Last week's series on the Blue Book artists certainly prompted an abundance of comments. That pleases me greatly, since your participation makes putting this blog together all the more rewarding.
The broad-ranging discussion involved some challenging opinions about the merit of developing a 'signature' style vs being adaptable to changing trends.
Some people felt that adapting elements of style or technique made popular by other illustrators was synonymous with "aping" that artist's style.
They were insistent that success lies only down the path of studiously developing a very personal look - and that any borrowing from others was "a dead end".
While I support their choice, I personally believe there is a creatively and financially rewarding alternative - and offered myself as living proof. If you compare my editorial art portfolio with my advertising art you'll see that I have managed to live by my word (and pretty well at that).
For twenty years I've enjoyed a stimulating career by being what some would call a 'jack-of-all-trades', dabbling in many styles, often tailoring my work to suit my clients' needs - and the changing tastes of the industry and the public at large. When I see work by others that intrigues me, I want to "play with their toys". Personally I feel your own style emerges no matter what surface technique you cloak it in. I've always been restless when it comes to style, and never felt much need to steadfastly hone "The Leif Peng Style".
No, my choices have not made me famous.
Fame has never been a high priority on my career agenda, but I can understand why it might be for some. I've often thought that illustrators are sort of "shy actors" -- we let our work take the stage in our place. Naturally, we want the audience to like us and acknowledge our skills. In that sense, some degree of fame enters the picture, I suppose.
So this week, a selection of "famous" (and I use that term with some chagrin) artists who did pretty well by experimenting with styles and techniques as they pleased - or as their clients pleased. Let's begin with the best: Al Parker.
Parker was known for his experimentation... always six months ahead of his competitors. As I said in one of my comments, of course it would be ideal to be the trendsetter. Al Parker enjoyed that status for a very long time. But even if you can't be an Al Parker, you could do a lot worse than to follow his lead.
This last scan is from Charlie Allen, who attributes it to Al Parker (and I agree). Last week Charlie showed some great examples of how a pro adapts to changing trends, just as Parker did in the late 60's piece above. Regarding his efforts to work in the 'groovy' early 70's style, Charlie wrote "I felt out of my 'comfort zone' on these...but as usual, had fun trying something new."
This week, Charlie has a new selection of images at Charlie Allen's Blog that again demonstrate what a consummate professional he was.
* My Al Parker Flickr set.