Back when I was actively pursuing a career as an artist, one of my biggest frustrations was the search for “my style”. A true professional – Zack, for example – always has a stylistic signature, a unique look that immediately lets you identify their work. This is something that develops naturally over the course of years, decades, of honing your craft. But whether it was because I was impatient or because I was stuck in my own bad habits, my style never showed itself. I always felt my art was copying someone or something. It could be a live model or someone else’s art, but it was always mimicry; my attempts at originality never went far. I nearly pushed myself once, twice, a hundred times, to draw my own comic. And maybe this year I finally will. But I said that last year – and the year before that too.
When I’m writing, on the other hand, I’m not copying anyone. It feels like I’m just talking. And as I’ve grown as a writer, I keep finding new ways to speak through my writing, communicating in an open and honest way until, what do you know, I think I have my own style. It still has a ways to go, but I feel comfortable and sure of my style, enough not to overthink myself into non-action.
In honesty, I think this is what stalls most passion projects. If we’re going to do something that means a lot to us, we want it to be perfect. Not just finished, not just good, not even great. It has to be the best because that’s how we saw it – otherwise, what’s the point? And it really sucks to suck at something you love. It’s like pushing a boulder up a mountain that keeps telling you you’re weak and you don’t deserve to be there. You sometimes slip and lose the boulder. Then you have to start over, and over and over again until it’s been 5, 10, 30 years and you still feel no closer to the top. And at some point, you don’t even see the top anymore. All you can see is the endless path up the mountain, one that maybe doesn’t even lead upwards, but sideways, indefinitely and forever.
I always feel that there needs to be progression in my life. Hard work applied toward a goal, even when that goal is vague and unclear. But when that goal is only an ideal, instead of a concrete destination with a checklist of steps that get you there, the path is hard to find (see: James). And finding a style isn’t about following a set of directions and checking off a list. It’s about becoming who you are as an artist, letting the soul take hold of your fingers and give them the power to control and create something that is both you and beyond you. A new form, a new face to show the world. That’s what a style is.
Then again, if Mica can teach us anything, it’s that looks aren’t everything. Just as important is the substance that lies beneath.