Victorian Shoe Watercolor

The Illustration Style Issue

One of the most recurring, obsessive and chronic worries of anyone who is trying to become an artist, whether it’s fine art or commercial art is the issue of style.

In one of the courses I took, the instructor said: worrying about style is a sign that you’re a beginner. Ouch. Yes, I have been staring at a number of illustrator’s work and wondered how did they get that style? When did it click?

But lately, I thought that I would just let myself go and focus on what I like to create.
Easier said than done.
The questions arise like bubbles in boiling water:

Should I do what I’m good at or what I want to do?

In this case, I’m better at digital illustration but what I really want to do is watercolor.

Should I “pay attention to my attention” and focus only on the subjects that interest me or should I pay attention to trends?

I am taking Sabina’s Trends Workshop, which is to me mostly an exercise in creativity than learning how to follow trends. This is the main reason I take her classes, they go way beyond what they appear to be. This time we are not focusing on the technical aspect of creating work, but more on the successful combination of trends and other elements which will help come up with entirely new work.

Should I imitate the artists that I like hoping that I will accidentally fall into a new technique or a new way of doing things?

I have been doing this. I will certainly not post a photo of a watercolor I copied trying to understand how layering and galzing works. However, this has yielded results.

I recently applied my new found knowledge into two small paintings. These two were the result of “paying attention to my attention” and choosing subjects that are perfectly linked to my interests: in this case, the Victorian era. I’m an anglophile and take this seriously, I even have tea at the right time.

Here’s one:

Victorian Shoe Watercolor

This little sucker took me almost an hour and a half, and I think it’s still in need of another layer. (Watercolor professionals could you pitch in and tell me how I could improve?)

While my digital illustrations have become easier to do, more cohesive, more structured, better researched, watercolors bring me the most joy. I still struggle using good paper, I still don’t know how to paint “fluidly”, I usually get these horrible hard-edges and I don’t know if it’s the paper or my paints or just me. However, this victorian shoe, has renovated my commitment.

I recently found a TED talk, where the speaker states that you only need 20 hours to learn something. He debunks the 10,000 hour myth. I want to believe him.

So in terms of style, I am more and more convinced that you have to paint tons for many years before you fall into your style. As much as I dislike the idea of waiting for it, there is no other way. Fortunately the internet can show you how much an artist evolves. You can find any of your favorites, or even amateur artists on Instagram and if you scroll back in time, you’ll see they were once where you were.

My own sister is proof of how much you have to paint before you develop a style. She has been painting for 20 years and it shows. Her style is consistent, she effortlessly creates new paintings within her style, she masters color, paint, brushes layering, you name it. When I look at her instagram account which she opened a few weeks ago, it made me understand this immediately. She doesn’t have to overthink how to make her feed more cohesive, her work does that for her. She doesn’t use filters (I think), she paints large scale paintings in mixed media, inspired by Mexico’s vibrant colorss, it’s clear that twenty years in, you master your medium.

My illustration work at the moment is based on hand-drawn graphics, processed digitally. I’ve gotten better and better, my most recent client project, which I’ll unveil soon, gave me so much satisfaction I’m very proud of the result. But my hand and heart both want to be better at watercolor.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to paint some more victorian shoes.

  1. Thank you for stopping by my blog on the other day, I really appreciate it and your comment!

    I have found “finding my style” quite tough, especially that the fact the idea of having a style is extremely important in art world and I feel pressured to find it, like, right now. I have definitely improved and my art has become more consistent for the last few years but I am not quite there yet. I still have a lot to learn.

    This little painting of yours is just lovely! I love the colours. Since you seek advice, I would say, use a little more water and try to make a light or smoother stroke so it will look less “muddy”. If you are looking for more fluidity in the paintings, try putting clean water to the edge of paint application to blend. Watercolour is not an easy medium at all and I know several of people that remarked how difficult it is to paint with. It took me months to get used to watercolour. Practice makes perfect after all!

    Katrina Sophia

    • Luisa Fernanda

      Hi Katrina,
      Thanks for visiting!
      Yes, style requires patience with ourselves. I think it helps to go back to early sketchbooks, sit and look through them very carefully and see the little details, even if they were studies or just copying a reference photo. I did this yesterday and I was very amazed at how every single one relates to another. I felt a small breakthrough.
      Thank you also for the advice on my watercolor. I struggle so. My problem is overworking the painting. Despite knowing you can’t really correct mistakes in watercolor. But I will definitely try to make lighter strokes. Thanks again!

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