Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fashion Illustration: "...it just keeps coming back, like a familiar melody."

"I’ve watched the popularity of fashion illustration wax and wane. But I’m happy to say – and this book bears me out – that it never goes away; it just keeps coming back, like a familiar melody." ~ Carmen Dell’Orefice, from the introduction to David Downton's 2010 book, "Masters of Fashion Illustration"


For quite some time now, I've been wanting to devote a week on Today's Inspiration to fashion illustration of the mid-20th century.


Not because I have all sorts wisdom to share on the subject (I don't) or because I have followed the work of fashion illustrators closely (I haven't) -- but because occasionally I've come across pieces like the ones above and below and thought, "Wow, these are just too cool not to share on the blog!"


For those of us who have focused our attention mostly on other types of illustration, its easy to overlook the importance of fashion illustration and how it influenced the stylistic development of some of our favourite mid-20th century artists...





These artists in turn influenced the entire illustration industry, inspiring countless other artists to incorporate the elements of fashion illustration in their own work.


Some have even gone beyond the industry, profoundly influencing the larger world of fine art and popular culture.


While I think I have a pretty good grasp on the motivations of the 'typical' illustrator, the nature of fashion illustration and those who specialize in it remains largely a mystery to me. I don't think I'm alone in my opinion that fashion illustrators live in a world somewhat apart from the rest of the industry.

So what exactly are the elements of fashion illustration? I feel I lack the expertise to speak with any authority on the subject. Instead I'll offer some observations made largely out of ignorance and hope that TI's learned readers will share some genuine insight as we go along.

Some fashion illustrators seem to be primarily poster designers...


... others seem to be almost like fine artists who specialize in figure drawing...


... still others seem to be not unlike technical illustrators or designers of infographics...


... while yet others could very well be portrait painters.


Under the umbrella of "fashion illustration" these specialists have found not only common ground but great acclaim as well.

You'll notice I started and concluded this post with art by a contemporary illustrator, David Downton. That's because David and I have corresponded for a couple of years now and I wanted to highlight his excellent book, "Masters of Fashion Illustration", in which he acknowledges artists like J.C. Leyendecker, Bob Peak, Coby Whitmore and others one might not normally think of as fashion illustrators. Its thanks to David and his book that I began to consider fashion illustration in a different light.

I hope you'll share you thoughts on the subject!

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