My Random Ruminations about ‘Style’

I want to talk a bit about ‘style.’ I’ve been struggling and thinking a LOT about this topic my entire career. It’s funny how many artists feel very anxious just adding line art to their drawings, using a specific palette or techniques, drawing digitally or traditionally, drawing particular objects, and so on. However, the reasons behind those insecurities are valid. We work in specific industries or want to be perceived from specific perspectives. I don’t like the term ‘style’ and prefer to think of it as a visual preference. Here are my random ruminations based on my experience with it:

  • It will change from time to time.
    I’ve been drawing since I was a kid; my interest, knowledge, and experiences have changed and grown ever since. My early art influences mainly came from the mangas I read. Whenever I feel overwhelmed thinking about a ‘perfect’ style that reflects my identity, I remind myself how useless it is. No one style can reflect my entire journey. I should accept that my old artworks make me cringe but are precious at the same time.
  • To gain artistic freedom, I must earn it.
    When I was starting out, I was very self-conscious every time I delivered my work. My work had to look coherent with my portfolio, or I would feel I had failed. I didn’t dare to experiment with different approaches aside from what I’ve shown on my portfolio site. That anxiety remains, but now I slowly have the courage to explore and show different ways of making art. To gain the clients’ trust that my new alternative approach works, I still have to communicate and prove to them. It was way more challenging in the beginning, and it’s normal. It’s not something I could gain without effort.


  • I don’t have to produce what I love to consume.
    When I thought of an analogy, the memory of how my mom loved to analyze the dishes we ate in the restaurant so she could recook them again at home burst out. It reached the point where my sister said she had to stop doing that. Some dishes were special because we only ate them in restaurants. I adore and even envy some art styles, but I don’t have to replicate them in mine. Some styles look special to me because I can’t replicate them. We all can be unique on our own.


  • I don’t have to put myself in one box.
    People in the industry often unintentionally pigeonhole specific creators into one box. After I drew some foodie illustrations, most of the offers that came to me were food related. However, it’s very understandable. I could keep accepting and making food-related art and be a specialist in that genre, or I could do a handful of food-related projects and move on. Neither of them is wrong. But I chose the second path because I quickly got bored and didn’t want to limit myself. The limitation is only in me.


  • I can shape my visual preferences, but the core is deeper than that.
    When I first being approached by Christy (my agent, friend, and mentor), my art was so much influenced by animation. I ended up revamping my portfolio for an entire year. From that experience, I realized my visual preferences didn’t come magically. It’s not something in my DNA. BUT, albeit I can shape my visual preferences, the core of it is unconsciously influenced by how I perceive life or art (as I mentioned above). That’s why no matter how much an artist influences my art, my art will (or should) never look the same as that artist’s.


  • I don’t have to capitalize on everything I create.
    Some stuff I love to create can remain in my sketchbooks or toolbox forever without turning them into a product or showing them to anyone. It doesn’t mean those things are less valuable. Sometimes things that we keep for ourselves are even more precious.


  • To keep copying is torture.
    When I started pursuing a career in the children’s book industry, I tried to copy the visual preferences of my favorite artist Rebecca Green (nothing was published, though). Instead of studying or analyzing what I love about her art, I tried hard to copy her mark-making precisely, how she draws hands, head, nose, etc. Of course, the result was crap—a pathetic ripped-off version of hers. I probably could get projects by copying Rebecca Green’s work, but it would be torture and I could never be as good as her.


These thoughts are based on my own experiences, so they might differ from someone else. I wrote these not only for the creators who are just starting out, but more as a reminder for my future self. It’s so hard to navigate things when we feel ‘lost.’ But we’ve all been there, and it’s OK to reinvent ourselves.



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