Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thoughts on Finding Your Style and Voice in Comics

Inspired by Tek's suggestion in the comments from my last post, I'll give it a go and try to talk about my thoughts in finding your style and voice. I hear this is a concern for a lot of people when I talk to them about comics. I remember this was a huge concern for me back in the day but honestly, I don't really worry about it anymore. I've decided that you can't force style, style comes to you.

So like my last post, I will talk about what I learned in my own experience! I can't say this is the "how to" but this is how I found my "groove". And To tell you the truth, I'm always growing as an artist and my art will always change little by little. The more you draw, the different kinds of art you are exposed to, the life you lead, I believe will reflect in your own style. This is how I see it:

Like a stew, (HA! Me and my metaphors) you start out with the broth. Much like a decision you want to draw/write. You can practice anatomy, perspective, etc but this doesn't necessarily give you style. You have your base broth and key ingredients and then you add things you enjoy into the stew to give it the flavor!

I find it hard to advise about drawing specifically since I did not learn awesome perspective or perfect anatomy. In fact, I flunked out of art school. I am aware of my need to improve in these fields and it's constantly on my mind! My stew is backwards.


When I was in my teen years, I copied (yes, copied) my favorite characters and styles of artists I adored. I would read comics and notice certain things that I thought were awesome! I loved Jeff Smith's Bone and his use of spot blacks and the way he drew faces. I also read a lot of Adriane Tomine because I loved his melancholic faces. I studied forever of Craig Thompson and his beautiful dry brush line work. After trying to copy a few things I would try to draw something on my own using what I learned through my sketches. Certain things stick. It's a learning process. We are a lucky bunch that "studying" includes reading our favorite comics!

Add all these things into your stew as your inspirations and sooner or later you're going to get a something that is pretty darn unique. You like onions? toss in an onion! You like potatoes? Toss in some potatoes!

I think people get a little scared because they feel it's stealing a recipe when taking aspects of art from others. But I say, NO! NO! It's inspiration! It's one thing to copy a panel/character design and then use it as your own work, and another to incorporate techniques you love into your own drawing. It magically fuses with your own style. You're using it as a tool to learn. I know a lot of people who learned to draw from copying their favorite comics. If there is something you think is awesome, study it, learn how they did it, try it with your own art. FUN IN A BAG!

Also, drawing everyday (even the slightest bit) helps a lot. Doing EmiTown everyday vastly improved my art. Compare my first EmiTown pages from mid 2009 to a year later in 2010. Not only do I feel I have improved with drawing, but layout as well. Everyday, I had to think about layout and flow; the best way for me to draw out a whole day efficiently using only one page. By doing it everyday, it helps for that kind of thinking to come more naturally.
A page from 2009

A year later in 2010

The beginning can be tough. Like you are lost in the dark. But the more you expose yourself to the dark, the more your eyes will begin to adjust and see shapes. I think if you keep drawing and studying your idols, a "style" will emerge naturally.

I also want to stress that to me, personally ( I don't know if everyone would agree) "style" isn't drawing the same every time. "Style" is that voice or essence in your art that is recognizable to everyone that it's you whether you draw circle heads, manga, or superheros. Heck, I've had some people complain about having a lack of style and I can totally see it!

Bottom line, study and practice! It comes naturally because it is you. I would think it's hard to avoid as long as you're drawing from your heart!

As for writing, I'm not sure if anything I have already said applies to that. I write how I think and talk and I know that won't fly for everything! I have a lot left to learn with drawing and writing and that's exciting to me. Try new things! Always be flexible to new ideas! It's darn tootin' fun, I tells ya. And the coolest thing about art? There is no way to know EVERYTHING! Because art itself is continuing to grow and expand.

Ok then,

xoxo <--(you think if I do this enough, I can be like Gossip Girl?)

- emibot


  1. What you're saying makes a lot of sense; years and years ago when I used to write poetry, most criticism I received told me to 'find my voice' or develop my style. Noone ever said how. Finally, when Richard M. Vaughan ( came to town to read (a writer with more style than anyone I'd read previously), I asked him how you get your own style, how to be 'unique.' He told me that you can't actively search it out, and that critics telling you to do so are so full of it. Just write what you want to write, don't pay any heed at all to how derivative or how original it is, and eventually your own voice will come through. I never forgot that advice, and I'm glad to see it being applied here as well. Thanks for taking the time to write this, Emi.

  2. You are great and you made me want to return to comics. Thanks a lot. You are better than you know. Keep it coming. RunJDHP

  3. This is so helpful! Thanks for sharing your views. You're right, if you're drawing from the heart, that's what matters. I look to your comic for inspiration! :)


  4. I really enjoyed reading both this and the last post on getting started in comics. As a beginner myself, it can get pretty daunting seeing where other artists are. It can be easy to forget that it is usually the end result of some intense back-breaking work.

  5. I hugely enjoy both your Emitown site and this new one right here. It's very comforting somehow. Great writer, great artist! :-).

  6. Fantastic! I'm trying a sketch-a-day on my blog and this totally got me inspired!

  7. thank you for writing that :D there is hope just yet

  8. In ARE your style and your style is YOU. I heartily agree and I've been saying this for years. Nobody likes it because it's too simple and too true. They want a special recipe for success! Give it to them! Stop hoarding your "secret recipe"! ;)