Improving my Portfolio and the Power of Limitation.

General / 22 March 2019

When being limited turned out to be just what I needed.

If you look at my portfolio right now, It's pretty inconsistent. I've spent way too long chasing the "right style" that I never actually managed to develop one of my own. I'd labour away at what I thought I should be doing, without getting any real enjoyment from the process and often, in the end, not being happy with the outcome. Some illustrations would become so laborious that I would become fed up just give up altogether.

An example of my inconsistent style from one image to the next.

I decided to take a step back and re-access what I was doing and what it was I wanted to achieve.

  • I want to achieve a style that would be recognised as my own.
  • I want a consistent body of work so that my portfolio isn't just a confusing mess to a potential client.
  • I want to create a portfolio of work with illustrations that I truly enjoyed creating so that I won't have to settle for client work that I won't enjoy.

For the longest time, I believed that detailed, realistic, painterly work was my only way forward, but that simply isn't for me. Knowing this, I still found it hard to break that habit. I know what I need to do to achieve those portfolio goals, but I'm just not reaching it. Until it came time to move house.

I'm that kind of artist who has to have every kind of art material or piece of software. I often pride myself on working both digitally and traditionally. From oil paints to markers, from Photoshop to easy paint tool Sai, I have to have it so that there is no limit to what I can achieve artistically. It's only now that I have come to realise that this was my problem.

If Your Creative work feels like a chore, it's not the right style for you - Ben Tallon

So I'm moving house, I've packed away my main PC and all of my art materials, leaving myself with an A5 sketchbook some pencils and my iPad just so I have at least some creative outlet. I'm pretty limited in what I can do. And it's amazing.

The sketchbook forced me to practice my drawing, something I don't do enough of, and the iPad forced me to learn how to use a new bit of software, that had its own limitations because of the lack of power compared to a PC. These limitations have resulted in a simplified work process, and the simpler artwork has resulted in some unique experimentation, leading to what I believe is "my style". I'm enjoying this process and each work his holding my attention through to completion. And when I'm finished, I can't wait to start the next. Hopefully, over the next couple of months, my portfolio will be less of a mashed collection of inconsistency and more of an exhibition of my style and a representation of me as an illustrator.

Some consistency is starting to appear in my illustration work.

In complement to this process of discovery, that quote by Ben Tallon further up comes from his book, "Champagne And Wax Crayons". It details his own creative journey, and there's a snippet about his own penny drop moment when he finally figured out his style. It's an entertaining and insightful read, and I highly recommend it if you're feeling a little lost along your own creative journey. Here's an obligatory affiliate link to his book on Amazon (for which I gain a percentage of the sale with no extra cost to you).

Have you experienced something similar to my situation or have some feedback for me on my first blog post? Comments are more than welcome.