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The Infinite Quest For a Signature Style

October 28, 2016


The question on how to develop my own illustration style has never previously been an issue I’ve needed to consider. Working in the animation industry I’ve always enjoyed matching appropriate styles to each brief, in much the same way that when writing I would specifically choose individual voices for different stories – in each case there is to me a correct and natural ‘fit’ that will breathe life into the project. I love working this way, working methodically through the reason and motivation for a thing, I feel as though I’m unravelling a strange organic puzzle.


I love to play with different illustration styles. Here are three different interpretations of a character.

So making the move into illustration for children’s books presents an entirely different and unforeseen problem – this is an area where  a signature style is usually considered beneficial – as the calling card by which illustrators are recognised and as the reason why people will buy their artwork. And working this way goes against all of my natural instincts.

There’s also a sense of pressure when I try to commit to a single style –its a creativity killer. Searching the Internet for solutions I found the regular mantras:

 “Stop worrying about creating a personal style. It will come once you stop looking for it”.

“Follow what your hand wants to draw”.

But after working in the animation industry I’ve accumulated a variety of art knowledge, theory and experience and my aesthetic tastes vary. Do I really still want to draw only what my hand wants to draw? The concept of ‘style’ throws up so many questions -and I found discussion on the subject vague and confusing. Finally, I realised what the problem was. I couldn’t find a solution until I answered the obvious question:- What is ‘Style’?

I discovered a really thoughtful breakdown of style by Sycra Yasin. He considers that artists really mean two separate things when discussing style – ‘Inherent Style’, – derived from our innate way of doing things and our influences – and ‘Manufactured Style’ – a style arrived at through trial and error, iteration and deliberate choice making. Yasin suggests that all artists exist somewhere on this style spectrum and then opens up the debate into issues of stylisation Vs realism and how we arrive at those choices. I recommend this as an incredibly useful watch for anyone interested in parsing the artistic process.

As for me, breaking down the process helped resolve my dilemma. I’m limiting my range to include a few, complimentary styles. I’m aiming for cohesion while still allowing the room I need for experimentation. And most importantly, I’m going to stop worrying about it now!



3 Comments leave one →
  1. Buzz About Books permalink
    October 30, 2016 11:37 am

    I really enjoyed this blog and it made me think. I completely get what you are saying Selina. I am full of admiration for you as an artist and your ability to be so flexible in your thinking and ability to do various “styles” One would think this is what is required in this world…but in fact it seems that it is essential to have an identity that shouts out …’ah that’s a Selina Moore’ ….just by looking at the book cover. Perhaps you need a pseudo-nom for the ‘other styles’ as a working illustrator. The same thing happens in pop music. Session singers can sing anything…but you immediately recognise Katie Melua’s voice say, and the truth is she wouldn’t be able to sing in any other style.
    The question then becomes…where does the real talent lie?

  2. October 31, 2016 9:16 am

    I think the answer lies somewhere in-between – it’s important to have a signature style but at the same time acknowledge that that style might not work for every book. Whenever I change the look of the artwork, I’m aware that it impacts on the brand but it’s done for the sake of the book.
    In terms of how that style is developed, I think everyone has their influences but the look of work is something that develops naturally over time. (John)

  3. Selina Moore permalink
    November 4, 2016 9:35 am

    Thanks John and Meg!

    Yes agreed, I will use a pseudo-nom for any wildly different styles. At the moment the styles I add to my portfolio will be variations around a main theme, so that it doesn’t become too disparate, but still provides a bit of variety.. -Selina

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