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 WWD.com. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.