Long, long ago, I would keep shifting my art style around and make a big deal about it. I'd keep having epiphanies about the way I draw and drastically shift the paradigm. However, for the last few years, it's been rather stable. Instead of mixing things up, incremental changes found their way into my artwork. Slowly, I strayed away from what made my drawings so enjoyable: there have been improvements, but I picked up a lot of bad tendencies along the way, and I couldn't figure out exactly what they were beyond a lifelessness. Tonight, I finally put a finger on it.
Have you ever seen a bad tracing job? Or, really, any tracing job? Or any work with multiple artists collaborating on a single work? No two people draw exactly the same way, and the styles clash. When Disney hires animators, they actually send the prospective artists back to school to learn the Disney style. Well, they did, when they were still doing traditional animation, but I digress. Schooled in a single style, and having it forced upon the animators as a standard, they can draw pretty dang consistently in order to churn out a seamless product. It's not perfect, as evidenced by the necessity of clean-up artists to unify the piece, but the training helps get everyone on the same page.
My drawings have, over the last few years, experienced a similar problem, even with just myself working on the artwork. My inking style isn't the same as my penciling style, and the conflicts of style have resulted in what's a pretty awkward-looking outcome that's unpleasant to look at. I have put a lot of effort, over the last few years, into making my inking clean and polished. My "pencils" (even in Photoshop) are rough and scratchy. Unlike the clean-up artists, I haven't been able to find a look that adequately combines the two elements into a single piece: I produced an uncanny valley where clean lines try to contain a frenetic under-drawing, and fail utterly. The end result is a stiff, ugly drawing.
Looking over my old artwork, I realized that my inks used to be very scratchy as well, and everything was looser. That was the eureka moment: my inks have gotten tight while my pencils stayed loose. I guess that you could say that my inkwork snapped when trying to contain the pencils, stretched to the limit as they were, and reacted to the pencils like antimatter.
Having come to this conclusion, I've decided that my inking style has to change. My artwork may start looking "dirtier", but it'll make the inks more lively: something that's been missing in my art for far too long. I want to recapture the spark that I had in my older art, and I can't do it as-is. I'll still try to improve, and I'm not going to forget everything that I've learned over the last few years but, with any luck, I'll have something that's the best of both worlds: past and present.
Listening to: 11's Regeneration Music
Reading: Pathfinder Core Rulebook
Playing: Pathfinder and D&D
Eating: Eggs and cheese
Drinking: Orange Pekoe Cut Black