Before writing my cirital review, i spent a lot of time asking questions and trying to find the best question to answer in my ciritcal review. Below are some of the questions I had jotted down.


What topic or theme has informed my journey throughout this course?

Finding my style, developing that signature style, marketing that style.

Work that looks as if its been screen printed with out screen printing – is that how i got to my style?

How did I get to where I am now?

What does it take to be an illustrator?What does it take to be a working illustrator?

What does every working illustrator have in common and do I have it too?

Do illustrators have more than one style? Can they market themselves as a watercolor portrait artist AND also do collage landscapes?

Does my work have a signature style? Do I have a signature style that looks professional enough to become an illustrator?

Do I have a Sense of uniqueness?

Do I want to become an illustrator?

How is my process similar to other illustrators?

How is an illustrators process important to becoming successful ?

How is having a sense of uniqueness important to becoming a working illustrator?

By asking the questions it seems to be clear that I have a lot to think about as an illustrator. These questions probably pop into my mind every now and then but jotting them down like this was really beneficial with not just starting off my writing but also ending the course. It was great see what I think about down on paper to process it.


Critical Review: Stephanie Belbin 508877

Illustration 2: Responding to  a brief.

When I started at the Open College of the Arts I didn’t know that I wanted to become an illustrator. At the time, I was 24 years old and had just moved to a new country with my husband to start new jobs. We had just moved to the other side of the world, Angola.  Previously we had been living in Hong Kong together. I left California to be with him in Hong Kong but when I left California, I had left my school, my job, my apartment, my cat and my friends. I started working in Hong Kong as an art teacher (I lied that I had a degree so they would hire me). When I moved to Angola with my husband in 2011 I still didn’t have a degree and I wasn’t working on one. Even though they had promised me a job in Angola as an art teacher, they told me they couldn’t hire me full time with out me working towards a degree. That is when I looked up OCA. So when I started I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wanted to make art so I took a course offered by OCA called Painting 1: Watercolor Practice. This was so much more challenging then I had initially expected and I struggled. But when I enrolled into my first illustration course, with out even knowing exactly what illustration was, I knew that this is where I belonged. So, illustration is my thing, right? But what does that mean? Illustration 1 was about getting back into the habit of drawing everyday. It was about learning what it means to be an illustrator and respond to exercises and assignments. It was also about discovering a process. Illustration 2 was much more about honing in, developing my style and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The light being me becoming an illustrator. One thing that I got from my tutor from illustration was so much encouragement. She loved my style and pushed me to develop it. That is the topic I want to write about. Because every exercise was defined by whether or not anyone would pay me to do what I am doing and to develop my unique style into something marketable. I would look at each assignment and try to see if it was professional enough, unique enough that it looks like I could have easily been paid to do it.  I wasn’t always successful but that was always the goal. What I plan to write about today is probably something many illustrators think about. Is there anyone else out there doing the same thing as me? Is my style unique? How do I take inspiration from other artists with out copying?

Looking at different artists and their websites really opened my eyes to how as an illustrator, you are really marketing yourself. But you are also marketing a specific style. Either you care skilled in specific techniques or your work is clean, minimal or maybe its an explosion of color! Its hardly ever more than 2 or three of those things. In fact, I noticed that most illustrators stuck to one style to market. One of the first illustrators I spent time researching was Emma Dibben. She has clients such as Waitrose, Delicious, The Guardian, Krug Champagne and many more. I have previously seen many watercolor illustrations of food, canned goods, bottles and other supermarket products. I have also seen many botanical watercolor illustrations in which I greatly admire but Emma Dibben’s work is like that but taken further to give her work a sense of uniqueness. Which I think is more marketable than just another botanical illustrator. What strikes me as interesting from Emma’s work is her use of typography and how what looks like happy accidents (but obviously very calculated spills) are enhancing her work and was pushing the limits of her medium while painting ‘outside the lines’.


In her blog she talks about her surroundings and lifestyle being the biggest source of inspiration. She gardens and cooks a lot so naturally her interests are reflected in the work that is being produced. Emma’s use of typography is really important to setting the tone of her work. Its carefree and fun. It throws another level of dimension to her work just like how when she draws a geometric shape she tends to let it fall out of perspective. Looking on all her social media platforms, she seems to show the same style and the same theme. Even her Instagram account (@emmadibben) is pictures of food and painting and often together! Like she made her lunch and decided to draw and paint it before eating it. Then snaps of photo of it and uploads it to her social media platforms. She is marketing her sense of uniqueness.

Another artist whom I spent many hours listening to on her youtube channel is also very active in social media. Its because of that I found her in the first place and got to listen to hear, read her blogs and look at her work. She talks about this “sense of uniqueness” being a key factor in her decisions and pathway in becoming an illustrator. Her name is Fran Meneses and goes by the name Frannerd as her artist name. She describes her drawing style as a child as Anime. She was interested in Anime as a young girl and always drew her favorite characters really well. But she wanted to pursue this further. As she stated in her blog, she didn’t want to just be another person who is really good at drawing anime so she knew that in order to be come an illustrator she would need to make changes to her illustration style. When you see her work you can really see the influence from anime.

image taken from http://frannerdwork.tumblr.com/

However, she took her hobby and made it into a career by tweaking her style a bit and making it more her own. Her website is so much more involved than other illustrators I have seen and maybe that is what is makes her work stand out. Maybe its because she’s given herself a voice and a personality then when I look at her work I can see a uniqueness to it. Even though looking at her work, I’ve seen it before and its not completely new, however, it’s the idea that she made changes purposefully to be able to find work. You can hear her talk about this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2nS46u8eMk&t=427s

In many of her video she discusses color pallets and how narrowing down her color choices can also have an effect on tying her work together and making a portfolio based on a color pallet alone. She takes influence by story telling and graphic novels.

Looks like both artists start with watercolor. But it seems to me that Emma Dibby doesn’t take her work digital like the Fran Meneses does. Looks like Emma’s work is usually finished with watercolor and ink and scanned in to then be use for print. Where as Fran Meneses takes her watercolor works, photographs them and then edits or adds to it in photoshop. Which is similar to how I work. Most of my work is done in markers then photoshopped to enhance. Their work isn’t very similar besides the material they have chosen to use and their process is also very different. Frannerd loves to use her illustrations as story telling where as Emma shows another more artistic side of everyday objects and pushes the boundaries in botanical illustrations. Although I could see how Emma’s work could be a little like story telling. The jar of olives are opened and splattered on the table signifying a story of someone working in the kitchen and her wine bottles have wine dripping down the bottle and spilled on areas of the paper. Almost like she had a little drink her self while painting it and the words running off the edge of the bottle is the way she’s looking at it or how one would look at it if they had drank the whole thing!

One thing they both have in common is their sense of uniqueness in their field and marketing to that.

That’s where I get to point of this written assignment: My style and my goals for that. At the moment I don’t feel I Have fully pushed myself to be working professionally even though I have done a few commissioned pieces and especially with the last assignment of getting an actual client. Which will be in print eventually and we did have a professional rapport. But when it comes to setting up myself on social media, how am I using the artists I’m looking at to influence my work? I don’t really with their style but I do with their drive. With how they market themselves as illustrators and how making a few changes. This whole course has been challenging in different ways but the biggest challenge was trying to make sure that I am building a strong portfolio with individual style (hopefully not seen elsewhere) and so making sure that I am showing my process and reflecting on that to improve the work that is being produced. One day I hope to be a working illustrator just like Emma Dibby and Fran Meneses. This way of thinking has been a new realization for me. Instead of thinking that artists just magically use their talent to create whatever they want and then they are hired for that is now a naïve thought to me. I never believed that I would have to adapt my style to make myself marketable. The way that Frannerd discusses this as not wanting to be just another girl who copes anime well it’s a strong statement. This thinking pushed her process to further her career. She changed her style by adapting what was already strong and putting her mark on it with color choices and whimsical characters. Its something to inspire to. I plan to create more, work more on my signature style with not just my portraits but also maybe creating a group of characters I feel like could become mascots for me. As many illustrators crate personas or characters that represent them and speak for them. Like an artist I know in Bangkok named Kathy MacLeod. She often draws ‘herself’ as a character in many situations. She’s a comic artist in who has a column in BK magazine. Because her comics show her in situations I think it give her as an artist a personality that we already know (even though we haven’t met her at all!) Her page is full of suggestions in ways she can be hired and what she can do for you. I’m realizing more and more that every freelance illustrator just needs to be constantly marketing his or her personal style. In fact, writing this is driving me to create more account on social media to push my work out in to the world a bit more. How can I become a working illustrator? I just need to take some pointers from these amazing artists who are marketing their sense of uniqueness!


Dibben, Emma. Chateauneuf Du Pape. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

Dibben, Emma. Chateauneuf Du Pape. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

“Http://68.Media.Tumblr.Com/5D659261730eeb9a8203913b295e81d4/Tumblr_Nj7d96gqmk1s0nk5eo1_1280.Png”. Frannerdwork.tumblr.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Maneses, Fran. Elisa Thornberrys. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

“The Story Behind My Illustration Style (Sort Of) ~ Frannerd”. YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

ILLUSTRATOR, HOW et al. “Frannerd’s Blog”. Sandianerd.blogspot.jp. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

“Kathy Macleod”. Kathymacleod.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.


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