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Some Thoughts on Style


When I was in High School a friend said that he had recently seen one of my drawings.  “I recognized your style,” he told me.  This caught me by surprise.  I wasn’t aware I had a style so I asked him to describe it to me.

“Oh, you know,” he replied.

I told him I didn’t.

“It’s the way you draw things.”

I asked for an example.

“Like your clouds, it looks as if you could stand on them.  Or the way you draw faces with the eyes slanted to one side, and hands that look like talons.”  He continued on, but I’ve mercifully forgotten most of it.  What he considered my “style” I considered a laundry list of my mistakes.

Webster defines style as a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created or performed.  I always assumed style had to do with the choices you made, and at that point in my artistic development I wasn’t aware of having made any.  I was trying to make figures look like they had anatomy, women look pretty and clouds look like, well — clouds.

After this conversation, I set out to develop a style.  My objective was simple.  I wanted my figures to look like a combination of Frank Frazetta and Neal Adams, but with the sense of mood and caricature Bernie Wrightson brought to his work.  I wanted my line work to have the control of Charles Dana Gibson, but the freedom of expression of Heinrich Kley.  That wasn’t too much to ask, was it?

Apparently so.

Nowadays I make more choices when I draw, but I have never conscientiously chosen a style for myself.  If people can recognize my drawings I still believe it is because they have become familiar with my recurring mistakes.

(NOTE:  if you think it’s impossible to ink with the control of Gibson and the spontaneity of Kley I encourage you to look at some of the pen and ink work done by James Montgomery Flagg.)


Categories Drawing, Inking | Tags:

8 Comments to Some Thoughts on Style

  1. by josh sheppard

    On August 11, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Nice post Doug-i think i read an interview w/ Neal Adams where they asked him what he thought about his many imitators. Im paraphrasing, but he said something like “imitators tend to copy your flaws”.
    I think I’d add to that, and say that artists who slavishly imitate more accomplished artists tend to copy specific poses and line work, while ignoring the more difficult fundamental drawing & design principles that make that style work.
    But as someone who still learns from copying from the greats, you gotta do it!
    -josh sheppard

  2. by Caraline Ade

    On August 11, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Me too! People apparently can recognize when I draw things because it looks like a failed attempt at anime (When it’s really a failed attempt at realism).
    But I just think your stuff looks good, haha.

  3. by Bruce Morris

    On August 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I think you’re on the money Doug.
    I used to wonder how anyone can develop a style if they constantly experiment and push themselves to improve. Now I think that there is no getting away from your own personality and way of putting it down. Stylistic tricks aside, there is no substitute for good drawing. Great work.
    -Bruce Morris

  4. by Marva Stroud

    On August 11, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    So very true.
    I would also have to agree with Bruce.

    Such wise words from the both of you.

  5. by Kip

    On August 12, 2010 at 4:28 am

    After I recently discovered The Seven Extraordinary Things – I devoured it all in one -maybe three- gulps. I had just come out of a dizzying immersion in Asterios Polyp. Your style is intrinsic, elegant, fierce and absorbing. It can only be the honest expression of your art. Mistakes don’t really feature in the lexicon. It is all journey. The story is so good. On RSS for the next chapter.

  6. by Jason

    On August 13, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I hope this wasn’t in response to my crack about your work reminding me of Bill Willingham’s. I meant it as a compliment — I love Willingham’s line work; Coventry in particular.

  7. by admin

    On August 13, 2010 at 2:29 am

    I took the comparison to Bill Willingham’s work as a compliment. Thanks!

  8. by Hannah

    On August 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    That’s an interesting insight. I’ve consciously tried altering my style multiple times to be more like artists I admire– and you’re right, it’s SO much harder than it looks. But I think it’s very helpful. I always manage to walk away with something– some shading, expression, or anatomical aspect I like– and integrate it into my normal ‘style.’

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