Discover more from Adam Ming
083: Illustration is a love language
how I collected techniques and turned it into a style.
“The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there's a difference: Hoarders collect indiscriminately, artists collect selectively. They only collect things that they really love.” - Austin Kleon
As children's book illustrators, we are often faced with the challenge of balancing our personal taste and style with the market's demands. This can be especially difficult in the beginning stages of our careers when we are still trying to establish our place in the industry.
When I first started out, I struggled to understand the market's taste for children's books. I confused my taste for design and comics with a taste for kids books. My idea of good was not the same as what parents and publishers saw as good, not yet.
I eventually realized that my role as an illustrator was to help authors and publishers tell their stories, and that finding areas where my taste overlapped with the market's needs would be the foundation of my style.
I saw the style as a problem-solving tool, and I approached it by giving myself assignments, posting my work daily, and using the feedback I received to guide my creative process.
I was also motivated by comparing my early work to that of the artists I admire and focusing on what resonated with my audience rather than dwelling on the lack of likes and follows. This helped me maintain a balance between staying true to my personal vision and aesthetic and being aware of market demands.
I found success by taking inspiration from three artists I admire and remixing their techniques in a way that was unique to me. Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an artist, went a long way to show me how to use my tastes and inspiration as a guide. The book reminded me that, what I love is unique to me. And that informs my style.
Over a lifetime we collect the things we love. As I walked through the children’s section of the bookshop every week I start to see the things that I love. I encountered them, I collected these encounters and I used them to build a visual language that I love based on what others also love.
When I make an illustration I’m speaking in that love language.
How can I add more of what I love into my creative practice?