6 Tips Every Aspiring Fashion Illustrator Should Know

Hilary George-Parkin

Fashion illustration is one of our least-guilty pleasures on Instagram: It's expressive, inventive, and wildly varied, so there's a style out there to suit every taste. For those who think they'd like to start sketching fashion but don't quite know how, that also means there's an abundance of inspiration to help you get started.

One of our favorite follows is Jessica Durrant, an illustrator who has lent her talents to work with clients like Oscar de la Renta, L'Oréal Paris, Elie Saab, Target, and Marie Claire. We've found ourselves mesmerized by her hyperlapse videos on more than a few occasions, watching her craft silk dresses and feathered jackets out of watercolor paints. She also shows a range of work, from traditional figure drawings to more conceptual paintings, that merge fashion with the natural world.

We asked her about her best tips for those who are starting out in the field, whether you want to turn it into a career or just hone your craft—read on for her advice.

WHO WHAT WEAR: Are there any materials/tools all beginners should invest in?

JESSICA DURRANT: I think a good mix of high/low in your art supplies is your best bet. Just like shopping for a wardrobe—a few investments in higher quality things like a good quality set of brushes and a few richly pigmented colors that are your favorites are great. And then spend less on lots of different papers and canvases to experiment with.

WWW: How can aspiring fashion illustrators get experience in the field?

JD: First and foremost, make the best artwork you can and share it. Share it often—that will allow you to practice your skills, and the right people will find you in time. Experience comes with taking the right jobs at the right time and continuing to build and learn from each job or project you spend your time on. It's always scary when you first pursue making art for not just yourself but for others. Take the jobs that excite you—those will always translate to a better outcome than ones that you might not feel as enthusiastic about.

WWW: Do you tend to gravitate toward particular designers or styles for inspiration?

JD: Sure! I love being inspired by the past for a lot of my fashion- and beauty-inspired work. When I feel stuck in a rut, I find that cutting myself off from being online and going for a drive to my favorite library on the UGA campus is a perfect reconnection to my passion and what inspires me. On the seventh floor of the library, there is an archive of all the Vogues and Harper's Bazaars ever printed! It is like a gold mine for me. I can just pull them from the shelves and get transported to the aesthetics of fashion and beauty of the past that I love so much. I also try to do little art field trips for myself—last month I went to see the YSL fashion exhibit put on at the VMFA. It was stunning and well worth the trip. It's good to stay in tune with what energizes you and follow those leads.

WWW: Do you think it's important to have formal training?

JD: I think that answer is different for everyone. I know so many successful artists who did not go to school. I also know plenty of people who studied art but did nothing with it. So I think it's really up to what you think is best for you. I wanted to have a goal of getting a degree in illustration and learn from my professors and fellow classmates. I thrived on deadlines and critiques, and that really did prepare me for the demands of being an illustrator for a living. Education combined with a dedication to your passion will always result in success. You will have some bumps along the way, but you will be successful.

WWW: What are your top tips for turning illustration from a hobby into a business?

JD: You first have to really believe in yourself and take your talent and passion seriously. Once you have that, make a ton of art. Make it even if you think it won't matter or no one will ever care. Make what you love. Put your voice and story into your work. Once you do that, share your work, put it out there, get a website made and reach out to galleries or shops locally or online that you think might like your work. Keep going. The energy you put out there will come back to you tenfold, just don't give up. There are so many books, guides, and other professionals out there who you can get advice from. We live in a world full of resources, so take advantage of that.

WWW: What's the best advice you've gotten about being an artist?

JD: There is so much. But I certainly have a few mantras that I go by. "What is done in love, is done well," by Van Gogh is one that I really reflect on anytime I am sitting down to create. Whether it's for myself or a client. Once again, it's an If you build it, they will come type of way of thinking. Have faith that you are meant to be doing what you are pursuing. Don't let setbacks or failures keep you from continuing to make art. We need artists to create more than ever. So go create!

Explore: How To, Artwork

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