PUSH YOUR PROPORTIONS.
Most everyone has a particular set of proportions they’re comfortable with drawing- eyes are a certain size and set just so far apart, ears are the same shape and so high on the head, the nose goes right here. We play around within those proportions, we tilt the eyes and add thicker eyebrows and hook the nose, but the overall geometry and layout of the face stay true.
If you look at my art from a year ago, I had a fine finishing style but my characters lacked the design oomph that would set me apart from the pack. Not saying I have attained said “oomph,” but I’ve made progress. Thank you Shanth Enjeti and non-Western art, but I’m finally starting to realize that, no, eyes don’t always belong in that certain place, ears don’t even have to make sense, and it should be a conscious decision whether or not a character needs a neck at all. So, let's take a quick look at some visuals- firstly, my art from just a few months ago.
If you take faces from my old art, actually, their proportions overlap almost perfectly. It's creepy in retrospect:
Now, looking at my more recent character inspired by Papua New Guinean costume, I'm finally more comfortable shaking things up. Beady eyes, a neck that's little more than a continuation of the head:
...And that's not even getting into the horns and markings and crap. Breaking out of your comfort zone is always, always a conscious decision, and it's up to you and an artist to take the jump. I don't necessarily find it easy to break out of the infamous Disney Rut, but I'm doing my damnedest... Not because I don't want to work at Disney- I'm waiting to hear back about the visual development apprenticeship now- but because the best stuff at Disney is made with fresh material, material that isn't what they already have. A good, shiny finish ensures that you'll have work for the rest of your life, but being able to stretch yourself, to try new things, to look at what makes non-Western masks so damn effective- that's what gives you staying power.
As emmycic recently said, you rarely get hired to draw what you want to draw, save some very exclusive freelance work, and that often doesn't pay the bills if you're not already well-known. Push yourself, whether or not you want to, and then come back to the stuff you love to do. I guarantee it'll be better.