Friday, May 23, 2014

Creative Identity Crisis!

"What sets you apart as an artist? What's your signature style?"

For artists and creative people in general, there is a lot of emphasis on identity, a.k.a "branding."

The problem is that this isn't something that can be figured out by filling out a worksheet or a personality quiz. It takes time, a lot of work, and honestly quite a bit of blindly fumbling around. There are moments when it feels like a total waste of life and continuous running into dead ends.

I've tried all kinds of things to find out who I am as an artist. I mean, just take a look at my Etsy shop--it has all kinds of stuff. It has manga, it has stationary, and even objects that I've been trying my hand at designing. I've created some very beautiful custom portraits, and I love how they turn out, but I have to confess, I don't really feel at home doing that. The search for myself is so frustrating sometimes!

I've always dreamed of designing stationary, and I've tried it, but I feel like I'm only being half of myself doing that too. So recently I just stopped creating more random stuff, and started reading biographies of other artists and illustrators.

I know this may sound a bit biased, me being a manga style comic creator and all, but I really enjoyed reading about Osamu Tezuka. What really struck me about him is the variety of his work. He created manga for children, manga for girls, and manga for adults. He created anime. And he had a degree to be a medical doctor too. That makes me think of how random my own degree in computer engineering is.

Anyways, he didn't let the idea of identity limit him to just one genre or even one medium. His works have a distinct look, but yet he didn't imprison himself to "style" either.

CLAMP is also another good example of this. It's a little different because they are a team of artists, but they still have an identity. There are things that identify a manga as one created by CLAMP, but still they don't let the idea of identity limit them either. They've created sci-fy, fantasy, and even slice-of-life stories aimed at boys and girls.

There are many other artists who don't create manga that are like this too. They don't let this concept of "branding" (which seems more corporate driven than creative driven anyways) hedge them in.

Reading about other artists made me think more about what I'm doing. Deep down, I'm more of a story maker than an artist. Which explains why the design stuff just wasn't doing it for me.

Art is simply another way for me to tell a story. Before I started creating comics, I wrote novels. Then I started to think...

Yeah, I create graphic novels, but I shouldn't let that stop me from working on a traditional novel once and awhile too. I tend to mostly create comics and stories aimed at teens and young adults, but I also have children's stories and adult stories inside of me too. Although I will still take art commissions, stand-alone art isn't really "my thing." I can do it, but it's not what I feel alive doing. I just need to stop trying to make that happen, and focus my creativity on what I really excel at which is creating stories.

But no matter what different mediums I use to create stories or what genres they end up in, there will always be that thing that will make every story that I create a story from Arcadia. Identity isn't doing the same stuff all the time. It's the intangible thing that makes you who you are.