nanoproksee asked: Hi Lucy, I don’t know if you answer this kind of questions, but here I go. I've been drawing for a long time now, but I have this problem that has me stuck. Every time I try a to draw a page without reference, I tend to simplify and stylize the drawings, and generally I get things that I kinda like, but then I panic about getting stuck with a style that I don’t like and without knowing how to draw in any other way and then I just get back to just sketching. Anyway, thanks for your time.
Hm, this is a little hard to answer without seeing an example of your work (I couldn’t spot any on your blog — do you post it online anywhere?), but I can take a stab:
Anxiety about “style” is a common problem, but something you really shouldn’t sweat too much. One of my earliest mentors did me a huge favor by taking a look at my 11-year-old doodles (largely anime-influenced) and gentling telling me that I was good at what I was doing, but that maybe what I was doing could expand to be something more. I didn’t “abandon” my style, but I spent a long time learning how to draw from life and expanding my visual vocabulary.
Of course we always default to what we’re comfortable with when drawing without reference, and there is definitely a period where drawing from reference only results in stilted approximations of form and drawing without reference feels like you’re just skating by on second-hand habits and copied visual shorthand. But FEAR NOT! The solution to this problem is really, really simple:
Keep drawing. Keep drawing from life especially. The more you draw the more you’ll come to realize that style isn’t something you get “stuck” with — it’s an ever-evolving reflection of your artistic influences and interests. Making comics is a process of essentialization.
The key is to communicate clearly, so a certain amount of simplification is necessary, but you’ll never know what to simplify if you don’t draw from life and understand the foundational principles of whatever you’re trying to draw.
If life drawing gets the better of you and you hit a wall, try breaking down one of your favorite artist’s pages. How do they approach body language? Eyes? Hands? Panel composition? Study a different artist every day — and by study I mean draw from. Make marks. Get messy. Don’t get precious.
If you’re feeling stuck, get yourself unstuck. Draw more. The end.
You can do it!
Great advice Lucy! I hope some of my students read this.