Finding an Illustrative Identity (by Merle Hunt)

While I was studying illustration at university it seemed imperative to find a Style…yep, with a big ol’ capital S. Those who had one felt they had reached the Holy Grail and were to be envied, while those who didn’t could only be reassured that they would find theirs soon. It was almost like a style was just waiting out there for you, it was just a matter of discovering where it was. “Oh yeah,” someone said, “mine was hiding in the print room. I’m so relieved I found it.” “I found mine,” from someone else, “tucked into my old sketchbooks. Turns out I had it all along, it just needed honing.” “But how on earth do I find my Style??” I wailed.

You see, by nature I find it difficult to settle on one thing and so sticking to one style is difficult. And while tutors hurried to reassure us that Style wasn’t all it was about, and I came to realise that understanding the way you work is actually more important still, it still appears, now that I’ve commenced the never ending search for that elusive illustration contract, that it’s what I keep coming back to.

Kay Nielsen 3

The distinctive style of Kay Nielsen.

Style isn’t everything for sure (she says as much for comfort as from experience) but it does make things a LOT easier. These days it’s all about marketing yourself and the more specific you can be, as any business-person in the know will tell you…infact, as anyone will tell you, the better. It’s not like putting up an item on e-bay where the more adjectives you can even vaguely make relevant, or not, is the key. In my quest to reach my goal of becoming a (paid!) illustrator, it seems you can’t be relevant enough. Every rejection e-mail I’ve received to date makes some reference to the inconceivable amount of applicants they’ve had to sift through and with odds like that it really does come down to the little things. I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve changed my CV, re-written my covering letter and re-organised my portfolio in an attempt to somehow display what I think the client is looking for. In those instances, a strong Style will make you stand out from the crowd.

It is something of a relief then, in working on The Waves, the Waves, to find myself so happily at liberty to explore all the mediums I can think of in the desire of discovering the one (or two) that will fit well with the feel of the story. It is so very rare that we have this sort of freedom when producing art of any kind for commercial gain that I can see no better reason for finding time to pursue such self initiated projects.

This week I wanted to share two illustrations I’ve been working on using very different mediums which I am revelling in!

You’ve seen the first stage of this one in a post I did a month ago about etching. I’ve now given it a rough aquatint to evoke a sandy beach in the background (or a starry sky).

Dead Sailor

I was worried the delicate figures might be over-powered by such textured surroundings and in a following print I may try wiping away more ink for a lighter result but I still feel this one has come out really well. There is some magic to it even without any tonal variation which is what I usually LOVE about etchings.

This next one is an experiment in collage, inspired by such artists as Maggie Taylor, Christian Schloe, Catrin Welz-Stein and Claudine Hellmuth. Much like etching, collage is a slow process of layers and many parts which I’m hoping will help me create a richer and more complete illustration. As such though, it is yet to be completed, stalled as I have been, on finding a technique for image transfer that is compatible with inkjet printers (I have been told freezer paper might just be the thing I need! And I trust it will) but I am still quietly pleased (while trying not to get too hung up on it) at its progress.

Background In Progress In Progress 2

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