admiration and inspiration – Erté

admiration and inspiration — Danielle on July 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Harpers Bazaar Oct 1931 Erte

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer, and one of the most delightful books I picked up was the autobiography of the great 20th century fashion illustrator and theatre designer Erté. I’ve never found an autobiography by a fashion illustrator before – they’re not known for being literary. While I’ve admired Erté’s considerable body of work, I knew almost nothing about him.

His book, Things I Remember, surprised me by being just as enchanting and delightful as his work. It was like sitting down to a long dinner conversation with a charming guest. He relayed his life experiences with humour and gratitude, exhibiting a genuine pride in his accomplishments without ever seeming arrogant about it. An industrious man who prioritized his work above everything else, he drew until the very end of his long life, weathering the ups and downs of his career and eventually having the great satisfaction of enjoying a revival of the fashions of his heyday within his own lifetime. So many fashion illustrators draw until their deaths – it’s not a career that offers comfortable retirements – or maybe it’s not the type of career you’d ever want to retire from.

The beginning of his career was equally fascinating – after serving in the military he simply wrote a letter to Harper’s Bazar with a few samples of his work from his days as an employee of Poiret, which launched his reputation and resulted in a long professional relationship with the magazine. He created their covers exclusively for over a decade. Simple, right? To a modern fashion illustrator, that sounds like a fairy tale! The 1920s must have been a magical time to be creative – people had a lot of money and wanted to spend it all on beautiful things. Erté enjoyed his success, owning a fine home, travelling with tons of luggage and servants, even doing a lucrative stint in Hollywood.

Of course he came from a privileged Russian background, and his life was full of eccentric aristocrats and flamboyant artists of all types. He documents with impressive honesty both the working relationships that flourished and also the ones that fell apart (like Poiret), the highs of prestigious jobs and the relief of less glamourous work when times were tougher. He weathered a change in fortunes when the Depression arrived, and survived the change of fashions in the 1940s by turning to the theatre. He even continued working in Paris during the occupation.

He was incredibly prolific. His images had a computer-generated precision even though they were drafted by hand – and a lively expressive quality despite their rigour. His working style was civilized, solitary, and methodical.

As a fashion illustrator, there are so few examples of your own kind to investigate with any type of intimacy. A creative career is a changeable thing, a never-ending roundabout of losing your way and finding it again. This summer has been a period of professional re-evaluation for me, and I found Erté’s story to be inspiring and reassuring. His flair, exquisite class, and dedication to his art, have helped me rediscover those same qualities in myself.

a brief history of live runway sketching

admiration and inspiration,fashion shows,history,live drawing — Danielle on May 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Halston by Joe Eula

I was considered the fastest pencil in the field, a mannequin need only do her turn down the catwalk at a fashion show, and voila – an illustration.

- Joe Eula

A famous, venerable fashion writer (who was once an illustrator himself) told me that fashion illustrators “say they sketch at fashion shows, but they don’t really.” At the time I remember thinking, somewhat arrogantly – I’ll show you that they do! Of course, people have been sketching away at runway shows ever since runway shows emerged at the turn of the last century, though this history has yet to be written. This post is just a few scraps of information I’ve managed to collect.

Very few runway sketches ever see the light of day – it’s a challenging task to capture the fleeting moment of a catwalk turn with any kind of elegance, and most runway sketches aren’t much more than scribbles. Scribbling is just fine – sketching at fashion shows is another way to take notes, and it makes sense to capture visual information… well, visually. Occasionally critics and journalists will dash off doodles in between point-form notations – I’ve heard that Suzy Menkes does this – but of course such information is anecdotal, and not much evidence can be found of it as writers aren’t known for being proud of their artistic efforts.

It’s hard to imagine now, but early fashion shows were small affairs intended for wealthy clientele, and there was very little access for either photography or illustration. Photography, as a new medium, wasn’t considered to be classy – and sketching was frowned upon because it was used to steal ideas. In her wonderful book Fashion Is Spinach, Elizabeth Hawes recalls her early years in Paris in the 1920s, surreptitiously sketching at fashion shows so American department stores could knock off Parisian designs:

When I stole designs from the French dressmakers, it was, originally, a game which I developed between me and the mannequin. Her part was to try and get the dress out of the room before I could master the cut of it. My part was to digest its intricacies without missing a seam or a button. I was good. By the time I’d finished my second season of sketching, I could have designed you as pretty a Chanel as the master herself.

But swiping her designs accurately was violent mental exercise. If you made any more moves with your pencil than enough to write the equivalent of a number, someone suddenly leaned over your shoulder and grabbed your paper out of your hand. And these were the sketches the buyers wanted most.

- Elizabeth Hawes, Fashion is Spinach

YSL by Kenneth Paul Block

[Kenneth Paul] Block travelled regularly to Paris to report on the couture shows from the early 1960s onwards. He never knew what kind of reception he might receive, since WWD was often feuding with designers. Sometimes he found himself ‘off the list’ and had to work ‘from dictation’. At other times there was special treatment and access. It is a tribute to Block’s skill that it is impossible to tell his real and imagined images apart.

- David Downton, Masters of Fashion Illustration, pp. 151

By the 1960s, fashion houses were photographing their runway shows using in-house photographers, but the shows still weren’t constructed around the photography pit as they are now. By that time, illustrators were made welcome as part of the press. John Fairchild, the EIC at Women’s Wear Daily wanted his paper to appear distinctive and artistic, and so WWD had a whole department of illustrators, most notably Kenneth Paul Block, whose runway work is incredibly prolific and admirable. His drawings aren’t fanciful or abstract, they are essentially reportage, showing the clothing with both accuracy and flair.

Lacroix by Gladys Perint Palmer

 

It is important to learn the phrase “La Premiere Rang Surélevé”, the first raised row, usually the third or fourth, where the view is better. Yves Saint Laurent used to seat his mother in the first raised row.

When the rows are not raised, it is another matter. From the second row, you can find a sliver of a view. From the third row you see only the heads in the first row. The fourth row is death. I have perfected the spot-and-sprint approach. Wait for the right moment, crouching, just before those with the standing tickets are let in, then leap—vault, if you will—into the front row. Timing is everything. If you leap too soon, the rightful occupant of the seat may turn up (generally Marie-José Susskind of L’Official who is always late) and you have lost both your new seat and your old seat.

- Gladys Perint Palmer, Fashion People

Block’s successor is undoubtedly Gladys Perint Palmer, whose book Fashion People is the only exclusive collection of live runway sketching I’ve ever seen, and contains a few comments on the challenges of runway sketching itself. I would categorize Perint Palmer as a “society sketcher” as well as a runway sketcher – she is able to recognize and record the fashion show attendees along with snippy little over-heards and humorous gossip. She’s not just interested in the clothing and the fantasy, but in the absurd scene as a whole, and she records the fashion show phenomenon as it reached it’s apex in the 1990s, when runways became theatrical and the scene was beginning to explode into the media spectacle it has now become.

menswear by Richard Haines

 

It happens very quickly! It’s really difficult to get details, so I focus on the shapes and the silhouettes–the shoulder, the length of the jacket, the shape of the head/hair. It’s challenging but so much fun–like a quiz show where you have to answer 20 questions in a minute!

- Richard Haines

The most successful live runway sketcher working now is Richard Haines. He’s the master of capturing menswear – his experience as a designer, and interest in a specific, sophisticated-casual aesthetic has served him very well. The rumour I’ve heard is that is his sketches sell for $1000 each, and considering there’s no one else who can do what he does, I’m inclined to believe it.

Pink Tartan by Danielle Meder

… and then there’s me. I’ve been live-sketching at runway shows for over five years now, so compared to the masters of the craft, I am still just a baby, though I’ve had the remarkable opportunity this past season to adapt the form to the touchscreen and bring live runway sketching into the 21st century.

Most live runway sketchers do their greatest work towards the end of their career. Elegance only comes with experience. It’s a skill that takes a lot of practice, and getting access to get that practice isn’t easy to do, either. But the rewards are many – it’s a rush of adrenaline as your eyes and hands race to render an immersive experience in a bizarre, overwhelming environment. When a great sketch appears out of nowhere in seconds, it feels like fashion is an electric current coursing through your body. I believe my runway work has given me a more profound understanding of fashion at an instinctive level. It brings fashion illustration into the physical moment.

 

career karma – Tom Tierney

admiration and inspiration,career karma,interviews,paper dolls — Danielle on October 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm

If you have any interest in paper dolls, you have encountered the work of Tom Tierney. Mr. Tierney is the quintessential 20th century paper doll artist, perhaps the only paper doll artist in the world who has created a name known outside the world of niche collectors. His prolific body of work covers vast swathes of popular culture – film stars, politicians, literary and historical figures, mythological creatures, the camp, and the bizarre. If a human-shaped subject could possibly be adapted to the paper doll form, Mr. Tierney has probably already done it.

Now in his eighties, Mr. Tierney lives and works in Texas and from everything I’ve read about him, he is a charming man with tremendous enthusiasm for what he does. Recently, he suffered a stroke, which must be a very frustrating experience for someone who lives to draw – and yet he has a wonderful sense of humour, is constantly working on new projects, and radiates inspiring vitality through his correspondence.

Before his iconic contribution to the world of paper dolls, Tierney was a commercial fashion illustrator in the 1950s and 1960s, when fashion illustration was still considered a necessary – and therefore even lucrative – aspect of the fashion industry. The nature of this career couldn’t possibly be more different now than it was then, and it’s fascinating to get even a small glimpse into that lost world. I am honoured that Mr. Tierney agreed to share some of his significant experience with me. Below, he offers his thoughts on creating paper dolls, and his passion for his work.

 

How do you choose a subject for your paper dolls, and subsequently research and choose the poses and items? Are the subjects inspired by popular demand, or your own interests?

As for choosing a subject for my paper dolls, I will have to give you a rather nebulous answer. Sometimes I will contact my editor at my publishers and suggest an idea for a paper doll book. Generally I do not get an answer right away because he then presents the idea to their editorial board for their approval. Sometimes the answer is “yes”, others “no”. Sometimes they come back to me with suggestions for changes in direction and if I agree then a contract is in the offing. Sometimes the editor will come to me with an idea and if I think I can do it justice, then we will go to a contract. Actually, if someone in the general public wants to see me do a book on a subject dear to their heart, it would be better to write the editor of the publisher and suggest the idea and that it be done by me (if they want me to do it, that is). Just remember that often the idea might already be copyrighted and owned by someone else! “Superman, for instance”.

Are there any “rules” for creating paper dolls? What do you believe are the defining characteristics of an excellent paper doll?

So far as I know there are no “rules” for making paper dolls. In fact when I first started making my own paper dolls and started putting a colored columnar base behind the legs, I got several rather uncomplimentary letters saying that I was wrong and breaking tradition in doing so, because there would be no shoes to put on the dolls. I tried politely to say that shoes and hats were the first thing lost once the doll was cut out, and further if people did not like what I was doing, they had the option of not buying them! Perhaps the only valid “rule” is that the clothes fit the doll and the tabs are in the right places.

So far as I know, there are no Paper Doll Police!

As to defining characteristics for an excellent paper doll, I really know of none. They are as varied as the artist and the viewer. After all, some people prefer Rembrandt and others like Picasso!

Can you describe your studio environment and how you like to work? What types of media and techniques do you use to create paper dolls? How long does it take you to develop a paper doll book from start to finish?

My studio is rather spacious as it is the 2nd floor mezzanine of an old 1894 building. I have divided it into two sections with the front 2/3s as a display area for my art and the back 1/3 as my actual work space which has a drawing table, a large table sized paper cutter, a desk with my computer, and shelves all around for storing art materials, folios filled with my finished art, and book collection. The furniture in the display area is mostly Victorian, including a 2-3 hundred year old wooden painter’s mannequin, a couple of antique music boxes, and a large Victorian styled doll house and several metal doll houses of the 1940-50s era. As to media, I prefer to draw and paint on Bristol surfaced 2ply illustration board in colored inks. I usually work about 1/4th larger than the printed work. I generally draw everything out on tracing paper (to be sure the costumes fit) and then transfer them to the illustration board. The longest part of doing a book is the research which can take a week or two. The actual rendering of the book is about two more weeks, give or take.

You have an enviable background as a fashion illustrator at a time when there was much more practical demand and professional validation of the craft than there is now. Can you describe what it was like to work as a freelance fashion artist for department stores and other clients in the 1950s and 1960s? What would a typical work day be like?

Doing free lance fashion (and movie poster) illustration in the 1950s & ‘60s was oft times pretty grueling for me. I was a greedy little cuss and often put in 12 to 18 hours a day, often 7 days a week. I was lucky to always have a rather large studio, first a loft on the lower East Side and later my own brownstone with a floor through studio and four floors of living space for me and my family. I had several agents in the years I was in Manhattan so I had little contact with my clients except through my agent who was responsible for pick-ups and deliveries, etc. My Father was my business manager and he and my mother lived with me, freeing me to do little else than draw, and draw, and draw. Usually my agent would arrive in the afternoon with the merchandise and layouts around four in the afternoon all of which would be due back to the store the next afternoon. There were days when I would turn out as many as eight fashion figures a day, sometimes more before Christmas and holidays. When I was doing movie posters I had more time and they were fitted in between fashion jobs. Fortunately there were slow times during the year when you could get out and meet people and do other things than just draw. I guess I have always been somewhat a workaholic.

After a successful career as a freelance illustrator, you have managed to establish a well-earned reputation in a very specific niche. What do you think are the qualities and circumstances that have allowed you to not only make a living from your passion, but thrive on it?

I suppose that the secret to my success, such as it is, is that I love to draw. There are times when I feel rather naked if I don’t have a pencil or a brush in my hand. Also, I love the research and “getting to know” my subjects, if they are historic, down to studying their body language and incorporate that in my paper dolls… Right now I am in a bit of a pickle due to a recent stroke. My drawing hand is still a bit weak, but improving daily, and hopefully I will soon be back in the saddle again.

Thank you Mr. Tierney for sharing your time with me. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

admiration and inspiration – Fashion Illustration Today (1994)

admiration and inspiration — Danielle on January 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Fashion Illustration Today by Nicholas Drake
It is always worth checking out the books and video section at the thrift store because you never know what you will find.  Earlier this week I was lucky to come across Fashion Illustration Today by Nicholas Drake, a book I had often checked out of the library as a student.  Of course the Today in the title is really 1994, when it was revised for a second edition.

There are all sorts of goodies in here, including early work by Kareem Iliya and Jason Brooks which is heartening to see as a developing illustrator.  While the DNA of their style and their burgeoning talent is very apparent in “Today”, over the next 15 years they both have developed a significantly higher level of  confidence and flair.  In the back, there are small bios of each artist, and for the living artists, there are even phone numbers and street addresses.  As if I could just give Joe Eula or Gladys Perint Palmer a call, or drop by.  “Today” seems so far away!

I took photos of a few selections of spreads including images that are really grabbing me at the moment.  Click the images for big.
Henri Matchavariani
Henri Matchavariani – particularly the image at the right.  What a fabulous flurry of speed and smudgy colour, lines so active they seem to race across the page.

Joe Eula
Joe Eula – ultimate confidence and brevity – especially the image on the left.  Apparently Eula used to take his painters palette to fashion shows, sketch furiously, and wire the images to New York before the photographers could develop their shots.  This inspires me.  I have a post-it note on my computer, some scribbled fragment of an idea “illustrator in the photographer’s pit”.  I can imagine the rush of competitiveness.  This is something I would love to try, though I’ll never be Joe Eula and paintbrushes can never move as fast as pixels.

Thierry Perez
Thierry Perez – just fabulous, over-the top idealized sexy, beauty.  Delicious.

Michael Cooper
Michael Cooper – especially the image on the left.  The sense of spareness and speed matched by a certain intellectuality – using unexpected elements like actual shadows and deliberately un-fashiony proportions.

showing love to Andrea Ferkul

admiration and inspiration,fashion in canada,illustration — Danielle on May 25, 2009 at 3:49 pm

It took me a while, but I finally learned who the illustrator of the “Show Love” campaign for LG Fashion Week is – Andrea Stajan-Ferkul.  I love the lightness and the movement of this illustration – simple and yet spontaneous, it is a classic fashion illustration.  It was displayed everywhere in the tents – including a very cool animated graphic projected on the background of the runway between shows.

I asked Andrea about how she did the illustration:

I was asked to create a loose drawing (with no detail) of a woman walking up a runway.  I began with a more detailed drawing to get the basic proportions; much of the work is done in this preliminary stage.  I cleaned up the drawing in the second draft – then in the third, I eliminated the detail, creating a simplified version by using loose and spontaneous strokes.

I had the great pleasure to meet Andrea in person and talked about her career – she worked at Simpsons in the 1980s doing graphic design.  It seems so incredibly distant a time – back then they did graphic design by hand, and now there is no such thing as Simpsons (it was a department store).  Are there even any in-house art departments left? It was fascinating to talk to her about the business and craft of fashion illustration – there are so few working fashion illustrators in Toronto, I love the rare opportunity to talk shop.

Now Andrea focuses more on fine art and exhibitions – you can see more of her lovely work on her portfolio website.

admiration and inspiration – the Canadian edition

admiration and inspiration,fashion in canada,illustration — Danielle on December 13, 2007 at 1:34 pm


My little tribute posts to the great fashion illustrators who influence and inspire me never seem to get a great response, and yet I keep posting them. The very least I can do as a burgeoning illustrator is to recognize and celebrate the greats who came before me, and leave a mark on the internet for all those who might seek to learn a little more about these imagemakers who might otherwise remain obscure.

As an aspiring Canadian fashion illustrator, I have found that the legacy of the profession in this country is particularly spare, but having kept my eyes open for clues over the past five years, I have discovered some wonderful fashion illustrators with remarkable careers and diverse styles.

Illustration by Virginia Johnson

Virginia Johnson is a textile designer and illustrator who has her own storefront here in Toronto. Her illustrations are best known for adorning Kate Spade’s series of books. Johnson has a delicate, spare line and a brush full of vibrant watercolours which complement Spade’s style marvelously.

Vellevision by Maurice Vellekoop

Maurice Vellekoop‘s illustrations and comics feature a gently wry social scenery. His style is clean and classic and familiar. Famously commissioned by Vogue to sketch at the Paris shows (I believe it was in the late 90s), Vellekoop is Canada’s most well-known fashion illustrator. Vellekoop has done the gamut of lifestyle illustration from the conventionally mundane to the extravagantly gay.

Sketch by Frederick Watson

I discovered Frederick Watson via the gorgeous Joelle of Mad Glam, I recognized his work and had no idea that he was based here in Ontario. Although he paints on a grand scale, I especially loved the small-scale sketches which display that incredible speed and elegance that I am only beginning to understand, never mind acquire.

Illustration by Marcos Chin for Lavalife

Marcos Chin is a younger illustrator whose work you will recognize if you have ever taken a subway ride in Toronto – his Lavalife campaign is well worth the rapt attention of a captive audience. Like Vellekoop, Chin is mainly a lifestyle illustrator, yet the clothing details and exaggerated figures definitely captures a sense of fashion.

Throughout my search for Canadian fashion illustration, I have discovered that there is very little written specifically about the subject. The only essay I have read is written by Katherine Bosnitch, one of my illustration teachers from fashion school and an accomplished fashion illustrator in her own right. Bosnitch studied a series of wonderful promotional illustrations for Eaton’s published in the Montreal Gazette in the 1950s and 1960s. The essay is included among several other rare examples of Canadian fashion analysis in Fashion: A Canadian Perspective.

Are there any Canadian Fashion Illustrators I am missing? I would love to learn about them, meet them, and see their work.

more admiration and inspiration

admiration and inspiration,illustration — Danielle on October 12, 2007 at 10:53 am


Last time I posted about some of my favourite fashion illustrators, some of you commented that you did not know of them and you enjoyed learning more about them. That is all the encouragement I needed to post another set of great fashion illustrators – there are so many worth mentioning.

At the library I picked up 100 Years of Fashion Illustration100 Years of Fashion Illustration which is an excellent survey of modern fashion drawings. It disproves my erroneous notion that there were not many illustrators in the sixties and seventies too. This book is recommended without hesitation, even if the captions sometimes leave something to be desired, the selection of drawings is broad and well edited.

Thayat

Thayaht brought cubistic influence to fashion illustration, most famously rendering Madeleine Vionnet’s incredible work. His work is tight and precise, and yet never static. The careful compositions create movement and interest with accurate use of colour, line and pattern. Thayaht is the ultimate modern fashion illustrator, though his work was created almost a century ago.

Julie Verhoeven

Julie Verhoeven‘s sensual raunchiness is a great deal more postmodern. Using pen and ink and a photocopy machine her images retain the smudges of her hand and express a very specific character. They also tend to be more abstract than descriptive when it comes to that actual element of fashion as clothing. Verhoeven’s illustrations tend to be on clothing and accessories rather than of clothing and accessories. Yet she is also a designer for Mulberry and others, so she must know how to dress figures as well – it seems that with her drawings, she prefers not to take fashion illustration too literally.

Gladys Perint Palmer

Gladys Perint Palmer is the master of the quick and clever runway illustration.  Her book, Fashion People, is a must read for… er, fashion people.  It is like getting notes passed to you from the front row.  While I make every effort to be ably to sketch on my knee as fast as GPP, her style of wit is beyond my own abilities.  Certainly GPP  shows that the best fashion illustration requires the skill to execute and express, but even more importantly it requires character and a point of view.

I will be taking my sketchbook to L’Oreal Fashion Week in Toronto soon and attempting to pass you my own notes from the (third or fourth) row.  I am no GPP, but runway illustration is every bit as fun as she makes it look.

Rene Gruau

The 20th century’s greatest fashion illustrator is without a doubt Rene Gruau.  His distinctive outline, elegant figures and inventive compositions influence and inspire all of us.

Rene Gruau

admiration and inspiration

admiration and inspiration,illustration — Danielle on September 26, 2007 at 2:47 pm


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.

M.A.C. face chart

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.

antonio lopez

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

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.

Mary Helen by Renaldo Barnette

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.

designs by Renaldo Barnette

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.

designs by Renaldo Barnette

What fashion illustrators do you admire?

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