great big book of fashion illustration
I am so pleased to be included in Martin Dawber’s definitive yearbook of contemporary fashion illustration. This hefty volume contains so much to admire and inspire. It is an honour to have five illustrations interspersed throughout including a full-page featuring my Jeremy Laing paper doll.
I am briefly quoted in the introduction from a longer email interview I did with the author – the best bits are below the fold. Keep in mind this was written a year ago!
Do you prefer the term ILLUSTRATOR or ARTIST?
Why – what is the difference?
I seem to thrive within the confines of a brief when it comes to drawing, and for whatever reason it makes it easier to do business that way. I save my artist name tag for projects that involve my own ego and ideas – usually as a writer or a designer.
Did you attend any kind of school for drawing?
I attended fashion design school, where the focus was on figures and clothes.
How did your education benefitted your career?
Understanding how clothing is made and the terminology that designers use is very helpful when your clients are designers.
What triggered your move towards fashion illustration – anything specific?
I had started a blog documenting my school projects, and discovered a small demand for my work as an illustrator. Becoming a fashion illustrator was a natural, if somewhat unintentional, result.
When it comes to your own work, what inspires you?
My clients are my biggest inspiration. When it comes to personal work, I find that I give myself briefs and assignments much as a client would. Creating content for the blog is a constant driver too, especially because all of my other work seems to flow out of that.
Are you more inspired by Fashion or by Art and artists in general?
Fashion! I love drawing beautiful people and amazing clothing design. It isn’t really any deeper than that.
Can you describe your typical ‘start to finish’ workflow? Talk a little bit about the process of creating an illustration.
I gather all of the project details from a client, create an estimate and a timeline, and once we are satisfied with the specifics, we move forward with the project as outlined.
Do you stick to a schedule or just go with how the day pans out?
I’ll go with the flow usually. I am an early riser and tend to get my best work done in the morning, so I usually try to schedule my work around that. The afternoon is better for less mentally involved work like inking, scanning, blogging and correspondence.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
No, and I don’t think you have to. Sometimes I’ll have a sketchbook for a specific amount of time – like attending a fashion week, or a trip – but I’ve never been one to keep a specific book on hand at all times. I do most of my work on loose paper and I file everything in a large cabinet.
Do you typically work from your own ideas or do the ideas come from the client?
Typically I prefer working for clients, or drawing the work of designers I admire.
Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do when you get blocked or find it hard to create something?
Sometimes life gets in the way. Having the blog forces me to try and develop new things constantly, but sometimes that isn’t illustration, sometimes its writing or photos or whatever. The best motivator for me is a deadline. If not, I’ll give myself permission to do nothing – sometimes a fallow period is exactly what is needed, and I don’t like to fight it.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
Definitely learning to run your own business is the greatest challenge. Being alone means that even with some mentorship, most of your education as a business person is by trial and error and that can be tough, but rewarding.
What would be your perfect job or assignment?
The ultimate prize is an international campaign with a great commercial client. Gigs like that are what takes your career up a notch.
What techniques and materials do you use?
My standard technique involves lots of rough work in pencil, and once I’m happy with a draft I’ll take it to the light table and ink it, scan it, make minor adjustments to the line art and colour in Adobe Photoshop. I also use Adobe Illustrator, and enjoy doing analog work with other types of media, especially markers and watercolours.
What values do you place upon tradition skills like drawing & sketching?
I always begin with a pencil sketch. I love drawing from life but I don’t try to be accurate – I’m more interested in capturing attitude and line quality, I think that’s what takes a drawing of a figure into the territory of fashion illustration.
Do you like to use old favourites or seek out new techniques?
I love trying out new techniques. Clients usually want to see what they expect, but sometimes I will get a client who will push me in a new direction, and when I am practicing or teaching, I always try to mix it up.
What is your attitude to the computer?
Without a computer and an internet connection, I wouldn’t have a career as a fashion illustrator. While its not necessary for the drawing part, putting your work out there on the internet is an absolute business necessity, and as we are all figuring out what the new paradigm is in media, getting into it ahead of the curve can only be an advantage.
How has the computer changed the way you draw or finish a piece?
Definitely. I think about how it looks on a display, as a lot of my work is only seen on a monitor. Being able to zoom in 800% can be a blessing and a curse.
Has the easy access to computer software lessened the value put on the illustrator’s skill & craft?
Not at all. The software doesn’t do it for you. You still have to have a style, a flair, a vision, and practice your skills whatever your tools are, whether they’re pencils and paper or Wacom tablets and Adobe Creative Suite.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Its the only thing I’ve ever done where it feels like being myself is the best thing to be. My identity as a person and as a professional are almost entirely overlapped.
In your opinion what sums up a successful fashion illustration?
In a word, attitude.
What are the things unique to Fashion Illustration that others artists need to recognise?
Fashion illustration is ephemeral – it always reflects the time it was made in, just as fashion does. This makes it in a way, disposable, but also gives it the quality of a time machine, if that makes sense. Great art might be defined as “timeless”, but great fashion illustration will always be connected to the time it was created in and for.
Do you feel running websites & blogs helps your career?
Being a fashion blogger allows me the ability to make real-world connections all around the world, and has been the greatest source of leads when it comes to finding new clients.
What contributions do you feel an illustrator offers to society?
Being in fashion, I tend to avoid the argument that what I do is of any great importance. Its enough to say that I’m on the side of joy, art, indulgence and privilege, and am very grateful for that.
Do you envisage a possibility that illustrations will start regularly appearing in place of photo editorials in magazines?
I’ve read a few articles to that effect but I rarely get editorial commissions, and most of this work appears to be unpaid anyways, so I’m not holding my breath. It is just as possible that many magazines themselves will no longer be regularly appearing at all in a few years time.
What advice would you offer someone who is just entering the world of illustration?
Ask for what you want. Live frugally. Diversify. Be persistent.