Taking your own creative pulse like this can reveal fascinating traits, and also areas you need to improve on.
Comic artist Julia Scheele charts the evolution of her style on her blog (juliascheele.co.uk). Her technique is simply, “drawing, drawing, and drawing. Nothing limbers up your lines and makes them look more effortless than drawing all the time.”
Julia Scheele drew inspiration from The Magnetic Fields’ album, 69 Love Songs (right). Dan Matutina’s Amateurs (far right) represents the album launch of a new band.
But she constantly challenges herself: “Every time my drawings frustrate me I switch to another way of drawing it – that usually helps,” she explains. In the past two years, she has explored graphics tablets, inks, paints and pencils.
Others boil their style down to a few essential principles: for Matt Dent (mattdent.com), this is an emphasis on “playful and experimental” work that crosses boundaries from coin design to typographic illustration. “I like design that makes me smile, design that’s simple, design that gets across a message with a minimum amount of fuss,” he says.
Micah Lidberg (micahlidberg.com) also emphasises the message, rather than the medium. “I think it’s helpful to see illustration as just another way of talking. I like to say things in a lot of different ways and I like to work in a lot of different ways,” he says.
Amsterdam-based Laszlito Kovacs’ retro-style graphics are a popular choice for desktop wallpaper and are now popping up on iPhones and iPads.
But in recent years he’s developed a distinctive style: “I wanted to work in a way that acknowledged the flatness and simplicity of a drawing but could also convey detailed, subtle information,” he says. “Those were the qualities I wanted to move towards and my style was, and continues to be, an outgrowth of that effort.”
The key thing about experimentation is that sometimes it will – and should – fail. The trick is knowing how to pick yourself up again. Philippino artist Dan Matutina (twistedfork.me) says cheerfully: “I spend time on seemingly useless projects and experiments. Some of them come out okay, while a lot fail, only a few comes out really good. That’s the fun part of it.”
By its nature, creative exploration means going beyond the easy and familiar, exposing yourself to new ideas and techniques. For US illustrator Von Glitschka (vonglitschka.com), this exploration took him halfway around the world to develop this. Normally at home in boutique design agencies, he was intrigued when a friend mentioned his work with a Kenyan charity.
Before long, he had been invited on an trip to film a documentary.
“A friend of mine said years ago that if something makes you feel uncomfortable, pushes your comfort zone, then it’s a good indication you need to move on it. And that’s what I did,” he explains. Although he went to Kenya for personal reasons, he found the trip hugely stimulating artistically – and not just when it came to developing the graphic package for the documentary, and accompanying books.