Monday, August 20, 2012

Finding your voice

I have a writing group that has an illustrator in it, and not long ago we had a discussion about voice in illustration. I like drawing and I'm reasonably good at it (and have even earned money with it), but at the present moment, I'm a professional writer and a person who likes to draw on the side for fun. But I think the idea of voice works in much the same way in both text and art.

Because I'm learning about illustration, I do things like look at online sites where potential illustrators post samples of their work. I like looking at them all together because, well, I enjoy looking at picture books--but I'm also there to learn stuff. And one thing I've noticed is that an awful lot of illustrators fresh out of art school draw in the exact same style as everyone else. It might be different than how illustrators drew ten years ago--but there is still a sameness. They might be well done, but some of the artists haven't found their own style yet. My crit partner and I were trying to figure out what made our styles our own, and we came up with the same thing--at some point we had tried to draw the way everyone else was drawing, but after a while, it felt fake, and so we gave up and just drew what we really wanted to.

What I've always loved drawing is realism, especially people, especially kids. I can appreciate Rothko and I can feed my soul on impressionistic landscapes, but the thing that really gets me excited when it comes to my own drawings is people. Their expressions. The lovely way their bodies move and bend and reveal what they may be thinking. My art teacher in high school was frustrated with this (in her opinion) limited view of things. So I tried to draw in other styles. But it all comes down to this: I will always draw best the things I care about most, and I really can't draw in someone else's style, even if I like to look at it.

So that's one of the keys, I think. You go out and read and learn as much as you can about as many different kinds of voices there are. But in the end, you have this individual thumbprint that isn't quite like anyone else's, and once you've developed your craft, you need to listen to that little voice, you need to do the best that only YOU can do. And then you find your voice. It's that thing that happens when you forget about trying to have a style, and just do the very best thing YOU can do, in the best way you know how, in the way that only you can do. That's voice.