Influence map to find a personal style
After several years working as a graphic designer, I spent a lot of time learning different styles of illustration and design, to face the briefings of many types of clients and adapt my designs to the style that best solves their problems.
Although, as a designer and illustrator, it is still important to adapt to the style that each assignment requires, as an artist I ended up researching very different references and developing my techniques in different styles. I felt that I could not identify with one in particular.
So I decided to look for exercises that would help me identify what my personal style might be.
I took the Skillshare class of Christine Nishiyama “Art School Boot Camp: Developing Your Style”, in which she explains in a very clear way three important points to find our personal style:
- Analyze our visual references (especially those of our childhood)
- Analyze the progression of our work.
- Draw, draw, draw, draw …
(I do a bit of spoiler, which is really nothing compared to all the information that she gives us in the class, in addition to the follow up emails that she sends with very interesting information_ I recommend it.)
The process to find your own voice as an artist is so personal that there is no recipe or tutorial that can explain how to find yours.
Our artistic projects are a reflection of our personalities, feelings, our experiences and influences. Creating tools and exercises to analyze them is the best step to find a personal style.
One of those tools is the influence map. In Christine Nishiyama‘s class we created a map of the visual / cultural influences_ books, artists, music, movies, TV …_ from our childhood (one of the phases of our lives that defines us and shapes our personalities).
Apart from this map of influences from my childhood, I have decided to create two more: the influences of my teenage years and those that I have now.
Studying and comparing these three boards helped me understand:
- What aspects are there in common in the three boards?
- What examples do I like for their content / concept?
- What examples do I like for their technique / form?
- What examples do I like for their color palettes?
- What examples do I like for their characters? …
- What aspects of these influences do I usually represent or use in my personal projects?
As we have analyzed the evolution of our visual influences, it is essential to do the same with our artistic work. See what kind of elements, techniques, concepts, themes, color palettes … we repeat more times, which ones we enjoy doing / using the most. All this will give us clues to the style that is taking shape.
And finally, the key to really find an artistic voice of your own is to continue drawing, keep working, follow the clues that each new piece gives you, keep integrating new influences and new experiences to your work. Because our style, like ourselves, is constantly changing and evolving.
I could not resist. Remembering my childhood influences, I decided to see the first season of Dragon Ball again and to do some Fan Art, as I did more than 20 years ago, and illustrate my three favorite characters of the series.