Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thank you Maurice Sendak

I was chatting with my cousin the other day and she brought up the topic of how hard it is for illustrators to develop a personal style. I was quite surprised because unlike me, she had majored in Fine Arts and is currently a full-time graphic designer in Singapore. She does art everyday! Why would it be so hard to develop a personal style?

Her answer was simple. Unlike the fine arts, people tend to treat illustration and graphic design as a “visual solution”. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t give the artist much time to think about her work and develop a style that is truly unique.

After this conversation, I started to think of artists who have heavily influenced my own work. The first person that came to mind was Maurice Sendak.

I will always admire Maurice Sendak for creating the most wonderful and unique monsters at a time when children’s books only had characters like baby ducks and Peter Rabbit.

Where the Wild Things Are

So every time I try to draw my own whimsical take on everyday life, I always feel like a Sendak-wannabe.

SingTeach notebook design

Mixed media collaboration with my siblings
Photo by Kara. Photoshop by Marco and Sel.

See what I mean? :) Imagination is harder than people think.


  1. Thanks for your lovely comment. I like your take on flawed--even if he looks up he might think he's just seeing things with those giant paper airplanes.
    You make a great point about style and how hard it is. And yet at the same time a personal style is expected of illustrators to stand out from the crowd.

  2. i guess that's whats so great about art
    is that we always spin it off another artist who has greatly inspired us.

    so its kind of like a chain!
    and i definitely think you have a certain style!

  3. You're right about the personal style aspect to an illustrators identity. Unlike fine art I think the 'fingerprint style' of an illustration is more often than not of a secondary consideration to the technical requirements (of course though you don't get the work if they don't like your style !). I don't think this a bad thing in of itself. It is a strength of illustration as a discipline (I come at this from a 2D 3D design background) that it has the framework of 'meeting the requirements of the brief' upon which you can then hang the playful/stylistic windowdressing. As to finding your style in the first place, there's a challenge! I'm still looking (and to a greater/lesser extent the style has to be flexible in relation to the brief). About all you can do is soak up inspiration (there are no truly new ideas I think... well there might still be 4 or 5 out there somewhere...?!) but also try to inject something of yourself into whatever you do. Sorry to waffle. PS. Sendak is certainly worth soaking up! PPS. love the blog, very thought provoking and the mixed media monsters piece is lovely PPPS. ta for visiting mine!

  4. Sendak's been an influence on me as well. My earliest memories of profound illustrations have been Snedak's "Where the Wild Things Are".

    Btw, thanks for your comments.

  5. one of my friends choreographed a dance called "Where the Wild Things ARe" where the dancers have to dress up as the monsters. I should introduce you two to each other for some form of collaboration!-elainety

  6. Yas, lovely stuff. I want to see more!!!! Keep drawing, and maybe I will too, someday..

    - Cece

  7. OoOH! I have also decided that you should make desktop backgrounds. Or convert your art into desktop backgrounds. They would be beautiful.

    P.S. Love the revenge of the socks.

  8. Thanks guys for such wonderful comments! I've always worried about personal style and wondered if there was a way I could come up with something totally unique. To have other illustrators tell me that it's an issue for them as well makes the problem seem less...insurmountable :)

  9. Cece! :D Thanks for visiting. Your idea sounds great! I will be writing you about that soon ;) Can you believe my desktop background is still the default image? I'm lazy. haha

  10. Just saw Sendak's exhibit. It was great.