Some thoughts on “style”…

…and I’m really just thinking out loud here but “style” is a thing I have thought about a lot over the years.

Are we illustrators supposed to have just one? Should our style be strong and solid and easily recognisable? Or, should we be continually playing with and exploring new mediums, new ideas and new ways of doing things?

I don’t know the answer to that, or even IF there is an answer to that. I only know the way I do it…which sometimes frustrates the heck out me and other times makes me want to fist pump the air.

You see, I just can’t seem to settle on any one “style”.
My desire to experiment and play and try new things is strong – and I know exactly where that comes from – it comes from 20 years of living with a graphic designers brain.

As a graphic designer, the last thing you ever want to do is repeat the same thing over and over and over again. Big mistake! Boring! That will never win awards! Also, as a graphic designer, you’re constantly looking out into the world to see what’s new. Your work is influenced by fashion, by street art, by typography and photography. You follow trends … all while trying to set trends at the same time (yes, that is as tricky as it sounds). As a graphic designer everything you do is one big huge work in progress with the end result being a dynamic, exciting portfolio that demonstrates problem solving, versatility and innovation.

That’s how my brain has been trained to work and now, when you take my brain out of the design world and you drop it into the world of writing and illustrating for children it has to come up with a whole new way of thinking. And it makes me wonder. A lot.

Mostly it makes me wonder if I’m doing this illustration thing right! Ha!

I really admire illustrators whose style is so consistent that you can pick their work from even the smallest snippet. I admire the dependability of their work and I admire the commitment to their style.

Ooh! Maybe that’s it. I have commitment issues!

No. I don’t.

I’m an explorer.

Each new project, new blank page and new manuscript is, for me, an exciting new world of possibilities and challenges. It makes sense to me that they should all have their own personality. It makes sense to me, the graphic designer.

Me, the children’s book writer and illustrator, is working  on finding that lovely balance where every new project feels fresh and innovative but still has my stamp all over it.

I think I’m close. I will get there. I love doing this job too much not to get there.

Also. I’m a perfectionist.

Also. I may be somewhat of an over-thinker 😀

Also. I may even be there already and just not know it.


In other news, Phil Pickle, the picture book Kenny Herzog (author) and I made together is publishing  March 1 with Peter Pauper Press. Not long to go now!







Not by the hair of my chiny chin chin!

Wow. This one has taken me three times longer than usual.
Probably because I’ve redone most of it three times over. D’oh!

The first version was fine but the pigs felt all wrong and it just felt…flat.
Redo the pigs.

The second version was OK but it still felt flat.
And those darn pigs still weren’t right.
Redo the pigs. Paint some lovely textures and backgrounds. Add those.
Oooh looking lush!

So this third version I think I like. Like properly like.
If this was high school I’d not just “like” it, I’d “like like” it.
If this was Facebook I’d “kel likes this”. Thumb up.

If this was a note in primary school from my crush that said “do you like me? tick yes or no” I’d tick yes.

So here they are.

(What they look like together)


(and apart)

PIGS left pageKellyCanby

PIGS right pageKellyCanby

It’s the three little pigs!

Also, I still feel like I’m struggling to develop a “style”. Or maybe, I have a style but I can’t look at anything objectively enough anymore to be able to see it…?
It’s interesting because I thought I had a “style”, or at least, a “style” was emerging,  but as I’ve been working to put a folio together I find that each piece I do looks so different from the last! What the?! Huh?! Nooo.

If I think about all my favourite children’s book illustrators, Oliver Jeffers, Alex T Smith, Leigh Hogdkinson, Chuck Groenink, Mo Willems etc etc etc…they ALL have a very distinct style, in fact, I believe that if you put a pile of their work in front of me, without labels, I could tell you exactly who did what, easy peasy. And that’s a good thing. I need that thing!

I neeeeeed it.

Where do I get that thing?