just ramblings on the topic of style :)

7 min read

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nebezial's avatar

So, after a metric ton of questions about it, i will assemble some PERSONAL  OPINIONS
On the nature of style, its ups and downs... stuff like that
This is based on my own personal experiences, mistakes, dead ends and fuckups.
So take anything i say here with a few grains of salt.
In fact , reason i'm writing this is that i have started getting an unsettling amount of  notes flat out idolizing the imperfect  unfinished mess that is my style, so before it harms people's growth i wanted to share some personal insights i learned over time.  Some through experience, other through conversation with industry professionals.



Style.. the way i would define it is, artistic handwriting.

It is a coveted answer to a visual problem, often imitated but unless build from scratch, rarely comprehended.

If we use the handwriting metaphor, style becomes a natural extension of cutting corners, and working fast.  Just like letters become a distorted form of their learned structure, so do figures, faces, and objects in your artworks.

Often times you will see a beautiful piece of handwriting and you will want to emulate it , or at the very least incorporate it into your own, but unless you know the structure of letters, you will only pick up deformations without truly understanding what made those deformations work.

I was there once. I started off back in the day by emulating 90's style comic artworks. Result was a lack of comprehension.  I could to an extent copy what i saw from artists like Michael Turner, i  could copy those proportions, but as with any  foundation made on distortions, i then added a layer of my own distortions to it.

Suffice to say, the result was less than ideal.


So, my advice,  minimize taking influence from styles.  Focus on working from ground up.  Learn structure, proportions, the basics, and then let your own style form  from strong foundation. Hell, if you have that foundation, then you can indulge in letting yourself be influenced.

Now, style has its upsides and downsides.

Upside is that it is often a distinctive and relatively attractive solution to a visual problem. This is what motivates us to often copy them, again been there done that, and if you do, have fun with it, but remember the foundation :)

Downside is that in its simplicity lies a danger of complacency.  You get too used to the solution that you stop growing. ( this is often temporary).... (hopefully XD)




One of the huge advantages of a style is it's reductivity.  (i don't think that's really a word, but i think you know what it means)

The difference between an illustrator and a storyteller is that an illustrator has the luxury of spending a long time on a single illustration. A storyteller aint got time for that shit!

We got panels to draw, frames to color characters to move from point a to point b.

For that reason the summarized forms achieved through one's personal style help a lot.

You gain speed. You gain productivity.




You often lose subtlety.  What do i mean by that?


Well, let's take a few general large scale styles.  Your  archetypes of styles

Superhero western comic style

Manga style

Disney style.


If you take a look you will notice that repetition of same looking characters is a constant thing



But why is this the case?

Because subtleties get lost over time.

Have you ever noticed how you either have

1- attractive characters (that all kinda look like same character with different hair and clothes)  be it a superhero/superheroine , or a disney princess or an anime...um... hero/villain/random person

2- Distinctive characters ( very intense facial structure with very little subtlety, all chiseled out of a block of pure distinctiveness of features, never has a world seen such a distinctive person!)

3- Or completely out of the left field outrageous characters


Reason for that is that storytelling is a very grindy repetitive process. Be it comics or animation.

Let's say you make a character and decide, it will have slightly droopy eyes and a small bump of the nose. Let's say you insist these are not going to be overt traits, but subtle, portrait like characteristics.

Those two traits over time have a way of evaporating. 

.Subtlety gets lost over time,  like a meaning of a sentence in the game of chinese whispers. 


So this is why you will notice certain visual archetypes being repeated.

 ( again, I am a good example here :))


You see, thing about visual storytelling is, for the most part we are not drawing real people. They are a language of visual symbols. This is why when you look at an anime you see 20 same characters and yet you can still recognize who is who.

Again, exceptions as always, do apply. Many storyteller rely heavily on photo references, or have over time devoted themselves to completely purging  style from their artwork and relied solely on doing pure realism. They are masters of their craft but even their method is often far from perfect as what is overly defined often becomes overly static.


Point is,  there is a time and a place for every one of those approaches.



Again, going back to the beginning, my advice is, start from the grounds up. Learn realism first, understand what is happening and why it is happening before you  work on your way of showing it happening.

If you feel strongly that you want to learn from other people's styles, you can. But just be aware of it's flaws. You are learning from someone who already applied deformations to the form. You will inevitably apply your own layer of deformations and overshoot the golden zone of where deformations look good and end up in the "the hell did i just draw "territory

You will mess up, but you will  learn, trust me speaking from experience.

Over time you will feel your style as your own artistic handwriting and then you will see what you want to do with it.  Step by step you will improve your artistic language, master drawing bodylanguage, expressions , gestures

(still learning)

Master incorporating nuanced looking different characters

(i swear it's on my to do list XD)

Master telling a story .

(also on my to do list...  it's a long list)

It is a hard but rewarding journey.


Ps, if you are now writing an elaborate wall of text telling me all the ways in which i am wrong...then the opening statement may have gone completely over your head XD 

joking aside , try not to make it a wall of text XD easier to reply to shorter stuff
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ARTabstraction's avatar
This is a really good point. It's something I try to tell the kids I work with. Copying someone else's art is copying a copy. It's like the artistic equivalent of playing "Telephone". If you copy a copy of a copy it gets even worse. Building blocks are necessary to really understand what you're doing. I'm only now actually "getting" what I do and why forms are how they are. I wish someone had told me this earlier (in a tone that wasn't completely condescending). I would have improved much more quickly.