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Style is an incredibly tricky thing to grasp. Especially when it’s your own. I find myself looking back on my older work and holding back a small gasp as I “see” for the first time what my style looks like to the eyes of independent observers. It’s a strange and incredible process that I’d love to know more about. Whatever it is literally changes what I look at whilst I draw it, and while the drawing is still fresh and my mind’s influence strong, it can look like one drawing to me, and another to someone else.

To my mind, my drawings look closer to what I intended straight after I’ve drawn them, but I wonder if there’s anyone else out there who has a different experience… the artistic equivalent to body dysmorphia?

So, disregarding the fact that I’m not 100% sure what my style actually looks looks like right now, I’m still not happy with it. It’s changed pretty drastically since I left uni, and even since I started Freakangels, but I’m forever searching for that perfect balance between detail and simplicity in the way that I compose the face. Something with enough plasticity to make for diverse character designs, whilst maintaining a characteristic look across the board. Something that feels and moves 3 dimensionally, whilst not being slavishly realistic. When it comes to the stylisation of face and body, my benchmark is the affect achieved when Satoshi Kon’s character designs are on screen. The drawings in the Paranoia Agent ending sequence make me weak in the knees:

So, as part of an attempt to “see” my style clearly and to push it further in the directions I want, I’ve taken to doing quick sketches referenced from the styles of artists and character designers I admire. My hope is that this will help my imaginative process as I come up with ways to stylise facial features, whilst providing a crucial part of any animator’s training that tends to be missing from most formal art education: copying. An incredibly underrated skill in my opinion – easy to begin doing, but far more tricky to properly understand and master, and I’m no where near there.

Here is a collection of some of the style sketches that I’ve been doing for a while.

These sketches also make for great warm-up exercises at the beginning of the day, but more on that another time, I want to write a full post on warming up later. I’ve been growing a bit slack with these lately, so hopefully writing this post will enthuse me to do a few more. Comments on how well I’ve matched original styles and what persistent mistakes I’ve been making would be most helpful!