One question I've had fielded at me a good number of times is from people inquiring as to why I no longer use much texture in my work. At a time where much of the web is flattening, you could even consider my push into this direction as timely. Admittedly, I'd love to say that it was my own intuition that lead my work to the place that it is. That I somehow understood where things were headed and changed my course for the more current. But, in truth, it was a far more personal choice that took me out of the texture game:
I was a texture addict.
And I don't say that lightly. I was a slave to the aging of my illustrations through layer upon layer of subtle grunge, weathered brushes, and machine-washing my pieces near the point of oblivion. But if I'm honest with myself, I didn't do it because I felt that it truly added anything towards the narrative of most of these pieces, I did it because I knew that trade dress matters. How you style your imagery matters.
But in actuality, I used texture as a crutch. It was easier for me to create a rushed, unsatisfactory piece in Illustrator, knowing that I could immediately turn around and "gussy" it up in post-production with Photoshop. There were plenty of pieces I didn't care for when they were by naked; without the assistance of this form of trade dress.
At some point, I had to make the personal decision that I wanted to better my work, not just the frame that it sat in. For me, that meant taking out the crutch—leaving behind the texture brushes and grunge overlays. I wanted to work in Illustrator and be content with where my pieces were before they ever went into post-production and skip that process altogether.
Believe it or not, it worked. I was more careful about my line work and paid more attention, made more intentional design decisions while in this stripped down approach. It's been a successful exercise in what matters to me about my work.
I'd encourage you to find those things that have become "safe" for you. Those techniques you've come to lean on, but that aren't helping you grow like you should be. I was a texture addict, but more accurately, I was addicted to the acceptance of my work with texture. Stepping away from these practices doesn't mean that you can't use them again. What it means for me is that if I am going to use it, I want to be intentional with the why. I want it to actually add something to the content rather than cover for some other part of my work that's lacking.
This isn't to say I'm where I want to be or that I'm the best I can be. I know, as much as most all of us do, I'm not nearly done growing yet. Nowhere close to being done being wrong. But it is to say I'm much more satisfied with where my work is now.
Naked and all.
I wanted to create a quick footnote to address something. If you use texture in your work, this is, by no means, meant to be an assault on what you do or how you create. Plenty of work is all the better for well-used texture. This, however, is just my story. Where it's taken me and how I've responded are merely parts of my own personal narrative.