Cohesiveness seems to be emphasised a lot in illustration practises today.
In my experience, it is difficult to tell from one's own perspective when your work 'feels like your own'. So many illustrators I've met have felt this way, yet display a body of work that looks and feels consistent to any second pair of eyes.
I think that to build up a body of work that is cohesive, which is to say that it 'feels like your work's, which is to say *is* your own work, just takes time and will come to you if you trust in the process.
I'm saying this as though it is advice, but really it's just what I've learned from different people's opinions and anecdotes, as well as my own experience.
You are permitted to believe that what i'm saying is bullshit. But at the current moment I feel that what i'm saying is true for where I am in my practise.
What does this have to do with themes? Well, in an attempt to be 'cohesive' I've been considering ways of bringing all of my work together under one umbrella.
I have a lot of projects on the go, and may have spread myself a bit wide in order to feel like I'm doing 'enough'. I initially tried to unite some very different projects under the theme of the interconnected. I had hoped that this would cover work dealing with subject matters about fungal networks and the mind, and looking at pattern-based forms and explorative personal work. As it turned out, 'interconnected' began to feel a bit vague, more of a cop-out than an answer to the big spooky question of where my work is going.
I then received some advice that helped me feel like I had a bit more of a clue:
-write down three words that describe where you want your work to go.
-Think about a message or a feeling you can carry across in all of your work that will make it yours, even if the projects are different in style and subject matter.
I decided to take it on board, and used it as an opportunity to be introspective and dig deeper about what it is that I really want to say.
Finding the three words was hard- they feel kind of try-hard to say out loud and make me sound like I'm taking my work too seriously (perhaps I am). They may be subject to change but at the moment I know i want my work to be:
To convey movement, to capture organic forms, softness, and subscribe to a geometry of wiggles
To perplex, to abstract, to view the everyday from an outside lens and make something look like it was dreamt up by a baby alien in utero
To put faith in the process, to stand outside myself as I make, and to feel in touch with ways of working that feel natural, that are not met with feelings of 'should' or 'should not'. To be *doing*.
This reads sort-of like a manifesto.
As for the feeling that I want to convey through my work, my own words don't seem to describe it. Maybe my work is a little sterile in that it doesn't always start with a tangible feel. However I think I can describe some part of what i want my work to do in a quote:
"“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”
From good old Alan Watts- a reminder not fight against what I'm doing and not to over-invest my ego in what I am producing. What I make is not a product of my actions alone.
Like everything else, it will run its course.