Does a Professional Illustrator Need a “Style”?


Something to think about over the Holidays.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. I don’t feel like I have a “style” at this time,  yet customers say they come to me for my “style.”  Do they come to me for my lack of strong visual style? Do I have a style and not know it? Is my “style” not a technique, but a way of looking at the world.

When I start a project I usually read the book and listen to the author and plan my illustrations around their vision, not mine. Of course, I also add some of my vision to give their ideas uniqueness and vitality.  I don’t make their ideas fit into my fixed vision and style. Is this wrong?

I am working on all these issues in my head. I am not asking for personal advice on my work, just a general discussion on having a “style.” Is it necessary to have a “style”? What about the author’s (client’s) vision?   Is it important to have a “style” when pursuing  a career as a professional illustrator?

I found this blog by Nate Williams and  the discussion interesting.

Please add comments below to make this a real discussion for SCBWI so we can help each other with this issue.

Dayne Sislen:


About Dayne Sislen, Children's Book Illustrator

I am a children's book illustrator and graphic designer. I love working with self-publishing children's book authors to help them bring their characters and scenes to life on the printed page. I have spent over 30 years in the design graphics, advertising and marketing business, working with some of the most creative people in the industry. I can take your story idea from character development to finished illustrations and printer ready files. I run on coffee, chocolate and colorful Post-it notes.

2 responses »

    • Karen, How can you say that. Your work is wonderful! Of course you are an illustrator. Tell yourself, “I am an illustrator.” at least five times a day.

      My problem is, this style thing. Every book I illustrate I think of a different style to use that seems right for the story. I guess that’s the art director in me. In my previous job, I used to buy illustrations from many different illustrators, matching their style to what I needed for each project. I get bored with one style.


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