Some of you have asked me more than one, so here a second question from Rebechan:
By the way, you can all still mail your questions to me, this is ongoing! (Mention 'free friday question' in your mail subject.)
How much did it take you to find "your style"? I graduated from university in illustration last year and, differently from some of my classemates, still struggle to find that one style that I can call mine (and find this really depressing usually).
You're not the only one struggling with this, I get this question a lot!
Unfortunately a personal style can take a while, so let me tell you a bit about my own process...
Before becomming an illustrator I studied fashion design at the art school in Arnhem(and worked in that field for a few years). During this study I already noticed my love for illustrating when making fashion illustration for my collections. After graduating I started working for a company where I designed prints and labels for kids clothing, again I noticed I liked that more that the actual clothes design. I was designing only on the computer though and missed the actual material-touch. When I started suffering from RSI syndrome, I decided no more computer for me and went looking for other options...
This in when I started my Illustration study in Utrecht at art school. During this study I tried so many different things, explored materials and looked at other people's work. This was all very inspiring and I learned a lot but in the last year, it made me feel confused. Teachers have opinions about your work, your fellow students too, everyone had a certain taste and advise, it made me drift away from my own inner judgement.
In 2007, after 3 years, I decided I had learned enough and dropped out (yes, you read that correctly). I wanted to try on my own and started my business as a freelance illustrator.
At this point I hadn't found my style yet! I worked on as many commisions as I could and made my own work on the side. Because I did so many different assignments, I tried a lot of different styles. By doing so I came closer to what did feel like me, just by noticing what didn't.
So now we're at the point where I wanted to go: Do as many things as you can, try as much different styles and materials and exclude what didn't feel like you. It's very important to also do personal projects and make your own work, this allows you to find your favorite subjects and material as well.
There are a few lucky people who find their style instantly but for most of us it takes a while (and this is OK!)
Please don't frustrate yourself over this, see it as an opportunity to explore and have fun before pinning yourself to one style. I learned a lot by doing this and on the way met lots of people and business contacts that are still helpful today.
An advise I got from a teacher (that sounded a bit strange to me at the time): Don't be afraid of trying what others do. Do you see a style you'd love to master? Figure out how it's done and try it yourself. I'd like to add here that I do not propagate copying and stealing other people's work but try just for you own experiment, to explore. You might learn some new tricks and things you would otherwise never had thought of.
During this whole proces it's very important to stay close to your personal favorites. Who are you, what do you like and what feels good and what didn't? By keeping a close eye on this, eventually you will get closer to who you are as an illustrator (or designer, or...). Think of what makes you you. How are you different from others, is there a certain passion that's typically you? (I for example have a tendency to lean towards the 'feel good' and 'little smiles' in life and therefore in my illustrations).
I know this sounds more easy than it is. With all these amazing talents all over the internet it's hard to stick to your own core. I remember myself visiting other websites and thinking 'oh my god, I wish I had made that, this is so much better than my work'. But you should not forget one important thing:
You see your work every day, you're used to it. To others it might me new and they might think the same 'Oh my god, I wish...'. So do not lose yourself in comparing, try to see beautiful work as an opportunity to learn and to be inspired.
Finding one's own style can be hard work but it's rewarding! And keep in mind that the proces is just as important as the end goal. Most people tend to forget this. Without a proces you can't have an end product so have fun on the way, after all it's your adventure!
Hope this was helpful!