Inspirations: 3 fashion illustrators contemplate

This article first appeared in the Association of Illustrators portfolio news blog in March 2009.
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From the moment I could hold things my parents had a pencil in my hand, I started with the chubby ones for very small people, drawing on the back of wallpaper. Now this may seem like an unusual thing for a child to draw on, but they believed in starting with a big blank sheet of paper and creating from scratch and they were also renovating our home so wallpaper was easy to come by. They were both photographers (now retired), so composition and light were things I was made aware of before I even started school. I was encouraged to consider what I was drawing before I drew it, for instance, the sky and the earth touched, there was no space between. I still remember the outrage at being handed a crayon without a point on my first day at school, and the frustration of not being allowed to use the coloured pencils at school for quite some time after that.

Eric Winter, Mable Lucy Atwell

As well as being encouraged to draw, cut, stick and make I was read a lot of books. The Elves and the Shoemaker and the Princess and the Pea by Ladybird are the ones that stand out, and I still love those illustrations by Robert Lumley and Eric Winter. Carl Larson and Mable Lucy Atwell also featured heavily. My younger sister adored Richard Scarry so I got to see a lot of his illustrations too. As I became a bit older Scooby Doo was very big for me and I have to admit to having the whole of Season 3 on my iPhone (I tell everyone it’s for my children).

Scooby Doo characters

In school, art was of course my favourite subject (I bet all illustrators say that hey?) with a tendency towards drawing fun, happy and easy on the eye pictures. In the early 80’s when I was in Secondary School I never realised there was such a profession as illustration. I assumed if I was to follow a career in the Art world I would have to fit in with the art students who were always dressed in paint smeared jeans, and that every image I created would have to have a deeper meaning dug up from some tortured memory or angst soul bearing. (I realise now I got that bit wrong!) Problem was, my childhood was full of pony club camp and home baked cakes and I really didn’t have the ‘angst’ attitude that I thought was pre-requisite for Art College (I know, I got that bit wrong too!), further more, I really couldn’t deal with all the mess of the paint! In hindsight I see now why I love my digital workflow. Also, I was into fashion by then, and I wanted to earn some money to buy it!

Kate Moss, Christy Turlington (centre)

I was totaly influenced by fashion, but more by the designers, models and photographers than the illustrators. The early 90’s were amazing in respect to how fashion was portrayed, it was no longer just about the clothes, but the lifestyle also - The supermodels Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss Heroin Chic and Calvin Klein’s powerful advertising imagery that made us all run out and buy Obsession and Eternity. The Gym I went to installed Sky TV so every night I spent a few hours on the machines watching the MTV videos, which usually consisted of dancers silhouetted behind the singers, and so, though I didn’t do a lot of life drawing, I definitely studied the body!


I discovered Adobe Illustrator in 1998 and wanted to take a course to figure out how to use it. To cut a really long story short I figured Illustrator out for myself and ended up doing a Degree in Multimedia and an MSc in Creative Technology. I discovered the flexibility of the computer as an alternative drawing tool and this seemed to be the turning point that allowed everything to fall into place - the combination of the Wacom Intuos and Adobe Illustrator opened up a whole new world for me and allowed me to create what was in my head but could never really get on paper, the smooth sleek lines of a vector curve!


(top) Mighty Fine, Lauren Child

Once I had become an illustrator my biggest influence was a colour - PINK , 100% Magenta, sometimes with a small % of yellow, it’s took me quite a while to be happy using other colours, and now I go through phases - Lime green being my current favourite. The French Kitty books by Mighty Fine really inspired me to inject a lot of colour into my work, and helped me see how other vibrant colours could work with pink. Getting colour schemes just right is a skill that I’m still developing, so I enjoy websites like and which opens in a pallet within Illustrator. I also find Lauren Child’s work particularly inspiring from a colour and pattern point of view, and I spend a lot of time looking at the Designers Guild website.

Gavin Reece (left), Jason Brookes

As far as Illustrators go, Jason Brooks work had a massive impact on me - not only did he lead the way for every digital fashion illustrator, but whenever I look at his images I am blown away by his sheer quality and flawless attention to detail, Jason Brooks - You ROCK!

I think Gavin Reece’s illustrations are gorgeous too, the line work is so distinctive, I particularly like the book covers he has done, they are just such a pleasure to look at. I always judge a book by it’s cover, and his covers always make me buy the book!

Monsieur Z

Whenever I see the work of Monsieur Z I am always reminded to pay more attention to my composition and point of view. I think his images that look down on the subject are brilliant, and I love to see his sketches along side the finished versions. Distinctly European and completely fabulous.

Rian Hughes is another personal favourite, I have a well thumbed copy of his book Device and have bought several of his fonts. I think the humor and expression that he captures in his characters is fantastic and I also love the detail and patterns that he puts into his backgrounds.

Jon Burgerman, Rian Hughes

I also adore Jon Burgerman’s work which I first saw in Computer Art’s magazine years ago. I recently bought his book, Pens are my Friends - It’s brilliant! I had to buy a second copy as my four daughters spent so much time looking at it that I never got to see it. He is a firm favourite in our home. I will eventually buy one of his print’s because I want to be able to look at his characters every day - they make me feel happy! Until then, I have his English Country GarDunny on my desk, featuring pink and green he makes me happy too! Though I’m going to have to get another one as he keeps going missing!

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