Recently at LTUE, a writers conference in Utah, I was able to be involved with several fantastic panels of terrific artists: JamesA. Owen, Brian C. Hailes, Jess Smart Smiley, JJ Harrison, Bryan Beus, AndreaHatch, Jeff Brimley, Bobbie Berendson W., and Jessica Douglas. All of them extremely talented and successful in their own unique way. Each of them shared something that I engraved into my mind to help me on my own journey as an illustrator.
The one thing that I took away from these panels was that every artist needs to be committed to themselves as artists. While it is great to study the masters, it is not okay to make yourself feel inferior to them. Everyone has their own style. As artist we must embrace our style and focus on what makes our art ours.
The realization of this hit me as I looked at myself sitting on these panels. I was surrounded by several successful, amazing illustrators. In the back of my head I had the naysayer Mikey telling me I didn’t belong and yet I did. What made me stick out from the others was not my overwhelming success as an illustrator—I am in the early stages of my career, what made me stick out was I was true to myself as an artist. I embraced my art, not someone else’s.
I shared on one panel something I feel applies to this train of thought. I was sitting next to James A. Owen, a man I greatly admire, not only for his art, but for his determination to share his dream with the world. My books were propped up next to his, all of them with dragons on the covers. I pointed this out to the audience. “I could draw James’ dragons if I spent my entire life drawing his dragons, but they would always be James’ dragons. They would never be Mikey’s. I had to find my own voice in the crowd and sing it. I had to draw my own kind of dragon.”
The one thing I want to share is you need to embrace yourself as an artist and embrace your own art. Become what makes you unique, not what makes another person shine. I was humbled to be on panels with such a talented group of people. Last year it was just a dream to sit next to the masters. This year it was reality. Never give up on who you are or what you want to become. Let your voice be heard. Let your art shine! That’s my key on embracing yourself as an artist.