A Question of Form

Some quick experiments with capturing form and mood.
Some quick experiments with capturing form and mood.

One of the most difficult elements of mediating concept to presentation, in fashion illustration, is stylization. To be honest style weaves itself into the very nature of fashion, and these days, often overshadows function. But branding is a monstrous necessity and image is everything in the market, and to a great extent the consumer. That covers everything from visual appeal (ie. pockets that don’t work, uncomfortable fits etc…) to brand and trend shopping. These rather mundane necessities of trade aside, for the artist stylizing their imagery and ideas is as much a stamp of their identity as is their finger print. What exactly do I mean by stylization? In essence it the personal touch of the artist, often a deviation from actual form or realistic visuals. It is that “artistic touch”/ expression that is presented in an image.

We might think that stylization would come rather naturally to the artist, and in many ways it does. But often, especially in the beginning, an individual’s style is muddled and confused. We could contribute this, generally, to immaturity of craft. More specifically, confusion can come from a great many things: the remnants left behind by foundational art school instructions to “closet personal style” in order to learn the basics of form,  the constant bombardment of many contemporary and historical styles, time-sensitive assignments leaving no time for experimentation, or even a lack of confidence and a fear of failure.

Let’s be clear. Stylization can manifest in many forms, not simply illustration or in 2D art. But for this discussion I’m focusing specifically on 2D illustration. As a designer in the fashion industry, one in which hand rendered illustrations have become an endangered species, my desire for interpretation of thought and ideas hinges much on my ability to render, into sketch, what I envision in my mind. Not only for myself, but these sketches serve as a blue print for my clients. While simple and quick sketches will often do to get the basics down on paper, the mood and character of my designs require illustrations that incorporate feelings and expression which transcend the function of the garment. The question then lies with what the purpose of the rendering is for, and so design manifests it’s differentiation from “just art” in that the customer/viewer is an integral influence upon the final product. An artist is expressive and a designer is too, yet the designer’s viewer is the consumer and in order for a design to be worth while, the second party is necessarily involved. Therefore designers must be visually expressive while also maintaining functionality. Both parts must work together.

In fashion illustration we sometimes break these two elements a part, using technical drawings and flats for strait forward, manufacturing purposes and artistically expressive renderings for product promotion and concept representation. Both serve their purposes, but in the past  I’ve struggled with the latter type.

An example of the technical aspect of design illustration.
An example of the technical aspect of design illustration.

During my trip across the world, as I had some quality time with my pencil, the illustrations at the beginning were some of my doodles discussing shape, light and mood.  Let me know what you think.




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