I have met amateur artists asking themselves for their ‘original drawing style’ (artist-confession in tumblr or journals ih deviantArt). Perhaps I’m not suitable to discuss and suggest about this topic since I am not an artist, don’t take any art courses, and don’t even have any art degree – but I am sharing these because it’s… bugging me for a while.

By definition, what is an “original drawing style”? What is a ‘drawing style’?

For me, it is a drawing technique which is used by artists. It can be realism, semi-realism, abstract, chibi, super-deformed, long legged girls, big eyed boys. and so on. As a technique, it is well defined and follows some ‘rules’: composition, perspective, color blending and such – which is taught by art major. The more to realism, the more rules you have to follow. Manga / anime does follow realism; majority of ‘manga-styled-human’ has head-torso-legs, two ears two eyes a nose and a mouth (unless you want them to have two mouths or three ears) so we can say anime/ manga follow the majority of those rules like realism does.

Now, we know that ‘drawing style’ is a subset of ‘art technique’. Then, what is ‘original’? Original means it can be distinguishable; an UNIQUENESS – none in the world have something similar. The original drawing style is an UNIQUE drawing, that when people come to see it, they will quickly recognized it as YOUR drawing. As simple as that.

Then, we come into the big question of HOW. I don’t believe popularity brand someone’s drawing style as if that ‘style’ is copyrighted. But, I cannot escape to the fact that popularity helped. It is because the fact that we, in our early days in childhood, have imitated orthers. We see and we imitate, then, we see something suitable–loving in our eyes and we replace the previous imitation. Admit it, everyone does. The culprit perhaps Ancient Greek or Egypt’s hieroglyphs – no, I’m not joking. Just kidding. Even though we don’t imitate, we draw based on what we see things are like. East Asian are slit-like eyes and petite, Russians are tall-albino looking, a cat is like living furball. We imitate nature itself (if you don’t want to admit you imitate other artist’s style).

So, the most important question, how can I have that uniqueness in my drawing? Unfortunately I can’t answer that question. You and your friends can. A drawing of yours has been unique (if you don’t copy. Note that it’s a very different term between to copy and to imitate), it is the result of long process of hardwork. Your friends will give opinion: try this trick. Make your best drawing and show it to your friend, tell them you found it in the internet and ask them to guess the artist. Their answers will be the answer you seek. They perhaps say a well-known artist without doubt, then you are in a dire situation. I suggest you to quickly make a difference, like tone color or eyes or whatever. If they doubt or just say ‘isn’t it your drawing’, congratulation. That is your drawing style.

Your drawing style is the result of your drawing process starting from when you lift the pencil for the first time. It is distinguishable; and it is your identity. Whether it is dull or melancholic or bright and cute — it shows your inner self.

On side note: why manga / anime has BIG EYES, it is because western’s influence. What? No, you don’t see anything wrong. East Asian’s eyes are small and slit-like, so Western often MOCK them because of their eyes. Because of they not wanting to be called SLIT-EYED-HUMAN, they draw figures with big eyes. I am an East-Asian so I feel like that too sometimes, thus I know their feeling.

Skip ‘read more’ if you don’t wish to read about how I get my current drawing style.

Because I don’t ever think I will be an artist, just stuck in hobbyist title, I don’t give any thought about original drawing style. I drew since I was in playground by Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball inspirations. The style was pretty much dragon ball – muscles, dot eyes, and long legs – you name it. Then, I started reading shoujo manga, so in elementary school and draw big eyes for girls, and even boys turn into girly by having big eyes and all. I was never told myself to be an artist, so I didn’t care about anatomy whatsoever; I just wanted to have fun.

Then, in mid school I was into Ragnarok Online, so I recognized there was something wrong with my ‘big eyed boys’. Boys need muscles! And they have strong jaws, small eyes, and wider shoulder and chest. So based on this ‘knowledge’, I changed the wrong things – especially for boys. Then I forgot how to draw girls *srap*. There was not much had changed in high school, just polishing weird noodle-like anatomy and often disatisfied with eye style. You can see I change the eyes from sailor-moon, dragon-ball, gundam-SEED, black-cat, then now maybe-persona-3. Only when recently after studying enough styles my friends have, I come into my current quality – added by my consciousness that I wanted to be close to Jeong Juno’s.

But I have weakness/ strong point/ whatever: since I was an elementary until now, I can’t copy a drawing. Even when I copy, my ‘uniqueness’ make it somewhat ‘off’. I remember when I was a mid schooler, even before I said something, my art teacher told the class this was my drawing (Edi-sensei, I wonder how).

It is true that I always draw LONG BANGS, WINGS, LONG COATS, and PRETTY BOYS…and albinos (countless white haired old men/ women). But another things, the other uniqueness I failed to notice, are pointed by my friends. It is the darkness — dull color in my drawings. I have to be honest that my own GIMP pallette is far from dull – they are pastel. How can it be dull, God knows, since I don’t know myself. I love those extreme saturation, grayness, and darkness — creepy figures and melancholy — just when I tried colorful ones I felt something was wrong and in the end playing with saturation level. That’s first.

my GIMP pallette, pretty much plain

Then just once when I submitted a ‘man-standing-behind-a-grand-light’ drawing, here came the second one: she said why this drawing was not like me. It lack dynamics — the thing I realized that before this one I never drew a man standing still. “Motion” was carved on my drawing. Even when I draw a man standing idly, I always put some motion and something was not right if I didn’t. A smile, a smirk, hand’s gestures.

Perhaps I could summarize my experience by two words: Have Fun! I am comfortable by my current drawing style and I have fun on it. You should do it too. Developing a drawing style takes time. It is the process you undergo all this year drawing and once you are comfortable on it, you have your unique drawing style.

But please note that copying and ‘imitation’ differs slightly. To copy is to mimick everything that an artist has done: pallete, coloring technique, eyes, stroke, body figure, expressions, gestures, theme… That is copying. I have seen some people fail on this one – I can’t recognize the difference between the original “Mochizuki Jun” and that fanmade doujinshi: and that is the problem. If I have to be so harsh like ‘them’ in the internet, you who copy the style (entirely) are losing your own identity.