"I like your style, but was thinking more of this style... Could you emulate it?"


New Member
Hey folks - building up my profile, new on here, and finding my way round!

I think I know the answer, but wanted to ask if any other illustrators have had this same experience?

First friend is a designer, knows my particular style and he is willing to put work my way. Second friend, with whom I have worked on a long-term basis, has recommended to first friend a particular project I worked on for her, as it seems to fit the style for the project he is working on. All great so far. Submitted my interest and my fee as requested.

First friend's feedback: "not quite what I'm looking for - I need it to look more textural and painterly, more like this-" and he forwards a web link to an American illustrator whose style is quite a long way removed from my own. The implication being "I want you to emulate this style..." and for a fraction of what that particular illustrator would cost!

So here I am, my own style considered null and void, expected to work in the style of another illustrator which would be technically a bit of a challenge and require experimentation/trial and error on my part. I'd obviously have a shot at it, but considering there is evidently quite a small budget for this illustration, and haha, no mention yet of deadline (you can bet your sweet life it'll be a tight one!) - it's beginning to sound like a potential b*ll-ache!

How have others dealt with this situation?
First of all welcome to the forum.

I'm not an illustrator, but I thought having your own (possibly unique) style is what makes illustrators, illustrators. It would be pretty boring if every illustrator emulated (copied) another illustrators style, nor do I believe doing that comes natural to them. Illustrators tend to develop their own style over time, it is kind of like second nature, it just happens through practice, experimentation and experience. Whilst it is fine to be inspired by other illustrators, to be asked to completely change the way you work to match another illustrators style is a bit odd if your work is so far off from their taste. That is what it comes down to at the end of the day, a persons taste and opinion.
I worked on a project in the past which required an illustrator ( a student) to emulate a style of image that was already being used to save money. You could tell that this wasn't her style, and she wasn't particularly experienced at supplying files I could use, which meant I had to spend time tidying up PSDs and exporting files so they could be used.

It would have been easier to simply use the original illustrator who provided perfect vector files, but I guess the client was blinded by pricing.

As Carl has said, illustrators are generally hired because of their particular style. Some styles overlap, but some people don't seem to realise that simply being good at drawing/painting/whatever, doesn't mean you can copy another style, a style that's been honed over a number of years.

I'd work on your own style, and avoid 'imitation' jobs where possible as I see this as being a bit unethical (it's almost like copying someone's design work). Imagine if a few years down the line, clients were hiring cheaper illustrators to copy your own particular style to save money. That's money that you'd be losing out on.
There are illustrators out there that make a living from being versatile, myself included. I have one or two styles for cartoons, for instance, and if a client wants something different, they usually realise they will
have to pay a premium to get that, as it will take me a bit longer than usual. This is quite normal, I think.

That's not to say that I copy other people's styles, which is difficult anyway without knowing what they used,
but I do my own version of them, if asked by a client to do that. Book illustration is a case in point. I was once asked to do something similar to Quentin Blake, so I just did something in my loose watercolour style
as they were on a budget. It didn't look anything like his stuff (in my eyes), but in the client's eyes it was fine.

Thing is, I have numerous clients that work in a number of fields (print, web, advertising, packaging etc) and if I could only supply one style of work, they would simply go elsewhere for something different.
To keep yourself to one style is a bit limiting I think, unless you have a very unique style or you are concentrating one one particular field, such as book illustration.