Remember that time in art class in elementary school, where if you finished your papier-mache dragon early, you'd get scrap paper and free reign on the marker bin until class was done? This was a magical time to me, and I always wished it was a little longer. I think now, after a year or so of illustrating full-time, I've noticed free time is more daunting than enticing, though it is nothing at all to fear! This is something I am going to try to tackle today, schedule permitting. Re-learn FREE DRAW! Go crazy in the marker bin.
Recently, in working with art directors, and many a talented designer, I have come to approach critique in a new light. Healthy critique is so vital to digging out what you've already got, and polishing it up (even when the end result doesn't appear "polished" per say). When an artist is young (and at the beginning of the game, like me), it is easy to think pleasing the voices of others will hone style. I see now it's more about letting the challenges from art direction act as a catalyst for new invention in one's art. The prodding and pulling of the silly puddy in you that already exists. Get direction from the outside and let it sit a while...let loose and letting it grow AROUND what is being asked for rather than pushing it a bit and looking back for approval tentatively in baby steps. It's an exciting thing, in this field, to be allowed a chance for reinvention always.
Style is something that is like a growing and evolving little animal, and the artist needs to be careful to feed it good and honest things. It cannot be feared or stiff or impenetrable. I think free drawing like a little kid is one very honest way to see how far your silly puddy can stretch. Then it is a matter of taking what was learned in front of the marker bin and reintegrating, grafting on, restrengthening for the next project.
Above is a fast sketch from a few weeks ago. Her name just popped in when I wondered about it, and I chose to keep it. So this is "Bear". Yeah FREE DRAW! Ok, I'm off to play!