Progress is Possible…
About a year ago, I never knew people would be coming to me to illustrate photos of themselves and their loved ones, wanting me to live-sketch at their wedding or wanting to feature my sketches on their brand packaging. I look back at older illustrations I did and wonder how I even possibly got to where I am now.
2009 vs 2018:
In saying that, I believe learning is continuous, and I still truly have a long way to go. Admittedly, it doesn’t quite help that I’ve had to take a break from illustrating to focus on completing my Fashion Design course for this entire year. However, they do say “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and I feel that taking this step back from illustrating has truly brought to light the importance of being persistent in your passion.
Whilst I’ve never been interested in creating hyper-realistic (photo-like) drawings, I did find that when illustrated people continuously, my eye naturally started to become attuned to finer nuances, and I developed a more astute eye-for-detail. It very much became instinctive to identify shapes, lines and colours. I can only imagine how much more this would develop with more conscious creativity over time. Why conscious? It comes back to the saying “practice makes perfect.” This isn’t entirely true. A teacher of mine many years ago claimed that, actually, “perfect practice makes perfect.” Whilst perfection isn’t actually possible, I do feel it is important to try and consciously be aware of what kind of shapes you are replicating, what kind of lines you are following, what colour tones you are using, etc, therefore honing your skills.
Something I find useful in improving shape replication (e.g. head shapes and facial features) is to lightly trace over (with your finger) the part of the reference photo or image you are about to draw. You can do this either over a screen (e.g. computer) or from a printed image, for instance. I find this uses a kind of muscle-memory which helps you better understand the movement and create an accurate silhouette. Please note: although this advice is useful in illustrating from a pre-existing image, I believe that other times, complete freedom in creativity is incredibly enjoyable and much needed!
Another important method of improving as an illustrator is to look at other artists’ and illustrators’ work for inspiration. If illustrating is something you are interested in or passionate about, this is something you likely already do without any encouragement! This is something I was doing before I even knew I was capable of turning it into a business, because I merely found it enjoyable. I would scroll through illustration accounts on Instagram, such as @hnicholsillustration, and feel incredibly awe-inspired by her cute and gorgeous fashion illustrations, each having her distinct style.
“Draw This In Your Style Challenge” (Mine: left) (Holly Nichols: Right)
It’s vital to take mental notes of how your favourite artists do what they do. Spend the time to watch tutorials or even just videos of them in action, again being conscious as to the how. In my experience, upon sleeping on it, some of the techniques tend to subconsciously store themselves into my mind, ready to be exercised and improved at a later date! I want to mention, it’s wonderful to aspire to create like other creators, but to copy the original work of another artist is a huge no-no, and it’s something I’ve always made an effort to avoid, and to inform others about.
What do you think of my progress from the start til now? In which ways do you feel you need to improve as an illustrator? Leave your thoughts or comments below!
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