Sketch Friday #96 – X-Men’s Beast (Hank McCoy) click for larger version.

“Style” is an interesting word because it can be equally explanatory and a crutch. At its heart, I define an artist’s “style” as the immediately recognizable qualities of that artist––the intrinsic artistic fingerprint that is on all of their work. A Bruce Timm drawing always looks like a Bruce Timm drawing; a Mike Mignola drawing always looks like a Mike Mignola drawing, a Larry Stroman drawing will always look like a Larry Stroman drawing, and so on. This quality shines through even through experimentation with subject, medium, and even, ahem, style.

However, some artists insist on certain aspects of their work being their style when it’s clearly a lack of practice, ability, or knowledge. I think that parses the difference between the two types of artists––an actual artistic style is one that is recognized by others rather than self-declared.

The above drawing of the character “Beast” (known by his friends as Dr. Hank McCoy) from the X-Men was an attempt to play with style. While it ended up being an occasion to dabble in (digital) watercolors, originally I wanted to try my hand at a heavily abstracted drawing, one that disregarded accurate anatomy for design and shape. I like the final drawing, but was a bit displeased that I failed the experiment and, by my estimation, just made another “D. Bethel drawing.” And that’s how I ended up with this dilemma; while I should be reveling in the creation of a delightful new drawing, I instead force myself to wonder if I’m just a hack.

That being said, I do like the very sketchy line of the figure without much attention to traditional rendering or artistic line thickness. It’s a bit more raw than I normally do (though the lines in Long John are often quite sketchy and raw), leaving in legitimate mistakes and errors while still capturing the fullness of form of the character. Despite having a miniature existential crisis, it is a drawing I actually learned a lot from.