Which Decade Does Your Art Style Come From? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Art styles and decades

The day before I wrote this article, I was thinking about art styles when I suddenly had an epiphany. Although I’ve been drawing occasionally throughout my life, my personal art style only really started to come into it’s own when I made a commitment to practice regularly about four and a half years ago.

Even then, I realised that my current art style is basically a 1990s art style.

Why? Because the vast majority of things that have inspired or influenced the way I draw have come from the 1990s. One of the very earliest influences on my art style was probably watching a “making of” program for an American children’s cartoon called “Pepper Ann” on CITV back in the 1990s (and not, as I had previously thought, a cartoon called “Recess”).

In fact, my very early art style was basically an extremely simplified version of the style used in “Pepper Ann”. In fact, until sometime in 2013 or early 2014, you could still see elements of this show in my art style (mostly in how I used to draw faces). The strange thing is that I’d pretty much forgotten about this show, and yet it still influenced my art for quite a while.

But, that’s not all, the other two major early influences on my art style were both also from the 1990s. In the 1990s, “South Park” was everywhere. My parents wouldn’t let me watch it, but you’d see pictures of the characters everywhere and this had an influence on both how I drew people (for a while, when I was a kid, my cartoon characters looked like simplified blob-like versions of Eric Cartman). In fact, the way that I draw people’s eyes when they’re laughing or grimacing is still based on “South Park”.

The other major influence from the 1990s was, of course, Pokemon. I was a massive Pokemon fan back then and although I never got into drawing manga, at least half of the anime/manga-influenced parts of my art style came from watching “Pokemon” (and collecting the trading cards, playing the videogames etc..) when I was a kid.

Of course, when I started to take art more seriously, my art style was influenced by a much wider variety of things from different periods of history. But, even then, a surprising number of them came from the 1990s. For example, the way that I currently draw noses was partially inspired by Frank Kozik’s booklet art for The Offspring’s “Americana” album from 1998.

Likewise, the way that I handle colours in my art these days owes a lot to the aesthetics of the 1990s (and to a lesser extent, the 1980s). Within the past year or so, I’ve started to use a more limited palette of bolder colours that are contrasted against a dark background. This sort of thing was a lot more popular in the 1990s (and the 80s) than it is now, which is a real shame. Because it looks really cool!

In addition to all of this, I still mostly use traditional art mediums (albeit with digital editing after I scan my art). The 1990s was probably the last decade when traditional art materials reigned supreme in cartooning. Although many artists and cartoonists still use them, many more cartoonists and artists make their art digitally these days.

So, how do you find out which decade – or decades- your art style is from?

Well, it’s fairly simple really.You just look at the things that have influenced it and work out which decade most of them come from. But, more than that, it can often be a good idea to work out which decade (or decades) really fascinates you. In fact, you probably know this already.

Even if most of your influences come from things that were made in one decade, if you’re really fascinated by another decade – then there’s a good chance that you’ll include a lot of things from that decade in your art (even if you use a different style).

At the end of the day, you probably already know which decade your art style comes from. In fact, in a way, I already knew that my art style was mostly a 1990s art style. But, surprisingly, I’d never really actually quite thought about it in this way before.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

6 comments on “Which Decade Does Your Art Style Come From? – A Ramble

  1. I played with manga a little, I even bought Indian ink and everything, which has come in handy for other projects. For me though the Renaissance is really the most glorious era in painting, I’m just a sucker for it (call me strange, you’re right). I love the colors, I love the body shapes, I love the framing and the perspective. It’s so dreamy, like a fairy tale come to life. If I could do that, I would die happy (not really). Unfortunately my medium has remained pencil/charcoal ect. I do really well with that. I simply go for realism, not style, mostly. It took me years to perfect it, but I’m proud to say that I stuck it out, and much like a card trick, I could sit down and impress someone with my drawing skills : p
    I find your borrowing of cartoon styles fascinating though. I also grew up watching 90’s cartoons, god were they weird sometimes. Ren and stimpy, courage the cowardly dog ect. I never really took a liking to them, I found them too surreal for my taste (even as a kid lol). That being said, the first time I saw Big O I fell in love with those kind of shows, and they felt so forbidden and adult hehe
    Thanks for the interesting read!!!


    • pekoeblaze says:

      Surprisingly, I’ve never actually thought about using India ink. Although it looks really bold and apparently makes doing things like altering line width etc.. a lot easier, it’s always seemed very messy and complicated when compared to using rollerball pens.

      I don’t know, when it comes to historical art, I probably slightly prefer the 19th century (eg: Pre-Raphealite art, impressionism, Japanese ukiyo-e art [although this also existed before the 19th century], possibly even art Nouveau [although I think that this was from the early 20th century].)

      But, yeah, Renaissance art certainly has a rather luminous and dream-like quality to it and I can see why this might be appealing. Although, I probably slightly prefer Baroque art (which, looking online, apparently began appearing about 100-200 years later) due to the gloomy lighting, the melodramatic visual storytelling etc…

      But, yeah, realism is probably a lot more difficult to do well. I mean, the only times that I’ve been able to make vaguely realistic-looking art is if I’m making a study of an old painting or if I’m painting a still life (and even then, I usually end up using artistic licence).
      Plus, on a vaguely related topic, the manga/anime art style places a lot more emphasis on realism than people sometimes think (I mean, if you ignore the stylised cartoon characters, then pretty much everything in the background of manga comics/ anime is often drawn in a very realistic style, although this obviously varies depending on the story, the artists etc…).

      Yeah, I was fairly indifferent about those kind of hyper-surreal cartoons when I was a kid (and it’s also probably just as well that I didn’t watch South Park back then, since all of the satire would have probably completely gone over my head LOL!).
      But, the 90s was probably the golden age for creativity and depth in cartoons on TV – I mean, even something fairly mainstream like older episodes of The Simpsons were the kind of thing that I found mildly funny when I was younger, but now find it considerably more funny than I used to.

      • I picked up Indian ink solely because I read in some how to manga manual that this was what they used, but yeah it’s a b*tch to work with sometimes. Worst thing is that it dries up if you don’t use it quick enough (I have the tendency to get sidetracked for months at a time lol).

        I know exactly what you mean about the backgrounds in manga! Have you read anything from Clamp? The art is just gorgeous, realism or not.

        I’m glad to find someone who knows how I feel about nineties cartoons! Completely different watching them as an adult. They def. weren’t cookie cutter presentations : p


      • pekoeblaze says:

        Yeah, it seems to be the medium of choice for a lot of cartoonists over the years. I didn’t realise that it had such a short shelf-lifle though.

        I don’t think I’ve read anything from Clamp (I’m guessing that this is a publisher/imprint). I don’t know, most of the relatively few manga books (eg: about 20 or less) that I’ve got are published by Tokyopop or Viz Media.

        Totally. Not to mention that the 1990s just seemed to be a more creative decade in general. I mean, films from back then weren’t all remakes or superhero movies either LOL! Not to mention that computer and video games from the 1990s were often a lot more creative and well-designed in many ways.

      • Clamp is the group of artists (all female) who create the comics, anything they make is published under the author name Clamp. I love Tokyopop and Viz Media though, those publishers have been my best friends!!! hehe

        God, don’t get me started on superhero remakes! What is wrong with these people? They seem so scared that anything they put out will fail unless it follows an already proven formula. Art is about risk, you put you blood, sweat, tears and soul out there, either it sells or it crashes and burns… At least you lived and took the risk, and gave other people the chance to discover something new and beautiful.


      • pekoeblaze says:

        Ah, I didn’t realise that Clamp was the name of a group of artists. I’ve just done a quick Google search, and I really like the vivid way that they use colours in some of their art, although I can see what you meant about the fact that they use a less realistic version of the manga style. But, yeah, pretty much all of the relatively small (probably less than 30 books) collection of manga I own is published by these two publishers.

        Totally! Although I think that half of the problem is the sheer amounts of money involved in modern Hollywood. It’s exactly the same with modern computer games/videogames too (when compared to modern indie games) – the more money involved in making one, the more risk-averse and uncreative it is. But, yes, art is all about experimentation and trying different things – or, making things that might only initially appeal to a small audience, but could go on to inspire many members of that audience to make things.

        I mean, my favourite film is “Blade Runner” – this is a film with a large budget (for the time) – but which didn’t become popular when it was originally released in 1982 (it slowly gained a fanbase and more critical attention over the years though).
        Although it wasn’t entirely “new” (it was technically an adaptation of a novel, but the setting of the film “looked” very different from the setting of the novel and there are several major story changes too), the innovative visual style of the film has gone on to inspire lots of other things within the sci-fi genre [plus, it’s probably the largest influence on my own sci-fi art too]. Yet, it probably wouldn’t get made these days if it was a totally new film.

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