Style. Mojo. Flair. Inspiration. Panache. Whatever you call it, an artist’s work isn’t worth looking at without it. But this quality is never accidental: it must be worked on, honed. Leading illustrators say that – just like athletes, ninjas or ping-pong champions – their skill comes from hours of training, coupled with dedicated experimentation.
And there are all sorts of tricks and techniques that they have developed to challenge themselves and keep pushing their style. For Holly Wales (eatjapanesefood.co.uk), it’s all about experimenting: “There always seems like there’s so much to explore!” she says, adding that it would be “impractical to only master one or two materials, a particular colour palette or identify myself with a style.”
She continues: “As I am working I am also learning, about materials, how they interact with each other... about colour, about shape and how to generate imagery with which to build other things.”
Matt Lyon (c8six.com) says that his folksy, retro illustration style – under the name C86 – evolved in a “natural and unforced” way: “I’m a great believer in utilising and building upon strengths and not working in a way to either please others or follow trends.”
Collaboration frees creativity, say Tiptoe Collective (far left). This has led to large-scale illustration projects.
Agent Liquide does not believe in a signature style. His sketches fill notebooks.
Having built a cult following and a raft of commercial clients, he’s branching out. “Over the past year I’ve been developing illustrative typography as a means to try something new.”
He adds: “It’s always interesting to look back at work over a period of months or years and see how the things have evolved that at the time of making I’ve been unaware of.”
French artist Agent Liquide (agentliquide.com) says that looking back is a powerful creative tool. He has never attempted to develop a single style, but he sketches and scribbles into a notebook that he carries everywhere. He says: “It takes [up to] two years to fill one sketchbook. I have a shelf in my studio with all those sketchbooks in chronological order. When I finish one I look through the others – it’s a kind of ritual for me.”