In an industry which seeks to present itself through innovative and dramatic photo shoots and editorials, the vibrant and vivid fashion illustrations of Faye West provide a delightfully fresh take on the season’s must have designer collections. Her dynamic use of fine pencil lines and fluid watercolour brush strokes perfectly portray the beauty and craftsmanship behind each piece, more than any high resolution camera ever could. Inspired by fashion’s ability to convey a sense of self-expression, West’s illustrations are both bold and empowering. In an insightful interview with Schön! West reveals her love for makeup, the importance of staying true to a designer’s vision and why Courtney Love is a true source of inspiration.
Who or what inspired you to start painting?
I started at a very early age, I imagine it might have been all of the Disney and ‘Technicolor’ films I watched that would have influenced me the most. I’d follow them up by drawing and painting as an extension of what I had seen.
How does a painting come together? Do you sketch a rough outline first? Do you draw from memory or do you use photographs as a starting point?
I always use a reference, but it normally evolves into something else rather than being a carbon copy.
What techniques do you use when painting?
I use 2 mediums : watercolour and ink, which for me the most important part is looking at colour in the skin tone and revealing pencil lines. For something more vivid I use acrylics, which is a longer process of building the colours up and emphasising artificial light and darkness.
Your illustrations mix both precise pencil lines and more fluid brush strokes, do you think it is important to mix them both together?
It’s an enjoyable contrast to work with, especially when illustrating fashion where you’ll often have flowing chiffons and silks.
A lot of your paintings feature female celebrities, what is it about them that inspires you to paint them?
I think women are fortunate to have so many ways to express themselves through their appearance. This has been true for thousands of years, often in times when they had no voice at all. And so I find feminine subjects can tell a much more vivid story because of this.
When drawing celebrities are there any particular traits or characteristics that you look for?
I love strong make up, it can be aggressive and rock & roll, or demure and classic. It’s all part of pop culture, theatre, and performance, so this is what normally appeals to me.
Fashion is an integral part of your work, when painting a specific designer collection or an outfit what do you look for?
I try and pick out the elements which I think the designer has carefully considered and emphasise those. From the silhouette, the pattern or the small details like buttons and embellishments.
Do you attempt to copy the look that you are drawing exactly or do you prefer to add your own twist to the outfit or collection?
I think for fashion illustration it’s important to honour the designers story and not stray too far, but that doesn’t mean you need to do a carbon copy of the catwalk image. So I usually like to turn the illustrated look into a pattern or repeated image.
What interests you so much about fashion illustrations? As art becomes increasingly modernised do you feel that fashion illustrations still have a prominent place in the art world?
It has become an established way of reporting fashion again, with so much photography around it’s wonderful to have such a different medium in so many lively illustrative styles. I think people genuinely enjoy seeing something unique and crafted.
Words / Katie Shuff
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