Fiddlestick Hollow: Searching for My Secret Key
Previously published on July 30, 2012:
Once I figure out my own unique tool kit, I'll spend most of my time developing, refining, and perfecting my own illustration style. How will I draw faces and bodies? How will I shade? How will I render backgrounds? Will I work with a limited palette or every color of the rainbow? Will my look be whimsical or more realistic? (Look at any of my work and that question has already been answered!) There are so many questions and the answers will arise over time through faithful practice and eager exploration.
"Style has no formula, but it has a secret key. It is the extension of your personality, the summation of this indefinable net of your feeling, knowledge and experience." Ernst Haas
As I begin my illustration journey, I am taking a hard look at children's books that inspire me. Illustrators stick within one particular style and medium; they need to be recognized on sight by their work. There are a multitude of mediums that can be used for illustrating books, from painting to collage to printmaking to drawing and on and on. The trick is to develop a look that will become a visual signature. When publishers match up illustrators to authors (provided the author isn't also the illustrator), much consideration is given to how well the illustrator's style complements the story.
Here's my dilemma: as a mixed media artist, I dabble in all sorts of mediums and techniques. I need to narrow my focus so I can practice and improve my illustration skills. The "jack-of-all-trades" mantra of the mixed media artist just won't work for illustration. Instead, I need to be a "master of one." But which one?
This much I know at this point: I will definitely be working in water-based media, not acrylics. In my sketchbooks, all of my drawings are rendered in traditional watercolors (or water-soluble tools like AquaMarkers) and pen & ink. My first focus in college was scientific illustration with colored pencils so I frequently utilize pencils (wax-based like Prismacolors & water-soluble like Inktense) as well. I think that any collage that enters my illustrations will play a secondary role. I will most definitely not be using photography or sculpture; when others use those mediums for illustration, I love the results but I have next to zero experience with either. I want to at least begin with familiar, comfortable territory. I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel.