How to find your style in drawing characters?

Character illustration is creating a unique image of the heroes of a book, comic book or zine. Every aspiring illustrator tries to find himself in drawing people, animals or fantastic creatures. Someone has their own style formed under the influence of idols, someone simply draws how he knows how, and someone for years looking for their own lines, colors and shapes. I will tell my story. How I found my style in drawing heroes, which helped me, where I am now striving.

To begin with, as an example, I will show you my latest halfling illustration named Tangar (2019):

Pretty, right? Let’s now talk about technology, the search algorithm, materials, doubts and worries on my artistic path.

How did it all start?

Like all children, I drew something there. Once I went to an art club, where for two hours we drew a still life of a samovar, a teapot and cups on a saucer. All this did not inspire enthusiasm in me, and when in the 9th grade we were asked to draw a hero from a work of art, I redirected this task to my dad, who, as it seemed to me, should be able to draw better than me. Although my dad never painted anything with me, he was also very surprised at my request, tried to deny. But I stood my ground – I certainly do not know how to draw!

And now … when I was already about 27 years old, I worked in the office, and in the evenings I was relaxing at the computer, once I somehow decided to try to draw a human eye. This task seemed to me very difficult, so I found lessons on YouTube how to draw an eye. I began to repeat. And – oh, a miracle! – I got a normal eye like that. 7 years have passed since then, and I still draw. Either eyes, or even whole halflings. I did not attend courses or art institutes, I studied everything myself on YouTube, sites and books.

I started drawing characters very quickly, so it’s fun and exciting. But I didn’t have my own style, and each time the characters came out different, but even then the rudiments of my style were visible in accents and forms. For example, in one of the character’s first illustrations, one can see the emphasis on large ears, disproportionate size of the legs compared to the body, the drawing of cute details of clothes, the associative drawing of the hands and large almost bulging eyes. We will talk a little later why my style turned out to be just that 🙂

What is “your style” in drawing a character?

Your style is recognizability, repeating elements, shapes, colors and even the type of line. When an artist has his own style, his drawings speak for themselves, you can no longer sign them. They themselves are the signature, they show authorship. In principle, the artist can own different styles, can copy someone. In this case, the work can even be called “stylish.” But this style can be implicit and non-author. And just the “style” in itself. In this style, it will be difficult to guess who the author is, you will be guessing – this or that. And it even kind of looks like Van Gogh.

Agrolithm of finding your own style in drawing:

  • Draw a few characters how it goes. The bigger, the better. Lay them out side by side and see how they look alike and how they differ. Find what you like in your drawings and what you don’t like.
  • See what other illustrations you like, what you like. Search for authors on Instagram and on different sites, in books. To distinguish from their technique what you definitely want to use for yourself and what you just like, but you don’t want to add it to your drawings. For example, I found for a lot of interesting things with the lineart technique at the Inktober festival.
  • Choose art materials that allow you to develop your style. Each artist likes something different. In order to select materials, you need to try everything that is. You can go to an art store, paint with different chicences. You need to understand for yourself how exactly you want to draw – with clear, hard lines or soft blurs? Do you want to use bright colors or pastel? Do you like to draw with pencils, pens, markers, paints, pastels or something else? The final look of your characters greatly depends on the choice of material.

What art materials helped me find my drawing style?

From the first steps in drawing, I realized that I like the clear lines from which the image is created. This approach is called lineart.

This effect can be achieved even with a regular ballpoint or gel pen, which I started to draw. Gradually, I learned about isographs, and a big love story began for technical pens. Now I have three RotRing isographs with pen size 1.0 / 0.5 / 0.1 – this is even more than enough. The most popular of them are 0.5 and 1.0, and I also sometimes use a thin 0.1, but rarely. And if you choose which isograph to buy first, it will be uniquely 0.5 – an absolutely universal beautiful clear line, just to illustrate the characters!

My next tool is a brushpen (Pentel company). It’s a kind of ink pen, but a silicone brush on the end. With the help of brushpen, you can draw lines of different thicknesses, fill in different ink there … well, buzz!

Recently, I really liked the Copic Sketch markers, they can create absolutely incredible beauty color transitions and combinations. Rice markers are pleasant, as in childhood. The color palette is crazy. But I would not recommend starting the search for your style with markers, because, firstly, it is an expensive pleasure, and secondly, learning how to draw well with markers is a separate difficult task.

If you want to immediately experiment with colors, then you can use watercolor, gouache or acrylic. These paints dry quickly, not too expensive, they last for a long time. Or immediately go to the experiments in digital and draw on the tablet. I just love to draw with a stylus! I will soon make a post about the best drawing apps on the tablet for Android and iOs. Just to find your style, digital drawing is a great option!

Is it possible to become an illustrator if you do not know how to draw?

As you already understood, this is just my case. So yes, it is possible. There are, of course, a couple of nuances:

  • need a great desire and courage;
  • you need to spend a lot of time (several years).

In principle, that’s all. If you think that you can’t draw, it still doesn’t mean anything. Yes, you may not draw very skillfully, but somehow absolutely everyone, even the smallest children, knows how to draw. So you should not be greatly afraid of the fact that you have little experience and knowledge in the field of illustration and drawing. Drawing is a skill, and it can and should be developed through the study of theory and through practice.

Theory comes in handy at the very beginning, when you don’t know enything at all. To at least a little understand how others draw so cool. It turns out that there are technologies, all kinds of techniques, science. Of course, you can do a lot of intuition, experiment. But if you just want to draw something specific “like”, then following a certain logic and making an effort, you will definitely succeed.

Drawing / illustration is an illusion that the author creates to deceive the viewer. People have a similar perception of space, objects, colors. So, through certain forms and shades, we can call or create an image in the head of another person. Even with the simplest lines, we can already tell the viewer that the sun is drawn here, and here is the little man.

Realism or minimalism?

In the illustration, it seems to me that minimalism wins. Hyperrealistic illustration may look strange, but minimalistic illustration is familiar to everyone else with children’s books and comics. Of course, there is no problem making the character picture realistic. Here, everyone chooses what is closer to him. Here, your drawing skill also plays a role. For a novice artist, it’s easier to draw minimalist, because making a realistic drawing is much more complicated and takes more time. So it will be harder to look for your style. It seems to me that it is better to first find yourself in a simple, more minimalistic way. And then it will be possible to complicate it, add volumes, shadows and penumbra, glare, and so on.

Copying someone else’s style is a good or bad idea?

I think this is a normal idea to try drawing in different styles for training. The main thing is that you are not completely captured by someone’s specific style, so that you do not become someone’s inept copy. You are still an original, so it’s better to develop your own vision. You can take some separate elements for yourself, maybe someone interestingly came up with portraying the eyes or mouth. You can take this idea to yourself, but attach it to your nose and eyebrows, for example. That is, somehow creatively process someone else’s experience, and not just “lick” someone else’s creativity under a carbon copy.

Where to get inspiration for drawing?

I am inspired by the drawing process itself. I just like to pen on paper or with a stylus on the screen. It is not known in advance what will happen. There is curiosity and interest in this. Just starting to draw something. I look that looms. It happens that nothing concrete is obtained. But it happens that it turns out a picture, illustration or drawing, which I can publish on the Internet or put up for sale. I’m not looking specifically for inspiration, I just keep my art materials ready, and when I want, I draw. And if there is no desire, then you can do something else.

Which characters are best “sold”?

It seems to me that completely different works can buy. Someone needs a strict style, someone needs a fantasy. For an artist, it is better to become original, draw in some style or several styles, publish your work. If there is some best selling style in drawing, then I would think that these are positive, brightly pastel, clearly drawn works, characters with emotions, some kind of chip. Recently I met an illustrator who draws rather gloomy characters, something so dull-gotty. He painted and thought that certainly no one would want to buy it. And they bought, there was a big order. So it’s pretty hard to guess. You just have to go your own way.

Tired of everything – change your style?

Your style in drawing is a privilege, not a cage. If suddenly you are tired of drawing like this, then paint differently. It happens that you start a project, say a book where you made all the first drawings in the same style, and in the middle of the project you want to change the style. This may be the problem. If you are undertaking a large project, then you need to somehow try to sustain it in a common style. It is possible to mix your drawings from different styles so that there is no obvious transition – the floor of the book is so, the floor of the book is different. Here you need to reflect, maybe just finish the project and then change the style.

And if I don’t have a style at all?

Then just paint for yourself! Maybe your style will manifest itself over time. Or maybe not. Having your own style is not a panacea at all. You can just draw this way and that. I think that most artists and illustrators on Earth do not have any clear style, they are looking for themselves, experimenting, moving from one form to another. Research and search – this is very interesting!

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