Don't rush. That's it.
It's not, but it could be. I could just say that and however you take it and interpret it right now, is exactly how you need to hear it.
What I mean right now when I say it is, don't rush with finishing that project. What I mean is, don't rush with finding your own sweet style, enjoy the process because it will only make it better.
I get lots of messages every day from people asking me how I do things, or how they can do them, how to become better or to stay at 'it'. One of the people I got to speak to on an Instagram live, Jackson, asked me how to 'keep going' in his music, and it's a great question because it's something we all deal with in some no matter what we're doing. Even school felt like that for me, why am I doing this anyway? I had whinged at my grandma, and the advice she gave me then is still relevant. It's not necessarily the work. It's the fact you keep at it. Now, at the time, all I heard was 'it's not the work' and used that as a reason not to do the work. But what she meant was, it was the routine and that going back and doing it again, over and over. That's what I was 'getting' from it, and that principle can be applied to everything.
A classical violinist must play for hours every day just to stay at the top of their game, playing scales and arpeggios over and over. Then they also start practising new ways to hold a bow, different sounds they can generate. It's the same for elite athletes and its the same for everyone seeking to have their own 'signature style' their own unique take on something.
So what's this got to do with me and my sweet style? Well, nothing happens overnight. It has never for me, and it will not for you. When you're starting out with a creative project (e.g. learning watercolours, singing, piano, short story writing, writing a new song, or drawing a fan art) it is so easy to get caught up with all the different 'rules' and 'expectations'. But let me tell you a secret... THERE ARE NO EXPECTATIONS! Especially if you keep it to yourself for a little while. Keep it private.
When I'm writing a new song or outlining a new story, I don't run around the house shouting what my idea is (*sometimes I do, this and that is also a-okay) I usually sit and wait. I re-read, and re-examine what I've done and then leave it and go percolate, letting the ideas swim around my mind like crazy Koi during feeding time. This is less frequent with song-writing because my style is to write the songs quite fluidly, usually with a beat already written and ready to go. But I always have a drawer (metaphor) of ideas that I pull from, and they are always little beds of thought or ideas that I have taken time to develop earlier. But these are routines I've developed over years. I have read books on other peoples styles, watched videos, read interviews and generally researched in every sense of the word to be able to know that is how things work for me.
With my creative writing, it's the same. I keep a 'vault' of ideas in all different areas. Sometimes they've come to me, people I noticed on the street, any little ideas., I am constantly writing them down because I WILL FORGET THEM. Then later I go back and organise them into my filing system. Then later again I go back and pick one out and use it as a stimulus, or go there when I'm having a block... all sorts of things. Regardless of what it is, I write the ideas down, then I walk away. I don't rush things, I don't force them. NOW, a caveat. I do not walk away and go watch TV or sit on my phone scrolling through stupid stuff. I 'walk away' to another activity; Art, making, reading, something to help FILL MY CREATIVE WELL so when it's time for me to come back to the task at hand, I have lots of inspiration to draw from.
NB: The capitalisations are more for me than you. Soon there will be more posts addressing said capitalisations and you will be able to click through... Soon, I'm still percolating ;)
So, what has all this waiting, and thinking and returning to work to reassess got to do with style? Well, dear reader, the answer is everything. In this context, style relates to your own particular brand of something, how it looks, how it reads, how it sounds. These are all parts of your style. They exist in the consumption of your work and also in the creation. Which hand you write with is all informing your personal style. Today there is so much pressure for artists (I'm speaking across all art forms here, not just visual) that make you think you need to be like someone, but not them, you need to be you... but enough like them to be recognisable. But still unique. On top of that, 'they' (and who the hell are they anyway?) are telling you you need to be that person, NOW!
But that's impossible. You can't rush that. There is no Magic Syle Secret that is going to make you the most unique and identifiable illustrator, just like there is not Magic Drawing Pen that will make you a better drawer. The only way you'll get better at your thing (or things) is to do, do some more, do some research, then go back to stuff you've done and see how you can do better. You keep doing that, over and over again and soon you will notice things. Perhaps you favour a certain colour palate. Maybe there's a voice you find you're more drawn to listening too or one kind of book or blog you like to read the most. Everything you do you take in and incorporate into your work. Your likes and dislikes will all eventually inform your own way of doing things, and how the finished product looks.
Now saying all that, I'm going to give you my 5 top tips for finding your own Sweet Style:
1. Find out how the experts do it. This means to read, watch and listen to what they say and their finished product. Learn from it. Try it out. Record what does and doesn't work for you.
2. Keep a notebook. Recording things; thoughts, ideas and observations will help future you remember things, and also inspire you. Yes! You can inspire yourself. I do it all the time.
3. Keep trying. If it feels like you're not making any progress, that's great! It means you care enough that with persistence you will actually do it! If you don't care how you're progressing you will never put in the effort required to progress.
4. Keep Tweaking. There is no way to ever get better if you stop. So keep aiming to learn more, gain a new skill or develop deeper understandings. It will make your work sing (literally and metaphorically... depending!)
5. Love what you do. If you love it, it will shine through. Positive self-talk only, please
You're so unique, we all are, that there is no point trying to be someone else... I mean, Oscar Wilde said it "be yourself, because everyone else is already taken" and so did Dr Suess "Today you are you and that's truer than true, there is no one alive who is youer than you!!"
So in conclusion what do I have to say? MAKE MORE ART. Whatever that happens to be, is totally up to you!