Thursday, September 13, 2007

Contemplating Styles & Techniques

I wonder if other artists deal with the subject of their "style" and what medium to use from time to time as I do? As I said in a previous post, I do have eclectic tastes - well, I also have a variety of styles of illustration (as well as new styles I want to explore) and often feel fickle about which one I should concentrate on. Thanks for indulging me as I ramble about this a bit...and by all means, feel free to leave a comment - I'd love to hear your thoughts, your own struggles, etc

Digital - "Cut Out" Style:

IF submission for "Float"

This is the style many of you are probably most familiar with - my layered cut-outs with drop shadows. I have been creating cut-out images since my first version of Painter (v3) back in the late 90's (used it to make cutesy web icons for an OLD website of mine) Here are my earliest cutouts - they have always been fun to make:

Then I picked up Painter again after a several year hiatus, upgraded to v9, and started a blog ostensibly to participate in Illustration Friday and build up my portfolio in 2005. With these illustrations (most of my IF work) I began to expand the cut-out concept and try new applications of it on full illustrations, including these...

IF submission for "Cats"

IF submission for "Sea"

The pros of this style/medium: 1) it's fairly unique, and 2) it's relatively quick and easy (and fun) to produce. The cons of this style/medium: 1) It's cutesy-ness limits it's appeal to the kid's market and maybe some parts of the women's/gift/craft market (but that's OK by me), and 2) it's"uniqueness" may somewhat limit it's wider appeal in general....hmmm. I have started doing some early experimentation with less cutesy - more modern "altered art" looking application of this technique - it's looking kinda promising...I hope to be able to share some finished pieces soon....stay tuned...

Traditional - Colored Pencil/Watercolor/Ink:

This was the staple for my artwork/illustration/product design since the early 80's when I first began my art career - to this day it is still more comfortable to me than digital, though the digital work is almost that comfortable to me now - (and the "undo" function is hard to resist!) My overall drawing style is what it is in all these pieces as well as my digital work -it's cute and whimsical and colorful. I have been heavily influenced by Mary Engelbreit over the years and still struggle to pull away from that and find my own voice - with varying degrees of success (You'll see black and white checks and dots showing up often :o)...

IF submission for "Wisdom"

'95 concept for a Bunny series/greeting card line/whatever

IF submission for "Sports"

Personal illustration

Pros of this style/medium - 1) Marketability? - at least in the women's/gift/greeting card market it still seems to be the most accepted, and 2) I still have better overall control in this medium. Cons - it takes longer, requires more space and is more messy. All this really speaks more to the medium though - what I really may be getting at here is; am I drawing/painting the wrong stuff...? Should I be doing more work like this still life I did for an auction in '02 - more realistic subjects...??

Painting for auction - watercolor and colored pencil

Digital - Realistic/Painterly

Mixed in with the digital cut out style, I created some IF pieces using digital media (Painter v9 still), but doing more realistic

IF submission for "Broken"

IF submission for "Red"

IF Submission for "Reflection" & "Moon"

I have thoroughly enjoyed creating these more painterly pieces - they allowed me to stretch my realistic "muscles" that needed some workout - they did take a while longer however - but still not as long as a traditional media piece of similar complexity. I think there is much more for me to explore here - might be the "best of both worlds" in some ways - the use of digital media to produce more traditional subject matter...??

Misc. - Mixed Media

Acrylic, colored pencil, ribbon, ric-rac, buttons and wire on cork board -
done as a swap with Holli Conger in '05

I LOVE doing this kind of piece - I love using fabrics, trims, etc. along with paint to make a textural collage-y treat - and there is even more that I would love to experiment with in this space (more "altered art" type of work - but with a bit of a whimsical twist). Here are a couple of artists that are doing this kind of work that I admire:

Holli Conger - "Junk-a-Doodles"

Roz Fulcher - Felt/Fabric Art


So, perhaps the real question should be - what am I trying to do with my artwork - what are my goals - what do I want to accomplish...? Here are a few goals/ideas (by the way, my over-arching goal in all I set out to do is to glorify God and encourage and bring joy - that is the primary driver behind all of this) :

Too broad...?? Too scattered...?? Should I select one or two and just focus on those...?? Can I dabble in all of them - if so, will that be all I ever do - dabble...?? Is that OK....?? Some of these are just rhetorical questions - some I think I know the answer to, some I really am struggling with...

It was good for me to write through this - I forget sometimes that one of the great benefits of blogging (or any kind of journal-keeping) is being able to clarify your thoughts and work out your dilemmas and challenges. Thanks for the opportunity to do just that - and as I said before, your comments are always welcome and greatly appreciated....


  1. Ohh... I love the "Broken" piece. I always like your cut out style. It IS cutesy, but that fits the designs you are using if for. I think it is great that you have so many techniques to call upon.

  2. Becky! Your art is so adorable and personal!! I love it! My favorites are the blue birds. Do you make headers? I need one designed for my blog. Can you email me sometime (link on blog) and we can talk about some things.

    Take care and keep up the great art! It is sweet, pure and innocent. It is a reflection of your heart. ME is an inspiration for all of us, but your art is unique.

    xo and hugs to you sweetheart!

    Becky in California

  3. Hi Becky :)
    I know you're not the only one who deals with their "style"...well I know I am at least one other person who does.
    Firstly, everyone has their own style in the way that if a group of people all just drew a square on a piece of paper they would all draw it differently. Then as we artists develop that individual style we try to figure out which medium best works with that style.
    I think the marketability of our illustrations don't depend as much on whether we used a computer or used watercolor to make it. What makes an illustration great is the design of it and, in my opinion, all the little concepts and things we add to it. Neither does the kids market versus women's market depend on if you use computer or not--it depends on the content of the design, and maybe even on the brightness of the colors.
    So I think your most successful pieces--"Sunny Bunny" and the personal "let the morning bring me word..." for example--are successful not because they're watercolor but because they are really designed. By that I mean you thought of the placement of everything and you added relevant cute elements to tie it together. And then your personal touch is the patterns like the dots and stripes (besides the Becky-ish way you draw every element in it).
    So I say if you start with that kind of well-put-together image, then add a little of the cut-out style to some elements (to add its uniqueness and pop-out value), you get something even more interesting.
    I think the best of these you shared is the mixed media birdhouses cuz it shows the best of your style with a lot to look at, then you can add somekind of cut out style to some of its elements.
    I like your cutout style a lot but may just need nore going on in the image as your watercolors have.


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