Does a professional illustrator need a “style”?

Note: This is a question I struggled with for a long time and I know we all have different opinions .. Please contribute to the conversation by leaving comments below. Please keep the discussion positive and constructive. Thanks n8w

What do you mean by  “style” ?

The way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed:
The combination of distinctive features of literary or artistic expression, execution, or performance characterizing a particular person, group, school, or era.
Sort; type:
  • The way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed:
  • Sort; type:
  • Feeling/Tone

A lot of artists have trouble committing to one style  because it  goes against an artist’s nature of exploring, being curious and not limiting their expression to one voice. I struggled with this question for a long time.  After working a number of years as a designer and art director  it became clear to me why having a “style” would help my illustration career.

First, I would just like to show you some illustrators with very strong styles.

Jordin Isip




Eric Comstock

16_ufo_mobile jack_lewis lucky_star robot_friends_2

Red Nose Studios aka Chris Sickels




Kevin Dart




Silvia Dekker




Glenn Jones

“Style” isn’t only  visual … for example, when you think of Glenn Jones you think of creative funny concepts.




Modern Dog

Now I would like to show you some work examples from the world renowned design studio Modern Dog. Illustration is a huge part of what makes Modern Dog who they are.  They create 99% of their illustration work  in house and have a wide range of illustration styles.






So you are probably wondering “How does Modern Dog have success with so many styles?” To understand their success you just need to look at the typical process. They are playing more roles than just an illustrator.  Most of the time they are a design agency that hires themselves as an illustrator .. and they choose the best “sytle” for the project.


NOTE: I know this process varies .. but for the sake of simplicity I broke it down to 4 simple stages

#1 – Idea

The idea usually starts as a text document … it could be a strategy brief, creative brief, power point slide outlining marketing/business objectives, etc
The “Idea Person” could be an Editor, Marketeer, Creative Director, Writer, etc

#2 – Art Direction

The art director is like a bridge between the “Idea Person” and the designer.  They outline the artistic/visual direction that supports/reinforces the idea.

#3 – Designer’s Toolbox

Based of the art director’s vision the designer chooses possible illustrators that reinforce the art directors vision.

#4 – The Illustrator

The illustrator brings the idea to life


When an illustrator is approached by a client  what is the client usually looking for?

They are usually looking for one of the following:

  • Feeling (subconscious) – visual aesthetic, a tone, a mood
  • Thought (conscious)-  a creative way to visualize a concept, idea, subject matter
  • Subject Matter – an expert in a specific subject matter  (ie: famous people, medical illustration,  etc)

How can they find it?

  • Consistency / Predictability
  • As an illustrator, art directors hire you because they want to give a project a specific tone, feeling and they need to be able to count on your work being a certain way for their project, campaign, etc. It’s kind of like choosing a font.  Imagine if you bought a Metallica CD and it was full of acoustic Bolivian folk music .. you would be kind of confused??? Art directors usually don’t want to play “style roulette”. This doesn’t mean you can’t do other styles…it just means when you present them to clients have consistency between the bodies of work. A number of illustrators, writers, and musicians work under various names for this vary reason.

For example, I have two names I work under. ‘Alexander Blue‘ style feels wacky, colorful, geared for kids.

Alexander Blue

Whereas, the ‘Nate Williams’ style has a more hand drawn naive feel.

Nate Williams

I recommend reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries and Laura Ries for an introduction to branding.

Does having a “Style” = never changing, never growing?

  • No, it just means have consistency between the bodies of work you present. (ie Nate Williams, Alexander Blue … both me,  just grouped accordingly)

“Style” Related Polls

Here are some style related polls I’ve conducted on









Nate Williams

  • Germán Werner

    Great post, Nate! Do you think the same applies for designers?

  • Eric

    When I was an art director working for an advertising agency I always looked for style first and then gave the chosen illustrator the assignment. I would have been totally surprised if the illustrator came back with work that did not represent his portfolio.

    To give my 2 cents to the question above. I think that a designer can have a strong style in his/her portfolio but what really matters is that the solutions need to always be unique and interesting.

  • Inayaili de León

    I guess a “style” is something that you may or may not achieve throughout your career, but a good “style” is probably not something that you actually think about — it's the fruit of your experience and of finding your voice.

    Very often the most well known and inspiring artists have found their own “style”, but that doesn't mean they can't or won't do work that goes in a completely different direction. For example and

    Very nice post :)

  • Bob Flynn

    Thought provoking question, though I suspect most folks land on the YES side. I especially liked seeing the polling results from illustration mundo.

    I agree with Inayaili that a style shouldn't be too conscious—that you should arrive it at through exploration. And you should allow it to change and evolve as you grow. Most folks can see a progression when they look back 5 or more years. But I disagree with the notion that every style necessarily dates—or becomes outdated (in some ways, obsolete). Maybe over the course of 100 years, but nothing about say Dr. Seuss feels dated to me. It depends on whether or not you are locked into a trend.

    I've always looked to Richard McGuire as someone who has a wide-ranging style. But you can always tell when you look at his artwork that it's him. And I suspect most folks know they're gonna get that “something” when they hire him. That's obviously why a style is useful—but it's consistency that is important. So that someone can hire you and get what they want.

  • danielfishel

    Being an illustrator means you are working on two fronts. One being the front that you are an artist, communicating certain idea's through your work. The other front is being a small business owner, which is where the idea of branding yourself as an identity, and marking a style comes along.

    When I was in undergrad, I had lengthy discussions on the subject of how one finds a style. People tend to get hung up on having the right style for todays market, and being afraid of copying someone elses style. In my opinion, we all have a style wither we like it or not. How I draw is my own signature. I can't change it, I've tried. I've obsessed to try to draw and paint realistically because I thought that was what illustrators did and failed to due to my lack of skill. I also tried to draw like an outsider artist/naive artist and failed at that because they didn't look intentional. So I stuck to my guns and kept drawing and developing my own voice based on my own interest in print making.

    Also, when people start to add layers of personal frames reference, it adds something else to the illustration itself. Trying to find a way to put yourself into an illustration makes a better piece than trying to figure out what the teacher or art director would want to see in the piece. It also makes a piece your proud of, and want to stand by.

  • Josh McKible

    Great post. This is something I struggle with…. there's what I'm know for, what I enjoy and what I'd like to try and they all constantly rub against each other. My style has changed over the last few years, although I guess I should say it has evolved. I do think that if I wanted to do something radically different I would have to invent a new persona for that, much like you've done with Alexander Blue.

    Thanks again for the great post.

  • acerriteno

    All it depends of what do you really want and how do you feel about it as a professional illustrator, apparently an illustrator than can be known for a pretty strong style will be limited to certain types of jobs versus to an illustrator who can provide and pretty much mimic any visual style, but there is a big consideration of how this will impact in the production process and life quality as a creative person. For example, along the years working with a defined style your work will be easier, quicker and with more quality because the practice, so in some way you will have the capacity of deliver a better work in a shorter time and also considering if you make a name because your style the client (Art Director) will have already a solid idea of how the work will look at the end which it resumes of having already the 50% of the job done, I mean he is approaching to you because your work and he knows he wants “your style”. So in this case there is much less client's feedback and will give you the chance to jump in to the next project quicker plus you'll make a client happy with less efforts (…maybe).

    But all we know sometimes is difficult to have several works in the pipeline and maybe offering several styles will provide you a bigger range of work and here is when you have to decide what really matters to you as a professional illustrator. I know a lot of illustrators are in the field because the romantic idea of making a living creating art and enjoying life + work, all in one combo and maybe having an “unique” style will be the shortest way to reach the goal. Again, it depends of what makes you more happy and what your skills are.

    In the meantime I'm going to keep working in building and refining what I like to think is my “own” style.

  • Guest
  • santiagouceda

    If you are just getting started, yes, I think having a style will definitely help you get noticed by art directors. As you get established and can afford to, I would recommend experimenting and trying out different styles. You run the risk of being pigeon holed if your style and subject matter doesn't change over time. After seeing the samples Nate posted, I have to say that (without sounding disrespectful to the illustrators being shown here) that I have seen a couple of them do the same thing over and over again…their style hasn't changed much in years, I'm not seeing any growth.

    I was also surprised from the poll results about style vs concept, more illustrators think stlye is more important than concept. I disagree, concept comes first in my opinion, it makes the work stronger. I do illustration and also work as a designer so I hire illustrators and the first thing I look for is the ability to come up with strong concepts, style is important too, I need to make sure someone is going to be able to come up with interesting concepts for the magazine I design. Style alone only gets you pretty pictures, illustration should be more than that.

    So… I think it's all about balance, have a (or more than one) style that is recognizable, but make sure there are strong concepts behind that style.

  • Nate Williams

    I think designers have a wider range .. but yes .. lots of designers are know for specific niches .. it may be a wider range like they work with wine companies, kids market … or they specialize in high tech companies … I think is a great example .. they do amazing work .. but I think their success is based on their niche.

  • Nate Williams

    Very insightful …. I hadn't thought of that .. a great style reflects your approach and over time you have addressed so many situations your style/approach becomes more clear.

  • Stephanie Glaros

    As an AD, I need to know what to expect when final art arrives. I hire artists primarily based on how well their style fits the tone of an article. I once hired an artist who is well-known for his highly-rendered acrylic paintings, and when final art arrived, it was a sketchy watercolor. Way too soft for the politically-themed article I hired him to illustrate. There's nothing wrong with working in multiple styles (as N8 does), but please don't “experiement” with a new style when working on a commissioned image. Styles evolve, naturally, but just make sure the way you are marketing yourself is current.

  • Ellen van Engelen

    I think people sometimes are too hung up on this style thing.
    It seems more important to me to see somebody's personality then whether the nose is always drawn in the same way.
    My boyfriend for example is great at working with paint, pen, illustrator and people who don't look properly often mistake these different techniques for different styles and don't understand why he does this. But if he's good at all these things and enjoys them, why should he limit himself to just one technique? He always knows very well what to do for which client and how to satisfy them. I also think the work often benefits from art directors who are not too afraid of letting go some of their control and trusting an illustrator's judgement.

  • mrbiggs

    It's interesting to me how Illustrators are taught that it's necessary and designers/art directors are taught that it's anathema to have their own style. The Modern Dog examples above really speak to that, don't they?
    I suppose it also depends on what “style” is. How my line looks? What colors or materials I use? Or is it, like some illustrators, a way to see things. Christoph Niemann, I think, can make illustrations out of leaves and sticks that still scream Niemann.
    But mainly I agree, yeah. Art directors give sideways glances when we want to “try something new.”
    Lastly, as an addendum, when I taught I was very ambivalent about students developing a “style” of come kind. On one hand, our curriculum demanded that they graduate with a cohesive and consistent portfolio but on the other hand I encouraged them (and it was natural to them) to try new things and new media. I think at some point one develops a way to draw things, a way to see things, a visual vocabulary of pictures and images and ideas. Boink. Style.

  • andrew rice

    When we begin the creative process were looking for someone (an artist) to fill that void in an art directors head. Having a style is extremely important for the “void” to be filled accurately. I am sure there are exceptions to the rule, as in anything… but for a single source artist… one CONSISTENT style is critical for the audience to understand the artists' perspective. It would be analogous to an ad campaign having different tag lines… It could be done, you just making it harder for people to figure out your message. Selling your style is NO different that selling a pair of running shoes. Stick to brand message! And in this case, brand message is the style!

  • nickpatton

    When I graduated college, my portfolio was a mess. There was no consistency. I had realistic landscape paintings next to stylized whimsical images. It became pretty clear to me that I needed to have a clear and consistent style that would define my work. When style became important to me, I was a little annoyed while remembering how often instructors at school would tell me not to focus on finding a style. I have always experimented with new techniques and media, but searching for a style is different entirely. A style is really a reflection of our persona. When a visual artist has found their “voice”, it means they have discovered a unique way of presenting information and themselves to the world visually. And just like a voice, a style is unique to the artist. Some singers sound alike, but even the slightest nuances in their delivery can make them unique. So it is with artists. Style represents the individual. Modern Dog, is not an individual it is several individuals. It's a design/illustration studio basically, and as such, their diversity is a selling point. It's a good example of why we should all band together and bring back illustration studios. It's not a good example, in my opinion, of why an individual artist should not have a unique style. I think Nate was just looking for a counter-argument for the nay sayers. It's tough to find a good counter-argument when one doesn't really exist.

  • bernie

    Yes, definitely! I hire an illustrator who's style[s] best communicates the essence of the brand I'm designing for. Does this mean an illustrator should only have one style, no. That would only limit their creativity. An artist needs to evolve and so should their style

  • annagoodson

    I think that having a distinctive style is crucial for an illustrator.
    It kind of reminds me of the saying ” what you see is what you get.”
    Personally I like to see consistencies in the work, especially if I am looking at someone's portfolio for the first time. I want to get a sense of what that illustrator is about.
    Now that's not to say that an illustrator must stay in one style for ever. Some do and some change and evolve. Its like having that same hair cut for years then one day you just get sick and tire of seeing it. I have illustrators in my gang who have changed their style over the years and it's worked out just fine. I just strongly recommend that if you like to work in more than one style that you keep them completely distinct from one another. Another thing you can do that I know others have done and that is go by “pen” name for the other style. Remember when an art director hires you its because they saw your work and liked what they saw. If you are showing one style and then working in another it can be misleading.
    Today because of the internet there are so many styles for an art director to choose from. Make it easy for yourself and work on a style that you love and you feel best describes the kind of work you want to do. Don't ever promote a style that you think is popular or copy a style that seems to be the flavor of the month. In the end you will only be cheating yourself.
    Be original, do what you love and stay consistent. Oh and don't forget to sign your work!
    Anna Goodson
    Anna Goodson Management

  • Brian Raszka

    What it comes down to is that having a distinct style is just easier to market.
    I have changed the style I've worked in several times over the years. Illustrators are artists and seek to develop our art and try new things-it's a natural process as an artist. Just market one style at a time.
    Designers, in contrast are tasked with designing for a product/service/brand and have to adapt. Designers or Design firms that have a distinct style would have to, I believe change their style every few years just like an illustrator to attract new business. Just depends on what type of work you want to do. As a designer, not having a distinct style can result in getting more and different types of work. Having said that, I think no matter which way you go, we all have our own style. It just comes out of doing work. It's the way we see the world, how we want our work to look, how we solve problems.

  • Alex Dukal

    … and a professional illustrator is also an artist? or just a “drawer”, an operator who draws what art directors want?
    From my point of view, to be a professional illustrator could mean very different things, according to “who” is the illustrator, the objectives that he has and the industry in which he moves. In an ideal world the personal style should be a condition “sine qua non”, like your ID.

  • Ellen van Engelen

    Of course it's important you can see an illustration is done by a certain person. But if you just see your illustrations as a brand you need to market, I don't think you're on the right track. Of course you have to let people know you're out there, but the main reason you're in this business is because you like to draw, so draw a lot and you'll find your voice. Instead of picking out some style and spending most of your time marketing it.

  • Chrystal Falcioni

    It's absolutely important to have a distinct style and essential to provide clients work that reflects it. A client is hiring you based on your portfolio and can only expect you'll give them an illustration that reflects what they see. With very limited exceptions (perhaps only with the most conceptual work [niemann fits in here] for the exceptions), a client is hiring you for the combination of your style and your interpretation/ideation skills. If you remove your style from the equation to try something new on the client's dime (without discussing it with them first) you can put the client in a bad spot. They may have to kill the job and hire someone else, or with little time left they could be forced to run the work even though it has not met the expectations of the editorial or creative team. As a last resort they might have to resort to an immediate band aid such as an all-nighter typographic solution or gasp, stock photography. Illustrators and photographers may not realize that when art comes in off-target it generally involves a number of emergency tactics and meetings to resolve, adding to the burden of the creative team's rushed schedule at deadline time. Memories like that can last a career, and rarely will an art director take another chance with an illustrator they feel has let them down.

    Art director's have bosses too, bosses that hold them to the overall success of the magazine in their eyes (not yours). A failure on the art director's side in meeting the expectations of an assignment is going to have cumulative consequences, so they are going to avoid situations where they don't know what they will get.

    That said I don't think illustrator's styles should remain completely rigid over time or they will 'date' faster. I suggest doing personal work for self expression and exploration whether it will 'qualify' to be part of your portfolio or not. Use that exploration to inform your illustration work and encourage it's growth subtly over time.

    Nate's comment about Modern Dog is right on. As a design firm they can decide what illustration style best suits a project and either hire an illustrator or create the illustration themselves. So for people with strong design skills and desire to avoid one style of illustration, having a small design firm may be a better shingle to hang than that of 'illustrator'.

  • Raffaella Cosco

    I'm a professional illustrator, I work full time and I not have a “style”, indeed, I say that “I have many styles” …
    Most of the illustrators I know has a style, but do not have a job.
    If I start to draw with only style, I don't have a job.
    You say : “A lot of artists have trouble committing to one style because it goes against an artist's nature of exploring, being curious and not limiting their expression to one voice” …
    I disagree, because most of the artists has a style and one voice but they not want to change. Indeed, most artists do not work.
    I illustrate sometimes a children's book of 70 tables aged 3/6 years old, colored to ink and Ecoline, and just end up (after 3 months of work) I start a book, colored to PC for boys 13/14 years, with a style completely different. It's not easy to change abruptly style, after 70 illustrations . It's not easy to overcome myself.
    It' s a profession but also my passion, because I love to draw.
    And I love to draw everything and if I'm given the opportunity, I drawing also in other way.
    For me this is a gift, that is the gift to express myself and is beyond the style.
    In your case, having a style helped your career ,but you're one in a thousand, do not think you are lucky?

    excuse my bad English
    only a few months ago I decided to study english seriously
    Ciao ! :o)

  • Germán Werner

    Oh yeah, you had told me about those guys but i had never actually seen their website… truly amazing work!

  • dave_markes

    Speaking from an ADs point of view, I think the answer to that
    question lies in what kind of work the illustrator is looking for. In
    the case of an illustrator looking to create his/her own business and
    to work for a variety of firms/agencies having a particular style that
    has been perfected over the years will make that illustrator more
    marketable as some of the previous posts have stated. When I'm
    searching for a partner to work with for a project I almost always
    have worked out a general direction that the team has agreed on ahead
    of time. I'll always be more comfortable hiring an illustrator with
    several pieces in the style I'm looking for as opposed to hiring
    someone based on one piece out of a portfolio with a large variety.

    On the other hand, if the illustrator is looking to work “in-house” at
    an agency or firm, having a variety of styles will actually be an
    asset. In that situation, chances are that the work coming in will
    require more than one specific style to accomplish the task and an
    illustrator with a variety of styles will be able to contribute to
    more of those jobs, making him/her more valuable to their employer.

    For the illustrator who's on their own but wanting to explore various
    styles I really like the idea of working under a different name or at
    least categorizing the work in some way. That would still provide the
    consistency in look and feel that's going to help them get hired by an
    agency while still allowing for personal exploration.

    By the way, I also really love the choices of illustrators with distinct styles on this page. You can tell that while they are all so extremely different, they are each masters of their own unique craft. What a great discussion!

  • Nate Williams

    I completely agree with you Dave … for example …. with editorial conceptual skills are very important .. where as, surface design, visual atheistic plays a more important role. When I was a designer marketing video games .. I had to adapt to each game .. I thought of myself as a designer .. but illustration skills were very important because I had to create tons of elements in the same direction as the game … ie

  • Nate Williams

    I agree lots of illustrators and artist are timeless … I am not sure why .. but when I look at their work I know it never seems old. Dr. Seuss is great example

  • Melissa Kojima

    Of course an illustrator needs a style. Isn't that what this whole post is about? It's just more about how, when and why. I appreciate all the comments, especially from AD's. Thanks, everyone!

  • http://BLUEQ.COM/ Mitch Nash

    If you don't have styles and you're an illustrator, keep searching. Because you want some. Notice I said “some” not “one”. And “styles” not “style”! –because of course who wants just one style? God forbid! –> If you're good you have a range and different approaches and emotions. Or line weights and levels of finesse and so forth. You don't want everything to look the same. But you're still a unique person who hepefully has a distinct touch and point of view. And that is a good thing.

  • Yael Miller

    As an art director (or someone who specifies the work of illustrators from time to time) I know a distinct style or grouping of styles is important. I may trust the artist to do the right solution, but I need to still 'sell' the artist to my client. The client will only be able to see past work to get an idea of the style they can expect. Still, I think what you've done, Nate, is very smart. You treat each illustrative style as a brand separate from one another. I think illustrators should learn from this and treat their name as an actual brand that stands for something – a particular style and aesthetic. That is the best approach to standing out from the crowd.

    Here's my opinion on how to create a style as an artist:
    You can't force a style into your work if you are not fully matured in your technique or style yet. Young artists who attempt to 'embrace' a style tend to become copy-cats of what is already out there and trendy.

    To truly craft a style that is all your own, you need to give yourself the time to evolve and explore. After a while you'll find you're doing more and more of the style that speaks to your heart – that will become your signature style and will be truly yours.

  • Nate Bear

    Thanks, Nate. Your post is a very clear summary of why style is important to one survival in the field.

    I've been reading a lot about style and marketability lately. It seems like a topic with a lot of grey areas. There's a fine line between developing a style and forcing yourself into one. But there does seem to some pressure to have a style before one can become successful, so it's easy for those of us still developing to lose patience. I remember feeling that way in art school and was frustrated a lot by not having a signature, just a lot of explorations that lead nowhere.

    Personally, I feel like I've just started to come into my own style in the past year or so. It has flt very natural for me partly because I decided not to pursue an art/illustration career straight out of school. That seemed to take the pressure off. Thus, I was able to spend those first years out of school just doing art for myself and making exactly what I wanted to make. That has lead to the style I have now that I am increasingly more satisfied with, which I only now feel comfortable trying to market.

    Anyway, that's my story, related or not.

  • Nate Williams

    Hey Nate very insightful … I agree with you … pursuing design before becoming an illustrator really helped me as well .. it gives you a broader perspective .. it helps you really understand the needs of the people that hire illustrators.

  • peterscott

    I'm still here reading through your site… funnily enough was reading an article on you from an old Computer Arts mag with you disguised as a pencil! :D

    Anyway… another good article! Its something I'm struggling with is developing 'a style' and do find myself skipping around just like Modern Dog. I'm a designer first then illustrator and find my design head rules when it comes to reading the brief and thinking of concepts.

    I suppose a lot of illustrators limit themselves by ways of colour palette or go through sabbaticals where for a few months they use paints, next few months they use digital… etc etc… this in the end will help them to maybe not have a defined style of such as in the way they detail a person or a bird, but in that the way they might use the paint on the canvas or draw with vectors….

    I'm confusing myself now!

    Thanks again Nate!


  • Kati

    I love this article thanks! and I'm liking Scamp alot. A new discovery for me.
    I'm def still exploring and finding my 'melody' lol!
    Will perhaps save the canvases and clay for my experimental outbursts
    and focus on style development/consistency with the illustraton.
    Always lots of room for growth too!

  • Peteman

    I'm still here reading through your site… funnily enough was reading an article on you from an old Computer Arts mag with you disguised as a pencil! :D

    Anyway… another good article! Its something I'm struggling with is developing 'a style' and do find myself skipping around just like Modern Dog. I'm a designer first then illustrator and find my design head rules when it comes to reading the brief and thinking of concepts.

    I suppose a lot of illustrators limit themselves by ways of colour palette or go through sabbaticals where for a few months they use paints, next few months they use digital… etc etc… this in the end will help them to maybe not have a defined style of such as in the way they detail a person or a bird, but in that the way they might use the paint on the canvas or draw with vectors….

    I'm confusing myself now!

    Thanks again Nate!


  • Kati

    I love this article thanks! and I'm liking Scamp alot. A new discovery for me.
    I'm def still exploring and finding my 'melody' lol!
    Will perhaps save the canvases and clay for my experimental outbursts
    and focus on style development/consistency with the illustraton.
    Always lots of room for growth too!


    I know this subject has been posted a while ago. But I wanted to leave a little note anyway. I just started my own “business” as a Freelance Illustrator. I have done 2 jobs since. It is a slow start, but so far I am extremely happy.

    I have to admit that I feel a little lost, with my style sometimes. There are so many good illustrators out there… I did some copying, just because I was insecure about what I was doing. But i have to agree with Annagoodson and Yael Miller . I am only cheating on myself!!! And blocking my creative learning process. I would turn into just being a copy cat, if I don't start thinking for myself and letting this process take it's natural turn.

    Reading about this subject, I really learned a lot about other Illustrators and the view of potential employers. I feel like I need to sit down and think about what direction I want to go… Or how I am going to feed MY creativity.

    Sorry this sounds perhaps chaotic…
    All i wanted to say is, thank you for all the great posts. It gave me so much good information. That I feel like I get it now…

    so THANK YOU!

  • Dennis Salvatier

    As I’ve evolved into an illustrator after being a graphic designer for so many years, I finally see the benefit of picking a style and staying consistent. I still believe it’s important to try new things and explore new options, but staying within the realm your establish is also important. It’s a fine line and one that few people will know how to master.

  • Dennis Salvatier

    As I’ve evolved into an illustrator after being a graphic designer for so many years, I finally see the benefit of picking a style and staying consistent. I still believe it’s important to try new things and explore new options, but staying within the realm your establish is also important. It’s a fine line and one that few people will know how to master.

  • Ana

    Hi Nate,

    I think there are two questions: “what is style?” and “is it being confused with medium?”. I think that style is independent from medium. It has to do with what kinds of shapes you use, how you represent people and objects, but also what kind of concepts you create and humour you use. I believe that medium is something external to style.

    Therefore: I´m all for a unique style and voice, but don´t agree on constraining an illustrator to just one medium.

  • Nate Williams

    I agree .. I think style can be associated with various things .. it could be the way someone thinks which isn’t medium dependent .. or it could be someone like Jackson Pollock where is style is very specific to the medium and process. In a nutshell … I think style is what makes the person’s work unique whether it be subject matter, medium, thought process, etc

  • Elin Rozen

    saw this article only now-I think your comment is very good and helpfull :) I’m starting my way as an illustrator and I see many times styles I love and woul’d like to draw like this..but as you said-when it develops organically its all yours and unic

  • Bryn1artist

    Best advise would be draw/paint in a way that makes you happiest…the audience will follow.

  • Hjhjkhk

    “atheistic ” ?!

  • Matt

    My story is cautionary: for my first paid illustration job, I thought I was being versatile, and hedging my bets, by giving roughs in several styles for the client. They liked the roughs, and asked me to do the job without having seen a finished piece. When I worked up samples closer to the finished thing, the management all disagreed about which elements of the submitted roughs they had liked the best! It took a while to reach a compromise.  I realised I could have avoided all this by showing them finished work in my style, and then the roughs would have been just concepts for them to approve or not, because they would already have an idea of what the finished work is like. 

  • Anton

    I am a starting-up illustrator, and this is something I needed to hear, since style is something I’ve been struggling for a long time. First I wanted to say that I think there is a difference between a style and a “trend”, and in my opinion a “trend” is what outdates, but style is truthful to the artist and remains for a long time.
    I need a little advice. I cant seem to find my own style, my own consistent look. Partially it is because I am very indecisive when it comes to a style, I love graphic work, but I also love loose and painterly look, I love line but I also love color / pure painting, I like realistic work and I like stylized shapes. So I cant seem to commit to just one way of approaching things. I also seem to pick a different medium or a way to approach things depending on a project I am working on, which I know isn’t the right thing to do. I wish I could find and commit to one way of doing illustrations without thinking what medium to use and what style to draw with before working on a project, which is really frustrating and takes up much time..
    Anyone have an advice for me?

    Much appreciated,
    Great discussion.

  • christopher ball

    Beautifully put :)

  • christopher ball

    so true :)

  • mandy

    i really love your idea,hopefully, I’ll have my own style in next few year~~~

  • Illfrustration

    Same here, Anton!

  • Guest

    I genuinely believe this is more than an ‘art’ thing. If you really care about doing illustration not only as a career but also having it as a lifestyle then you have to create from the heart, you have to know yourself and doing that comes with exploration. You must give yourself all the time that you need to develop, no matter how long it takes. Draw, draw, draw and never look at other people’s work. Create your own world.

  • Jenny

    Thank you Yael, this has been very helpful as has your article Nate! :)

  • Larsterkk

    Really interesting article. I recently graduated in B.A Animation and had to treat each project/ animation with a new design which makes sense in the animation world. However, I think I stumbled upon ‘my style’ for my graduating animation and have since stuck with it for the illustration field (of course it is evolving). So I think my style is there.. but I’m not sure how to market myself and actually get my first freelance job. This is the most difficult step and any advice would be greatly appreciated. I’ve just read a ton of the comments on this tread and it’s great to see so many illustrators and those who scout for the ‘next style’.
    Without great commercial experience or recommendation, how did you get onto the ‘ladder’?

  • Heather Soeder

    Thank you Yael. Those are helpful words :)

  • Avinab Baruah

    Thank you for the advice Yael. The advice is both beautiful as well as helpful