    @Coreyartus @Chip-Valecek You guys aren't too old 🙂 41 and 50 is young enough to do anything you want to, we hear of people that age changing careers or even going back to university all the time! It is possible when that is a priority for them, in your cases you have other, very good priorities. Other things that are more important to you like family and stability, and that's also a great thing isn't it? It may seem like a small distinction, but the mindset difference between "I want to be a full-time illustrator but can't because I'm too old" and "I'm happy with a life that is full of love and stability and want to preserve that more than I want to risk it all by a drastic career change" is huge, isn't it? The difference between "I can't" and "I don't want to" is so important, it allows us to move forward with true intent, instead of feeling limited and restrained by circumstances - circumstances that in fact, we chose and are important to us.

    Sorry for getting side-tracked from the topic, just putting in my 2 cents!

  • SVS OG

    Hey Chip. Your third image is brilliant. There are some great things going on andyour style would suit kids magazines. Imagine doing one off pieces like this. Something to think about? With a goal of where you want your art to go your style will evolve to create art for that market. I wonder if you would do well choosing a definite place you want to be in a year and work just in that direction then your style would evolve with a stong direct purpose. Cool work.

  • SVS OG

    @Chip-Valecek Hey, Chip.
    I think you just got to go with what you are comfortable with. I spent all of 2018 going back to basics I don't think I drew any finished pieces all year. I spent the year working on anatomy and learning how to draw with nibs and brushes. I've been told a ton of times that my work doesn't fit into any of the markets that I've been trying to work towards and for a long time I just tried to work in different styles to fit in. But I think that came through in the illustrations and art directors and agents could see that. So I just took the last year and decided I'm going to do what I like. I'm going to get as good as I can (still working on it) and then hope that I find naturally where my work fits. At least I'm working on stuff I like and enjoying it while I'm still not getting any work 🙂 If this makes you happy and this is what you like to do just go with it and keep getting better your joy will show through in your work.

  • SVS OG

    @Chip-Valecek you invest so much in us and I feel invested in you as an artist as well. I think you know where you gravitate to what what kind of artist you are. I don’t feel your children’s lit style is as marketable as your horror side. Although, I really thought the birds were very very strong this month. I think why I feel the horror side is a bit more genuine is because you make it with no regard for the market. Maybe? But, I had an ah moment listening to a licesening thing while I was cleaning....

    Dude, you are a Halloween artist. Like for real. How do you get all that stuff you create in those pop up stores that come around in empty wearhouses in October? That store is full of all that stuff. And not just the horror people year round. People want seasonal stuff to scare the crap out of their kids. Or go to Spencer’s gift? Or hot topic? Is that a store. Go to those places, find out who manufactures all that stuff and get your stuff ready. I think there is a market for your scaries (cause that is what I am calling them now, cause y’all know I’m a table paperwear want to be designer and we need cute names for things). People could also use blood splatter napkins for their creepy Halloween parties. For those I wouldn’t put a character on them, but barbed wire and gross patterns.

    So, there you have it! My two cents! You know who you are, now go make someone pay you money for it!

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @Whitney-Simms wow I never really thought about it that way. The horror stuff just comes easy to me. Maybe cause I love that stuff. I also love the cute cartoon stuff as well. But i never really thought about going into those stores and researching who the manufacture is for them. That's a great idea! I also love the term "scaries" LOL I did get the most feedback and positive likes/comments during my inktober run.

  • SVS OG

    @Chip-Valecek These pieces feel very strong. From a very young age, I've loved scary stories and movies and these pieces celebrate that inclination. Of all the pieces, the 3rd one is my favorite because it's gleeful and funny with many elements of evilness--pure fun. Someone mentioned that these pieces would be perfect Halloween-themed pieces and I would agree.

  • SVS OG

    There are lots of spooky books for children! Some kids love that kind of thing. You can show a lot of fear and tension without ever showing blood. Your art reminds me of a game I enjoy called Don't Starve. The artwork has scratchy line work that gives the game a more spooky ambiance. Take a look at the way the artist uses line and muted color to give the story it's spooky feel without showing blood or gore.
    Above all, just draw what you love. The market will find you as long as you share your work openly.

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  • SVS OG

    I like your pictures. I think you could push the colours a bit more to give them a cleaner vibrancy. Also with your fan art of Negan I would try and get a likeness that you can simplify enough but still keep the facial likeness.

    I'm no expert on childrens books but I think they might need making more friendly if that is your market.

    Something else I have recently thought about is who is your exact target customer and what is the precise purpose for your pictures. I think if you plan a project for your designs they will become tailored to that project and thus have a home. Just my thoughts as I personally was doing art that wasn't really me and I enjoy myself more doing what I do now. 🙂

  • @Jason-Bowen I dunno I think it looks more like Negan than the Walking Dead TV show does! :face_with_stuck-out_tongue_winking_eye:

  • @Coreyartus @Chip-Valecek This has been a great read, thank you both. I'm not going to tell you my age, but I'm most likely the oldest SVS student. I'm approaching this as a second career, better late then never and I'm frustrated every day. Some days I wonder why I'm doing this, but it seems drawing and creating isn't a choice.

    Chip, finding your own style and staying with it seems to be the greatest challenge. I agree with Corey that finding the right consumer for your art is the real challenge. The advice throughout the thread has been great and your horror stuff, especially the the black & white Horror Paintings on your instagram feed are brilliant and terrifying. I'm halfway through the licensing video and as Whitney says, it's a viable way for illustrators to supplement their income. The halloween might be a good fit for your work.

    And thank you Chip for doing the slideshow for each month, great way to see all the entries.

  • Hey Chip, I really like your work and I think you have a lot of potential with your style. I'm going to give you some feedback (I haven't done this in a while) so I hope it doesn't annoy you.

    I think you could develop your character designs and style a bit more. I like the wide eyed style characters and I feel if you pushed into that more you could really build a unique look and style. The characters could be looser and you could work on making more dynamic poses. I also feel that you could play with colour more. I still buy a sketchbook and stick in colours I find like from menus, books, magazines and build your own library of colours. It ends up like a swatch book of colours that I pull from when colouring in Photoshop.

    I'm trying to avoid doing fan art or copyrighted characters for 2019. I've done a few in the last couple of years and honestly I feel its restricting me creatively, compared to making my own designs and concepts. I think your work, if toned down a little, could definitely work for the YA market. And I agree with comment above about tapping into the Halloween market - things like Stranger Things, Sabrina and similar shows are so popular now there is definitely something you could tap into! 😉

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    Continuing on with my journey, here is a HipHop Unicorn done for the jimbobdrawingshow. Onto my Love piece.


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