I'm fascinated by artists that seem to have obvious and deep obsessions in their work, and a style that they carry for YEARS. I've had difficulty with this. I do get bored eventually. Outside of illustration, I suppose this is partly why I've never applied for a grant... How can I name what I'll be doing in a year? The answer to that is, well, I COULD name it. I am resistant. Part of my love of being an illustrator is that I really like to be able to immediately respond to how I see something in the moment. I hate the idea of being pinned down—like to be able to change my mind. In a backwards way of looking at it, it's like when someone sees something you used to do, style-wise, and wants that. It's impossible. You've moved on! And for that matter, how do you know where you'll BE, a year or so from now?
I had a great deal of trouble having a consistent style when I first started. So I started playing a game with my work to help get some focus - I would make rules for every piece of work I did - it must have a limited colour palette of a certain yellow, red and green. Then circles had to be involved. It worked. It made my work seem consistent. Later, I made further constraints for particular jobs, like full colour editorial newspaper work... It was to save time (many jobs I had were a one day turnaround) and to make it worthwhile (for me) for the budgets available. I used cardboard and acrylic paints in a pinkish-flesh colour, red, black and white. Again consistency. And art directors at magazines began to request I work this way. Eventually, as it usually does, A GREAT BOREDOM ENSUED. So I eventually let this way of working dwindle off.
That's the way it goes for me. Those rules I set in the past have didn't get to live a long and happy life. I get bored, I move on. I still have some "rules" for editorial work. Luckily they are loose enough to allow me to move around and play. They get to stay. I still see so much that I could do with it. But I know that will eventually change. It can seem easy to fake it, to make those rules. And not at all. I suppose the key is going deeper than the materials. The materials just tag along and you shine through. That's my hope anyhow. I think if you look at my work though, those older ways of working are still present. They just manifest themselves in a slightly different way. I would also say that creating work for myself, or for commissions outside of my commercial jobs helps me push, explore and take risks that I can bring into upcoming gigs.
What I think about a lot in the last five years is - what do I know for sure about myself? I remember hearing Marshall Arisman say something along those lines years ago, in reference to his own adventures in trying to get his work noticed. So, I could make a long list, but the short one is; people, their quirks, the way we relate, life issues. I'm naturally empathetic and it comes through in my work. It's what I'm attracted to in film, books, music, my friends.
When it comes to what or who visually inspires me, it's created somewhat of a problem to say that I'm inspired by many and everything... It's partially intentional because I worry about settling too long on one pretty flower - that I will mimic too closely what I love. And partly because I'm keeping my eyes open.
I hate to say it, but I need at least a pinch of the "rules" - a bit of focus leads to opportunity. It helps when people know what to expect of you - your style and the way you visually problem solve. Incremental changes. Hard to have patience for it sometimes.