Bad sportsmanship?
Sure.
Chainsaws?
Why not!
Nothing can
possibly go wrong.


Comic Now
Available
In Print!

First Second
Prudence Shen
Faith Erin Hicks


Faith Erin Hicks

Page 180

Posted by Faith Erin Hicks | February 1, 2013

And Charlie’s dad uses his beard to grumpy perfection! Yes. Good job, Charlie’s dad. Also, Nate is speedy.

I’m not really sure how this blog post is going to turn out, because I feel like it’s a subject I’m still learning about, but I wanted to write down my thoughts on this subject, and see what you guys think and maybe we can all have a merry discussion!

On drawing styles.

So “style” is something pretty nebulous. When I refer to someone’s “style” of drawing, I’m usually doing it to categorize someone, like “that guy sure has an awesome cartoony drawing style,” or “that girl’s artwork is strikingly realistic! But she also manages to draw people who aren’t all stiff and stuff! That’s proper!” But sometimes I think style is something more like a feeling you get from someone’s drawings, something that is a culmination of their likes and dislikes as an artist, their technical skills and what they appreciate as a creative person.

And the extra weird thing? I think most artists change a lot, making the idea of “style” even more nebulous.

There are some outliers. I look at Jaime Hernandez’s work, and at first glance, he’s been working in a very similar mode of drawing for the 30 odd years Love & Rockets has been around. But his storytelling shifts a lot, and he’s amazingly experimental with how he tells his stories. Not necessarily so much in how they look (there is, of course, some evolution of how he draws over the 30 years, but Love & Rockets is a remarkably consistent looking comic for one going on so long), but in how the telling of the story is approached.

I personally believe that art is alive, that it changes and grows and evolves with the artist as they are changing and growing and evolving as a person. The things that were pressing and important to me as a creative person when I was in my early 20s are not necessarily the same things I’m so concerned about 10 years later. But now I have new concerns, ones that never even crossed my mind 10 years ago, and my art reflects that. And I’m sure I’ll be different and my art will be different in another 10 years.

The art I like changes too, and that affects the style I draw in. I gain new influences (Manga! Naoki Urasawa! Hiromu Arakawa!) and shed old ones (Joe Madureira, webcomic artists whose work I no longer follow). I become more aware of comics outside the narrow realm of what is published in North America, I see people experimenting with format on the web and want to try it in print. It all affects me.

There is also the technical end of “style,” and that is something I’ve only recently begun to understand: There is one truth for me in drawing, and that is if I am seeking to master drawing something, I must look at it, must try and figure out how it works (how a body is wired together, how a person moves naturally), and I must apply that knowledge to my drawing. And until recently my weak technical skills forced me to fill the gaps in my knowledge of drawing with “style.” As in, “I do not know how to draw this thing, so I will guess at what this think looks like, ink it in an interesting manner and ta da! STYLE. This thing looks this way because of STYLE.”

I’ve spent the last few years rigorously clobbering my technical skills in an effort to improve them, and I feel I’ve come out the other side with a disheartening knowledge of how much farther I have to go, but also a better grasp on my own personal STYLE. And I did it by improving my drawing skills, not by seeking to draw things in a particularly unique way.

It was very strange to watch it come together! I am a terrible life-drawer, but over the last few years I put in hours at a lifedrawing class, and watched with surprise as I stopped drawing what I *thought* a body looked like, and started drawing what a body *actually* looked like. Still made some super ugly drawings, but I was really surprised at the improvement.

And it improved my cartooning by leaps at bounds, too! Suddenly I could draw jeans in a way that I could see the leg under the fabric. I could make eyes bug out of a character’s head because I knew where to place them in the skull. I understood the skill behind good cartooning, and as a result, my “style” became smoother, more attractive, something I am proud of improving.

I think Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a nice indication of the advancement of my technical skills, and with them the improvement of the appeal of the style I draw in. It is influenced by manga (Urasawa! Arakawa!) and Jeff Smith, as always, but it also has growing technical skill behind it, skill I have earned.

I get lots of questions about “style” and improving one’s “style.” I say improve your drawing and style will follow! Be open, be influenced by many interesting things, and above all, learn to draw things as they actually are, not how you think they are.

… hm, well, I hope that ramble made sense. For a probably more cohesive essay, check out Scott Wegener’s post on adjusting/improving his style on his ongoing comic Atomic Robo.

12 Comments

This is such an excellent blog post! I recently spoke with a group of kids in a college art class and [tried to] articulate some of these points. I actually mentioned your work and encouraged them to look at it to see how hard work via practice can make the work you do improve by leaps and bounds (and style just finds a way to reveal itself).
It’s also kind of bizarre that I saw this post immediately after finding this quote I saved on my phone a while ago ( I can’t remember where I read it, but I believe I attributed it to the correct person…):
“Create things that are honest, don’t trust a style.” -Thomas Eichmann


Your post was a great read! I’ve been wanting to draw more and draw really well and I have been stressing out about it a bit. But the way you describe style and your experience in drawing makes sense! I think I need to relax and have fun with recreating things with my own imagination. thanks for the post and your awesome comics! They are truly inspiring but just as much fun!

I also love Hiromu Arakawa! She is amazing!

And I love how Mate doesn’t seem to mind getting in trouble with other people’s parents! I will definitely buy this and Friends With Boys…when.I.have money again.


Excellent post, Faith.

I just came back from the SCBWI Winter conference in NY, and one of the talks (by tha amazing Shaun Tan) was about style. And how it didn’t matter how the artist drew something, as his deep style would shine through.

So, adding my two cents, I guess that an artist’s style is constantly evolving, although that person’s style will shine through. And improving one’s skills will help to show the style in a better way.