Is it possible to build an art career and have two art styles? This is a question I hear asked a lot by students and people starting in the industry. I've come up with a clear cut answer as to why you should strive to only have one style. It's because having two art styles is like having two medium piles of dirt.
When talking about art it is easy to get bogged down with words like talent and who-you-know and agents and luck and right-time-right-place and location. It seems impossible to compare the careers of two artists So when answering questions about art I like to break it down, way down. Instead of saying "creating art" say "digging a pile of dirt." You will be surprised how quickly the truth becomes clear. So let's try it with having two styles.
I want to have a wonderful flourishing art career. I want to be one of the best in my industry. I want lots of people to notice my work. Should I have two art styles or concentrate on one? Okay, here we go: I want to dig a giant pile of dirt. I want to have the biggest pile of dirt in the my industry. I want lots of people to notice my giant pile of dirt. Should I dig two piles of dirt or concentrate on one? Well now it's obvious. Clearly if you want to get noticed and be recognized in your industry you want to have one giant pile of dirt not two medium piles of dirt.
Let's say you spend the rest of your life shoveling two piles of dirt. Let's assume you just got out of college and you are going to work until the day you die. Let's say you spend all your working hours for 80 years shoveling equal amounts of dirt into two piles. You are going to have two big whopping piles of art, I mean dirt. But now your buddy, who also graduated the same day, spent the same amount of time over the same 80 years shoveling all his dirt into one pile. Think of how ginormously gigantic his pile of dirt is going to be compared to your two piles. It will probably be so big people will come from miles around to see it. And everyone will talk about it and blog about it and share it on Facebook and he will be really famous and revered. Everyone will say, "Wow, he is the best dirt digger in his industry. Look at what he has accomplished in his career." And you will be like, "Hey, I shoveled the same amount of dirt as he did. Why is he getting all the attention?" It's because no one cares about two medium piles of dirt. In fact, your buddies one pile of dirt was as big as your two piles 40 years ago.
If 80 years is too large to conceptualize, let's break it down to 4. If you spend 4 years developing two styles your two styles will only be as good as if you spent 2 years on each. But your buddy will have 4 years experience in one style and be 2 whole years ahead of you in his career. And it only grows from there. In 6 years he will be 3 years ahead of you. In 8 he will be 4. See how this goes?
So my point is, if you spend your time spread over two illustration styles, the best you can ever hope for is two styles that are only half as good as the styles of the people in your industry who only have one style. And in the end you will never be able to come close to their accomplishments because you didn't have enough time to adequately hone two styles. So how do you meld your two or three or six styles into one? I'm going to work on that and get back to you.
In the meantime, I dug out my first website from 2005. Below is a sampling of the four art styles I was working in at the time. And yes, this art is making me cringe (as all old work should). If you want to see my current pile of dirt please check out my Instagram feed.