When I was in High School a friend said that he had recently seen one of my drawings. “I recognized your style,” he told me. This caught me by surprise. I wasn’t aware I had a style so I asked him to describe it to me.
“Oh, you know,” he replied.
I told him I didn’t.
“It’s the way you draw things.”
I asked for an example.
“Like your clouds, it looks as if you could stand on them. Or the way you draw faces with the eyes slanted to one side, and hands that look like talons.” He continued on, but I’ve mercifully forgotten most of it. What he considered my “style” I considered a laundry list of my mistakes.
Webster defines style as a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created or performed. I always assumed style had to do with the choices you made, and at that point in my artistic development I wasn’t aware of having made any. I was trying to make figures look like they had anatomy, women look pretty and clouds look like, well — clouds.
After this conversation, I set out to develop a style. My objective was simple. I wanted my figures to look like a combination of Frank Frazetta and Neal Adams, but with the sense of mood and caricature Bernie Wrightson brought to his work. I wanted my line work to have the control of Charles Dana Gibson, but the freedom of expression of Heinrich Kley. That wasn’t too much to ask, was it?
Nowadays I make more choices when I draw, but I have never conscientiously chosen a style for myself. If people can recognize my drawings I still believe it is because they have become familiar with my recurring mistakes.
(NOTE: if you think it’s impossible to ink with the control of Gibson and the spontaneity of Kley I encourage you to look at some of the pen and ink work done by James Montgomery Flagg.)