New York Fashion Week SS16 live runway sketching portfolio

Yasmine Warsame at TOME SS16

This time, New York! This time I will not be defeated!

I went in with flaming swords and guns blazing for this season in New York. One year ago, I finished New York Fashion Week feeling defeated. Usually, New York hearts me – but bad seasons happen to everyone and I was no exception, so for SS15, New York hurt me.

I went back to my studio and buckled down on work, recovering financially. I started a meditation practice which I discovered was a wonderful enhancement for the work of live sketching. Then I followed up with two European fashion weeks for FW15 – London and Paris – where I recovered my confidence and then some. These portfolios – particularly the London one – represent my best live runway sketching work to date.

Until this season. This season was about redemption. I slayed the many-headed dragon that is New York Fashion Week!

The lead up was intense. I’m currently working on a book (!) and that entailed 4 months of heavy studio work ahead of my New York trip. I didn’t really have a summer this year. I was grinding out 140 pages of illustrations (and words) at a rate of 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. Then, as circumstances would have it, I had to move out of my apartment at the end of August. So currently, I’m technically homeless… embracing the impermanent lifestyle, maybe permanently?

I flew to New York, and ‘settled’ into my current impermanence. Then I allowed myself an indulgent long Labour Day weekend escape to a rural location. From that place of peace and recovery, I felt ready to take on New York again.

This time, I had a client – CNN shared one of my best sketches each day on Instagram. On the first day, the last look at the last show I went to – TOME, above – worn by the exquisite Yasmin Warsame – was THE sketch. The first shot, and I hit the mark! This was going to be a great week.

Tia Cibani SS16 1

Of course, I had spent the previous day warming up at a couple presentations, including Tia Cibani, above. People assume that I like to draw at presentations because I have more time – I actually think the extra time can be a hindrance, and if the models are aware of being drawn they can become mannered – plus a crowd of people holding drinks and jostling about doesn’t make it any easier. But I enjoyed Cibani’s style and this sketch came out clear.

Nicholas K SS16 1

My first runway show of the week was Nicholas K. Usually my first show comes out a bit stiff, but I got three good sketches at this one. I had space, for one thing, I could spread out on a bench – and I loved the fierce styling with the heavy boots and big gold cuffs. When I like the design, the sketches just come out easier.

Nicholas K SS16 2

Nicholas K featured ombre too, which made me get really wet and messy. Starting out this loose was a great sign. Compare these sketches to the ones last season in Paris and you’ll see an incredible difference. I’ve recovered the looseness I used to have when I first started live sketching – but now I’ve got control too. I’m actually getting good at this!

Nicholas K SS16 3

Still, a good first day doesn’t mean every day will be good. The next day was a tricky one and I didn’t get anything really good. The sketch I ended up submitting to CNN from Chromat I ended up revising significantly in Photoshop, for both creative and ‘fix it in post’ reasons. The venue at Chromat had freezing cold air conditioning, and I foolishly hadn’t brought a sweater, so the work ended up being stiff. Fall fail.

Ji Oh SS16 1

The next day was a bit better, but the first show didn’t inspire my best work. It was followed by an exciting creative collaboration that I’ll announce in a later post. Then I went to the Ji Oh presentation (above and below). The indigo aesthetic was lovely, and the models were beautiful with gorgeous hair. These sketches turned out great.

Ji Oh SS16 2

The last show of day 3 was Baja East at Milk Studios. Remember when I couldn’t get a break at MADE? I’ve been tossed out of that venue so many times, it’s so embarrassing. But this season they were really sweet and welcoming! I was like, has fashion week changed or have I?

The answer of course is that even more than I have, New York Fashion Week has changed. This season, the old Lincoln Centre location is gone and replaced with two large industrial spaces further downtown, and MADE Fashion Week is now owned by IMG too. The sponsorship aspect has been toned down considerably, a very visible change. You know what? A change does everyone a lot of good. Things felt generally fresher and friendlier in New York than they have in a long time – even better than the old days at Bryant Park, I’d say.

Baja East SS16 1

Baja East was one of the only shows I had to stand at this week, but I still scored a great sketch on Paper by FiftyThree, above. I also used the new Paper app for the iPhone to sketch at a couple presentations this week – the small screen makes drawing a challenge, so instead I had fun with the feature where you can draw over top of photos to extend the background of the presentation into the foreground.

Andre Leon Talley at Tracy Reese SS16

At Tracy Reese, I received an unprecedented seating assignment in the front row, directly across from legend (and former Warhol employee) Andre Leon Talley, above. I don’t often sketch front row, but this was too good a chance to pass up. For some reason I felt too shy to show it to him, though. Regal is the word for this man of fashion.

Tracy Reese 1

Even though I was seated right in front of the photographer’s pit and had a self-conscious awareness of being scrutinized, I completely rocked out at Tracy Reese. The clothes were amazing – and brightly coloured, bold shapes – and the styling was lovely, with wispy hair and playful makeup and metallic shoes by Sarah Jessica Parker (who was also seated just across from me!), so of course it was fun to draw.

Tracy Reese 2

The models walked by very quickly though. The music was incredibly triumphant – I actually loved it. When I’m at a show, I always sway to the beat. I think chair dancing helps a lot to get the vibe, knowing that the designer works closely with the DJ and the music is artfully chosen.

The effect of this rocking motion was that the sketches ended up very wet and loose – while I was doing them I kind of thought, oh, I’m messing all of these up.

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After the show when I re-assessed them, I was so pleased that they were, in fact, beautiful messes! Somehow all the splotches came together in that happy accidental way that watercolour does sometimes.

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As I was about to board the subway after Tracy Reese, a man came up to me – he was from Labtonic, the DJ business that had produced the music for the show. He was like, we saw you really getting into the music! And I was like, yeah the music was awesome! And he invited me to come to another show they were working at. Sometimes, creative people see each other and recognize the joy in what they’re doing. That’s what makes going to fashion week fun. It’s not about impressing important people – it’s about finding your people.

Odette backstage at Prabal Gurung

From there, I went to my biggest show of the week – Prabal Gurung. You never know what you’ll get for the price of asking, and in this case I was offered a backstage pass to sketch the models getting their makeup done. I got to go through the industrial labyrinth deep inside the venue. The models and makeup artists were delighted with me! And the models were so beautiful – the girls of the season, really. Above, Odette, and below, Lineisy.

Lineisy Montero backstage at Prabal Gurung

After that it was my big moment to shine to sketch the show. It opened with a bunch of monks, which made me smile, because I think of fashion shows as the most wonderful terrible place to meditate. But then, I sort of choked! I only got one really good sketch from a beautiful, colour-filled show, below. Damn it!

Prabal Gurung SS16

The next day I met the guys from Labtonic at Lela Rose. There a dream came true – for the first time ever I got to sketch from the DJ booth! It’s incredible – instead of a flash of a model from the side, I could see the models walking to and forth on both of the runways. The result was great sketches.

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The sophisticated designs that featured big bows on the front were especially lovely to draw.

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And I got to go in with the gold – metallic shoes were everywhere this season. And signature rose for the background. Thanks so much Matt and Laurent for such a great opportunity!


Lela Rose SS16 3

I was thrilled to attend the Yeohlee show. When I was a nerdy fashion student, into geometric pattern cutting, I spent a lot of time with her book. I got to meet her! She hosted the show at her tiny shop, with just a few chairs, and I perched on the staircase.

Yeohlee SS16

This sketch from Yeohlee, above, is what I would consider a nearly flawless live sketch – and I’m my own greatest critic. Of course I had a very elegantly designed subject, which helps. What makes it a winner is that there are almost no extra lines. It’s just enough, and no more.

Street style at Calvin Klein SS16

I did a bit of street style sketching the last day because I didn’t have any shows. The arrivals at Calvin Klein were very high end – CK is MONEY. You can literally feel the power of one of fashion’s largest advertisers, even outside of the venue. I don’t know who the subject is above, but I liked her outfit. I had to watch out for fast moving, roving packs of photographers who have a tendency to step on me.

Emmanuelle Alt at Calvin Klein SS16

Then I got to sketch Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue, above. She’s one of my favourite subjects – I’ve drawn her multiple times – and a style inspiration for me personally. She always wears the same outfit. I love that.



Marc Jacobs SS16 2

Then, a dream came true. I went to the Marc Jacobs venue, expecting to sketch street style arrivals. But when I got there, I discovered that there was a red carpet between the makeup tent and the venue (the venerable Ziegfeld Theatre!) and that the public would be able to see the show there!


It was way too crowded to draw at the show. So instead, I just watched, and intensely absorbed the collection in a way I never get to do when I’m live sketching. it was amazing. Just a few feet away from me, the most beautiful models in the world were wearing incredible gowns covered with Warholian imagery – Americana and all sorts of classic movie references – everything I’m obsessed with, since I was a little girl! It felt like Marc Jacobs was a magician who had cast an amazing spell upon me, where everything that fascinates me crystallized into one perfect moment. A transcendent moment at a fashion show, it happened to me!

Marc Jacobs SS16 1

The best thing happened right after that. The crowd melted away at the end of the show, satisfied with their smartphone photos… but they all left before the curtain call! So I had space to crouch by the red carpet with my paper and brushes… and all of the models walked back to the makeup tent and I got to see the entire show again, but this time I could draw! And I got two wonderful sketches. The most satisfying finale to the best fashion week I’ve ever had. The fact that the winning sketch of the week had an exposed heart on the breast felt exactly right. I <3 New York, and you know what? New York <3 me.

I am victorious.

contributing to The Globe and Mail

fashion blogger angel glitched

There are a lot of meta-layers to this post, so thank you for bearing with so much preciousness. Many people were interested in the funeral for fashion blogs that happened in New York. It was an event I held playfully. I never seriously considered deleting my blog – it’s a body of work I’m proud of and I value the independent space to share whatever I want to share, whenever I feel like it. That said, the era of regular updates is definitely over, and fashion blogging will never be what it once was. So, when the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail asked me to expand upon the story of the funeral, it was an opportunity to dig deeper on a shallow subject – and the story itself ended up being quite existential.

Writing a version of the “fashion blogs are dead” media cliche that wouldn’t also make me die of embarrassment was quite a challenge – and I think I succeeded. I’ve been so touched by the thoughtful responses to the piece.

I was also asked to contribute a set of four illustrations to go with the story. I had the idea of “glitching” the drawings to evoke digital decay. The editors decided to go with the non-glitched versions – still, I’m pleased with the glitched versions and am glad I can share them here. Which literally illustrates what is so special about having your own space on the internet.

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I’m honoured to work with the style editors and art directors at The Globe and Mail – heartfelt thanks to Andrew Sardone, Carley Fortune, and Bryan Gee. In addition to this past weekend’s story, I’ve also been drawing and writing for the back page of the Style Advisor magazine. To have a very prestigious, visible place to share my work is a tremendous opportunity. I don’t know how long this gig will go on for. No matter what, I’m grateful for every page. For a fashion illustrator/writer to have a recurring column at a publication is a highly unusual thing.

style advisor back pages

As a blogger by habit, I’m not used to being edited. It’s a fascinating process. My role as an artist is to uphold the integrity of my vision. My editors understand where I’m coming from, and their job is to make sure the readers can find a way to connect with me. I remember reading the Globe Style section as a young fashion student and feeling alienated from the columnists who were clearly writing for a very different demographic – a demographic those writers seemed to be part of. I never imagined I’d one day be on these pages too. With that in mind I’m making an effort to voice atypical fashion ideas – and occasionally I do find the edges of what’s acceptable. My editors make my weird ideas relatable to a broad audience in a way that still feels true to me. Which shows how amazing my editors are.


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As for Final Fashion, it will still exist, however I will no longer create ‘blog posts’ as I used to. I’ll update it occasionally to feature whatever I’m working on, so it will continue to function as a portfolio. However, updates will be infrequent. I’ll also no longer do my ‘click click’ link roundups. Instead, please follow me on Twitter and Tumblr where I’ll continue to share what I consider worth clicking on the internet as I come across it. My Delicious account is also a catch-all for that type of stuff. My Facebook is a free-for-all, so feel free to add me. And I’m an occasional Instagrammer too, if you want peek through a little square into my world.

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How lucky I am to have been part of this fashion blogging phenomenon for a full trend cycle, from beginning to end. Sharing my words and drawings with you is my greatest joy. To everyone who has ever visited Final Fashion, linked to it, commented on it, and found something useful or delightful here, thank you!


artwork for Andrew Majtenyi

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If you visit the Andrew Majtenyi boutique at 793 Queen Street West in Toronto, you can see three original mixed media drawings that I created inspired by the designer’s industrial, tailored work.

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It’s a rare treat to see my illustrations treated so finely, framed so beautifully. My snapshots do it no justice. Check it out at 793 Queen Street West, for a limited time.

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I executed each of these on entire sheets of Arches paper – the framing displays the paper to the raw edge, which exhibits the care I put into the work.

24 Designers. 48 Eyes. for The Room

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I am so thrilled to be included among 23 other talented Canadian visionaries in the fall campaign for The Room. I got to illustrate a fabulous Balmain look on the exquisite Canadian model Meghan Collison, and did something a bit different than I usually do – combined paint with digital printing in a larger, mixed media work.

Thanks so much to Abi Slone, Christopher Sherman, and everyone at The Hudson’s Bay Company!

the room balmainthe room meghan

I was also featured in a video about the project – making a brief appearance at 6:31.

brow menu for Tweezerman

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I created illustrations for a Brow Menu used at the Tweezerman event during fashion week in Toronto. It’s not often I’m so happy with the results of a rush job, so I wanted to share it. Eyebrows are fascinating and it was a pleasure rendering them by brushstroke.

Tweezerman brow menu photo by Stefania Yarhi 1

Photos from the event by Stefania Yarhi.

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NYFW FW14 live runway sketching portfolio

Danielle Meder - BCBGMAXAZRIA


This season was bookended by two speaking gigs. Before the shows began, I did a talk at the Apple Store in Soho, about sketching runway shows using Paper and Pencil by FiftyThree. It was my first ever proper speaking gig, and I was excited to share everything I have learned about artists at fashion shows, and doing quick sketches on a touchscreen. I also got to talk about live sketching as an emerging trend.

Georg and me at Apple Soho

2013 was the year the tide of live sketchers out there rose noticeably. Not just in fashion either; in 2014 I see people live sketching TV shows and press conferences and sporting events too. It’s a very interesting time to be an illustrator. So naturally, when I approached live sketching this season, the aim was to draw as true to myself as possible – trying to discover in myself what I can bring to fashion week sketches that no one else can bring. Also, I’m preoccupied with thinking about what’s next. Because I like being in on things from the beginning.

Danielle Meder - Carmen Marc Valvo

Carmen Marc Valvo

To me, the sketches from the first few shows I attended seem a bit more hesitant as I’m searching for this season’s vibe. I was aiming towards being wetter and more valiant with paint application, while also simplifying. I used only one brush pen per show this time – last season I sometimes used 3 pens per sketch. I did a bit less sketches per show – around 4 or 5. I also tried to give more generous margin. The result is a portfolio I’m pleased with. Danielle Meder - TOME


TOME I attended with Rachel, and it was a pleasure to bring her to a much cleaner, more tasteful production than the Herve Leger show we attended last year.

Once I’d warmed into the week, the first show I really grooved on was Son Jung Wan. This designer gave me gold lips and leather when I happened to have a gold pen on me. Plus, shaggy pastel furs. So much fun. Danielle Meder - Son Jung Wan

Son Jung Wan

This was an annoying fashion week for access. There was a sense they were trying to keep out the riff raff, and being somewhat raffish I sometimes felt among that number. There’s this new form of humiliation that certain PR companies commit on the unassuming would-be fashion week attendee. This has happened to me at least once every season at every major fashion week I’ve ever been to, but was executed particularly cruelly this season in New York, and THREE times.

Here’s how it works: you receive a confirmed invitation to a fashion show. It’s a standing ticket. You go to the venue 20 minutes before the show like a reasonable human being. They put you in a corral. Then they proceed to march everyone else past you and your fellow corral-mates. Just as the show begins, at 40 minutes after the hour, a security guard approaches the corral and says that they are at capacity and the show is started already and go home.

You can sense this villainy is about to committed upon you when even the volunteer interns look at you with pity. Some of these companies even make their corral outside in the cold, so you have the option of freezing while they waste an hour of your life, trying to shame you out of wanting to come to fashion week with these bogus invitations.

The weird thing is that I’ve spoken to friends who were on the inside of these shows and they say that the spaces weren’t even packed – that there were even unused seats.


Danielle Meder - Yigal Azrouel 2

Yigal Azrouel

Then, the exact opposite happened at Yigal Azrouel. New York Fashion Week embraces as just well as it snubs. Even though they were a bit mystified by me at the media desk (“who are you shooting for?” “No I’m sketching.” “For who?” “For you?”), one of the gatekeepers at the the show recognized me from attending my Apple talk. The venue was great, and even though I was corralled in standing, I had a perfect vantage point – head-to-toe view of the models. Sat on the floor in front of a security guard. No one stepped on me. The sketches were as ideal as the conditions, although they were slightly damaged as I attempted to get them home through a snowstorm.

Danielle Meder - Yigal Azrouel 1

Yigal Azrouel

Another show where everything came together was SKINGRAFT. Seated by People’s Revolution, (and did I detect a nod of approval from fashion hero Kelly Cutrone?) gothic streetwear attitudes on high speed. With just one colour – black – and a touch of gold, plus absolutely no time to think, the sketches were hot.

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Jenny Packham was all sparkly princesses to a 1960s counterculture soundtrack, which I enjoyed on a slightly melancholy level because I had just finished reading the oral history of EDIE. However, I was seated next to a wall of lightbulbs which was sweaty, and I was experimenting with a white pen for sparkly highlights which misbehaved on me and marked my dear innocent seatmate, Andrew Sardone of The Globe and Mail. You know what’s embarrassing? Accidentally painting your fashion editor neighbour.

Danielle Meder - Jenny Packham 1

Jenny Packham

The final two shows I sketched were Concept Korea and J. Mendel. At that point, I was already satisfied with my portfolio so I relaxed a bit. I enjoyed the shows more and allowed myself some more consideration than usual. The results are a touch more deliberately drafted.

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Concept Korea

Danielle Meder - J Mendel 2 

J. Mendel

At the end of the week, I did a talk at Parsons for a small but influential audience, thanks to Timo. The subject was my own odd career path. New York as a city often feels like you’re being shouted at: “WHO ARE YOU!? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” So for 45 minutes I attempted to answer that booming voice. I tried to be honest.

At the Ruffian show, where I did some iPad sketches for Would You Rock This. I had the rare opportunity to sketch alongside another fashion illustrator, Lily Qian. Lily is very talented – check out what she produced after the Ruffian show here. We were talking shop a bit because I hardly ever find another fashion illustrator to talk shop with – it can be very solitary when you have an unusual job and I always have questions. When the subject of establishing a reputation and seeking recognition came up, Lily said that she felt that just doing good work was enough.

The idealistic side of me gets where she’s coming from. Then again, after seven years of doing this, I don’t think doing good work is enough. I want recognition for the good work I do. And I need to be paid. There I see many amazing fashion illustrators, going without recognition and without being compensated for their efforts , in spite of their good work. I don’t think that’s enough for them. It’s definitely not enough for me. Nothing in fashion is a straight-up meritocracy, and illustration is no exception – you also need determination and dedication, invention and hustle. In a word, you need burning ambition, and you better work.

So if success by my own measure is good work, recognition and payment, and two out of three don’t cut it, how do I achieve that trifecta? Sometimes it feels like picking this career is like picking a lock.

WWD on Paper portfolio

yigal azrouel 1

Live runway sketching is a wholly absorbing activity that takes place in mere moments. There’s no time to think, only feel. The fashion comes in through my eyes and ears, down my arm and out my fingertips like an impulse, pure expression, a kind of performance. Although I never anticipated I would do live runway sketching in digital media, it feels like a natural progression and I found the results fascinating.

This post is a collection of the best sketches from New York Fashion Week, drawing major runway shows on Paper by FiftyThree, featured on The sketch above is from the first official show of the project, Yigal Azrouël, just one day after I tried using the program for the first time. This sketch had an added element involved because I was being shot by a photographer from Women’s Wear Daily while doing it. I had to hold the iPad at an unnatural height and angle, and sketch in landscape rather than my more comfortable portrait format. The fact that despite all of these adverse factors I managed to pull out a successful sketch was a total adrenaline rush. The competitive, game-like edge to this project was one I found exciting.

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Paper held up to the significant demands of live runway sketching incredibly well. Considering I had only one day to orient myself to the iPad and the application, and I am by no means an early adopter technologically, the results I was able to achieve right away shows what a user-friendly program it is. Paper also keeps up – which is pretty amazing considering how fast I draw at a fashion show. I never had to wait for the program – which isn’t always true of wet paint. Of course, the greatest thrill is being able to easily upload images with total spontaneity – no scanning or editing required – which seems to jive well with what live sketching is truly all about.

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The sketches above from Alexander Wang were the purest of the week. For some reason every ideal aspect of that show fell into place for us – we had a wonderful seat next to a tall platform where the models literally walked over our shoulders, and we had perfect 360 degree views of every single outfit. The palette was limited which allowed me to concentrate more on line – and the lines of the clothing were dramatic and architectural. Plus, the music, launching with an instrumental remix of “Eye of the Tiger” was a perfect soundtrack for rocking out.

My partner at that show, graphic designer Becky Brown, also was on a roll, capturing the environment and the accessories with her beautiful style of rendering. You can see lots of other beautiful images by other members of the FiftyThree team at the WWD on Paper tumblr.

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The Diane von Furstenberg show was another challenging one because I was being photographed again, this time for Apple’s PR department. I had to stand up for part of the show and standing significantly reduces my ability to do multiple sketches. It was also a totally different mood for this show – strong and saturated, with feel-good disco music, so, seemed to demand a bolder line.

The temptation to use the undo function is truly the most profound difference that digital offers. The ability to take multiple swipes at a line to achieve ideal line quality meant that I did fewer sketches per show but with a much better success:failure ratio. The risk to avoid there is to remember not let the show run too far ahead of you while you’re fussing away at a minor detail.

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The J. Crew presentation, sketched above and below, offered another totally different environment. With the audience milling up and down the runway and the models standing on raised platforms on the sides of the space, I had more time with each model I selected, and the models were also aware I was sketching them – which sometimes worked in my favour, and sometimes didn’t. The temptation to over-work and over-think a drawing is stronger in this type of environment and needs to be resisted. The trick is all about knowing when the drawing is finished, and moving on.

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The final show, below, was the much-hyped Oscar de la Renta show, and John Galliano’s hands were very visible in every look. Corralled into a standing area for this show, I was struggling a bit, and didn’t move fast enough to grab a perfectly placed empty chair by a table just across the runway. Plus, it was an incredibly intimidating atmosphere, and at that stage of the week I was exhausted and scruffy and felt like a bedraggled little country mouse very far away from home. Still, I managed to capture two sketches which I think are evocative of the glamour and exaggerated femininity on display.

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Nailing the final sketch of the project, below, I was proud and happy of what I accomplished. The entire week had felt like some kind of fashion-illustration themed race, and in the end, I felt that I had not only passed the finish line, I had also created a few lovely images. Heartfelt thanks to everyone at FiftyThree and Women’s Wear Daily. I was only one small part of a wonderful team that made this project happen.

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sketches made with Paper in WWD

made with paper on wwd

This is the most exciting project of my career so far. I’m working with FiftyThree, covering major runway shows at New York Fashion Week using their iPad sketching app Paper. Even more incredible – the sketches are being shown on! I’m attending terrific shows I would never usually have access to – designers like Yigal Azrouël, Alexander Wang and others.

For live sketching, you need responsive software that moves as fast as you do, with all your tools literally at your fingertips. Paper has got the goods. It’s so amazing – by the end of a fashion show I’ll have about half a dozen drawings, and I can upload them instantly, before the audience even leaves the venue – before the photographers make it back to the lab! Follow the WWD on Paper tumblr to catch the sketches mere moments after the show is over. Once New York Fashion Week is done, I’ll collect my favourite sketches and post them here on Final Fashion.

To have my work displayed on is an honour. Women’s Wear Daily played a significant role in the history of fashion illustration in the 60s, 70s and 80s – employing a whole staff of illustrators full-time and giving them prominent attribution, making the artists stars. Several of my heroes – Kenneth Paul Block, Steven Stipelman and Antonio Lopez worked there. This project positions my work as an inheritor of theirs. I am hustling hard to live up to these legacies. Right now, all of my energy is focused on delivering my best work. Sketching runway for WWD is a dream come true.

Of course, WWD also effectively drew the golden age of fashion illustration to a definitive close when they fired their entire art department in 1992. Over twenty years later, to be able to bring the lost art of live runway illustration back to this venerable fashion news source, using a totally new technology, is a profound moment in the history of the art of fashion illustration that I am proud to play a role in.

Microsoft Fresh Paint – portfolio 2

Over the course of eight shifts at the airport using the Fresh Paint application at the Windows 8 booth, I created about 80 illustrations. Some took me just a few minutes, some took a few hours. I was very curious to see how I approached the project compared to the other artists on the project. The other artists all came from the same agency and have backgrounds creating corporate murals, street graffiti and classical portraiture. Those dudes (they’re all dudes) can spend all day on a single composition. Some of their work is very impressive as a result. I guess I have a much shorter attention span.

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The truth is, I get competitive. As the program’s token agency-free girl-artist, I wanted to produce beautiful work that was very different than the others, and prove I could master the Fresh Paint program and bend it to my will. Above all, I wanted to make the most of all the drawing time, and produce something I could be proud of. Since I had free reign to draw whatever I wished, reviewing the work now is a journey through various tangents, subjects and techniques that reflect my interests and my exploration through the program’s possibilities. This selection represents the best 10%, by my estimation.

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These first two are the result of looking for a glitch in the program to exploit, an intention I stated after the first week. I found a janky digital brush tool, which was so busted it couldn’t draw a smooth line, and I loaded it with 3 colours of paint. Then I would twist the brush as a I drew it across the screen which would make it skip and create involuntary jags. This way I could create a random, rhythmic pattern that would be wholly unique to the Fresh Paint program and the touchscreen technology. Artificial life!

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This silhouette came from a request by one of the kids in the booth, who said she liked Victorian fashions. I’ve been using silhouettes quite a bit over the course of this project. Silhouettes bypass the necessity of assigning an ethnicity to every figure, as well as allowing me to avoid creating facial features in low resolution.

This one turned out so well, and of course I have a deep obsession with historical fashion silhouettes. This successful drawing inspired a whole series from which the next four come in order of creation.

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I leaped back and forth between elegant historical female silhouettes and punk rock. At the time it was just a stream of consciousness to keep me interested in the process, but of course on reflection the juxtaposition is kind of fun.

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The sketch below is inspired by Johnny Rotten, especially his unhinged, glaring eyeballs. I was a bit unhinged myself on this day, feeling rotten and high on cold medication, getting tired of trying to keep myself together. These little punk rock interludes are probably the most expressive Fresh Paintings of all, letting slip a sense of the creative exhaustion that is inevitable after 50+ hours of coming up with ideas and rendering them.

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By the end of the series, I was finally getting a handle on how to make the Fresh Paint program actually appear painterly. I was working quickly and deliberately with a greater level of confidence, and I could almost make it seem as if I had used actual paint.

fresh paint 9

The last few images were, appropriately, very simple. As with any medium, achieving a successful loose composition with just a few elements is far more challenging than doing a very tight rendering. By this time, I could just let Fresh Paint be Fresh Paint.

fresh paint 8

Thanks so much to Microsoft, everyone at Black Chalk Marketing, Caroline Shaheed and all of the wonderful young event workers I shared this experience with.

Microsoft Fresh Paint – portfolio 1

Last week, I spent four days at Toronto Pearson International Airport, sketching on a touchscreen at the Microsoft Windows 8 booth. This gave me enough time to complete a significant body of work – between 6 to 12 illustrations per day, from which I’ve selected a handful of what I feel were the most successful images.

At first I felt a bit nervous about this project – would I be able to adapt my illustration style to the Fresh Paint program? It is a bit of a high-pressure situation to be performing your art in front of a captive audience. Once I started though, it became apparent that this challenge was going to be a lot of fun. Not only do I get to share the booth with a bunch of young, enthusiastic event workers, but at the same time I’m taking a bit of a crash course in digital drawing.

The idea behind Windows 8 is that it’s an operating system you can do a bit of everything on – work or play, as they say. As such, the Fresh Paint application is not a specialist, professional program with an overwhelming plethora of tools and options. It’s a straight-forward, simple toy with two basic options – either pastel or paint. It has a visual interface that is so easy – it was fascinating to watch both children and elderly folks in the airport figure out the program within mere moments.

That said, as a professional illustrator who is used to working with extremely versatile, complex software, adapting to the limitations of Fresh Paint required a shift in attitude. Although the programmers have done a great job creating a simulacrum of wet and dry media, knowing how to use paint doesn’t mean you know how to use Fresh Paint. Like every medium, it requires thought and strategy to use to its best advantage.

Using Fresh Paint is like a game. There are several available effects I can use – how can I combine these effects to create a composition? The canvas is low-resolution and landscape-oriented, which doesn’t adapt well to my usual style of figure illustration – so what is the creative solution to that?

There is this idea that digital art is by its very nature is slick and facile – I don’t believe that it has to be, although of course mine is by virtue of its subject. There is certainly a tendency to perfect and polish an image until it loses all sense of humanity. It is an interesting creative conundrum to attempt to allow an element of wrongness into a digital illustration. The oxymoron of deliberate spontaneity.

So over the course of this project, the concept of the “New Aesthetic” has been on my mind. When creating work using watercolour, part of the art is letting the unpredictability of the materials play a role in the work. Whereas when using a computer program, everything is predictable – brushes are always the same shape and angle, edges react with other edges using the same set of data every time. So the only way to introduce a sense of artificial life into a digital image is to find a glitch in the program, and exploit that glitch in a purposeful way.

At the end of the week, they’re just a bunch of simple, superficial images I’ve created. Yet, I’m quite excited by them. I’m going to be doing another four days, so next week there will be a second portfolio, and maybe some more thoughts, too.