There are so many fashion illustrators out there, a few whose work influences my own practice. Surprisingly, I have never posted about this, so I thought I would fix that omission by showing some work by illustrators I admire and reveal some of the names behind the drawings, since many fashion illustrators are not credited and virtually impossible to learn about online. Click on the pictures if you want to see a bigger view.
While I was at fashion week in New York, the display at the M.A.C. Cosmetics booth featured incredibly lively, gorgeous watercolours which the staff there called face charts. Far from the characterless face drawings that makeup artists plot their ideas on, these things were stunning to look at in addition to conveying the what colours and combinations go on models’ faces. These paintings were done by an artist named Amelie Hegardt. She was not credited – I had to get the staff to make a call to find out who she was. This is the type of thing that I admire but struggle to aspire to – watercolours and painting in general has never come naturally to me, and that light touch that Hegardt shows here is the essence of what makes watercolours such a challenge – space and restraint form the image as much as the brush and pigment does.
Back in his day, Antonio Lopez was far from obscure – in fact he was on a first name basis with the fashion industry. But now his work is not often referenced, despite the fact that for a few decades he was basically the only working fashion illustrator there was. Once colour photography and glossy full-colour printing came literally into Vogue in the 1960s and 70s, illustration was deemed yesterday’s news and photography dominated the fashionable press. They say there is always room for great talent and Antonio stayed in business because he was the best. In a field where styles get dated quickly, Antonio adapted and updated his work through three decades and stayed in print. His drawings, done from life, are incredibly facile and lively with an attention to anatomy that is rare in fashion illustration. There is no decent website for Antonio fans out there – Antonios People, and I was able to find this image scanned from the book via The Fashion Spot. One image hardly suffices to show all that is Antonio – I highly recommend tracking down the book if you are interested in fashion’s most prolific illustrator.
David Downton is in my opinion the world’s greatest living fashion illustrator. I can only dream of achieving his great skill at making gorgeous images, and dream I do! As you can see from this pencil sketch he achieves a lot with partiality and space as well as stunning line work, and his images on occasion evoke modern fashion illustration’s greatest, Rene Gruau. One thing that gives me heart in this sketch is the hand where you can see an erasure… it is a relief to see a second thought within a virtuouso performance. Downton works from life, and has sketched many of fashion’s most beautiful faces, most notably his friend and collaborator Erin O’Connor. His great attention to character and accurate anatomy is what I admire most about his work.
My friend Mary Helen is working in New York City, and one day she posted this little drawing as her Facebook profile picture. Not only was it recognizable as a brief portrait of her, but I instantly recognized the style – it belongs to a designer named Renaldo Barnette. Mary Helen was surprised that I knew who did the drawing… because Renaldo Barnette is not famous! In fact, this post will make finalfashion.ca the first site on the internet that shows his work. Barnette, who designs at the upscale ladieswear label where Mary Helen assists, gave me permission to post this, so I am glad I can offer a little internet notoriety to someone who deserves to be known.
I discovered Barnette in Linda Tain’s book Portfolio Presentation for Fashion Designers, where examples from his portfolio leaped out of the full colour insert. Barnette considers himself a designer first, who happens to be a quick draw. Though I see myself as an illustrator first and a reluctant designer, his work compels me because it is not only beautiful and quick, it functions as a fashion illustration should – showing a sense of style, and also describes clothing and ideas with technical detail. While Barnette is the illustrator’s designer, and I find my own position as a designer’s illustrator, the essence of what we do is the same – communicating clothing designs with drawings that also stand on their own merit as fashion illustration.
These last two images are a few designs that Barnette offered to allow me to show you, as an example of what he does best. His strength as a designer is ideas and details that are wearable and also clever; and as a renderer he shows his abilities with the art marker. This image seems to be only lightly colour corrected – all four figures were drawn directly on one page, using a media that allows no second chances. These pages seems effortless, as if the designer was just carelessly jotting down his ideas.
What fashion illustrators do you admire?