Prada in Pencil

This is not a sad fishing post. I don’t say it’s a shit drawing just to get you lot to say “no, no it’s fab, your fab…“. It’s really about being honest and saying that not every drawing turns out how I want it. For every successful drawing there are dozens of fails or not quite rights. In this age of everything being ‘Insta-perfect’ I think that message sometimes get lost.

It’s February already and this is my first post for 2020!. It has been a hell of a start to the year in my part of Australia with fires, hail storms, and unbearably hot temperatures. As a result I haven’t been able to spend much time drawing but have, through much procrastinating on the lounge, discovered Domestika.

Domestika is “the largest creative community in Spanish”. They offer tonnes of online courses from some amazing Spanish speaking artists. The production qualities, the range of topics, and the knowledge of the artists are all excellent. The only down side is that the tuition is given in Spanish. There are English subtitles but these can be kinda hit and miss. Some have been quite good and some have been pretty atrocious. Every now and then you are treated to a cracker of a translation. A personal favourite “its always better when its bigger and harder”… indeed.

It was through Domestika that I discovered Spanish illustrator Carmen Garcia Huerta. You can find her work here. I love it when I come across an artist who uses colour pencils to produce really sophisticated and elegant artworks. I often feel that colour pencils are a rather basic, rudimentary, medium so when I see work like Carmen’s it suddenly reignites my passion for them. (And then my husband goes and DESTROYS* my ego by saying “nice colouring in”.😤)

What I noticed about Carmen’s work which reminded me of another of my favourite fashion illustrators, Hanna Muller, is the use of strong, clean, outlines. In my efforts to do very realistic drawings I tend to avoid any form of harsh outline but both Hanna and Carmen have a way of using them to make their works really pop.

The balance of softness with and structurual lines that appears in Carmen’s work reminded me of Prada’s Fall 2015 runway collection. The colour pallete was predominantly pastels but there was also something very strong and sharp about it.

“Sweet…but violent. I wanted impact. How can you be strong with pastels?” – Miuccia Prada

I was super pleased with how everything started out but unfortunately the end result was a bit disappointing. It doesn’t quite ‘pop’ as much as I’d hoped. It bores me! Oh well 🤷‍♀️ better luck next time!

I should add that this was completed with both Prismacolor Premier and Faber-Castell Polychromo colour pencils on Strathmore 400 Series Colored Pencil paper.

*the emphasis on DESTROY may be a little harsh. I’m not THAT sensitive and, while this is a true quote from the man himself, I know he doesn’t mean to be THAT INSENSATIVE. But I did kinda just wanted to make him feel a little bit guilty.

The Last Two: Paris Fashion Week Illustration

This is the last of my fashion week blog posts. After a strong start I am feeling quite over it and won’t bore you with any details. This is a straight up picture post featuring two colour pencil illustrations both from Paris Fashion week. Enjoy!

"Stella McCartney" - Spring 2020 fashion illustration

First off, the lovely Alina Bolotina again. This time its for Stella McCartney.

Unfortunately I don’t know the name of this model but it is from the Ralph and Russo Paris show.

I hope you enjoyed my colour pencil exploration of Spring 2020 fashion week. You can check out the all the other illustrations via the links below.

New York fashion week – looks from “R13” and “Jonathan Simkhai” 

London fashion week – looks from “Pushbutton” and “Margaret Howell”

Milan fashion week – “Tod’s”

Milan fashion week – “Missoni”

Milan Fashion Week Illustration – Part 2

Men. Children. Black people. Three things I can’t draw. Or at least I think I can’t draw so I don’t draw. I have never drawn a male portrait. The closest I have gotten was a small drawing of John Legend but you can’t see his face so it doesn’t really count as a portrait. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t draw men. I think I simply don’t find the male face as attractive or interesting to look at as a female. So I figured it was about time I challenged myself and finally drew a male portrait.

Missoni, like Tod’s, are another high end Italian fashion house, known for their iconic zigzag print. Their spring 2020 show was in a giant public pool in Milan… cool! I found an image of a handsome model backstage holding a little yellow lamp in his hands. Coincidentally I’d just watched a documentary about the artist Olafur Eliasson, so I recognised this lamp immediately as a “Little Sun” portable solar powered lamp. Each time a Little Sun is purchased another is delivered by the company to someone living off-the-grid at a much lower, locally affordable price. The companies mission is to designing and delivering affordable clean energy solutions and inspire people to take climate action.

After hours of pain staking research stalking male models on Instagram,(trust me it was sooo painful), I finally worked out who this handsome dude with the Little Sun was – Pratik Shetty. Mr Shetty is from Mumbai and entered an Elite Model (India) contest in 2017 which he didn’t win! Disappointingly he says his “look” isn’t so appealing to Indian clients, (who prefer lighter skin tones), but internationally his career has taken off. He walked 15 shows during fashion week in 2019 closing the show for Lanvin. (opening and closing shows is apparently a big deal in the fashion world)

This is my third attempt with Strathmore toned paper and I am slowly becoming more comfortable with it. For this drawing I used mostly Faber Castell Polychromo colour pencils. They are much harder than my usual Prismacolors and the colour application appears less saturated. I was also using a set of 24 pencils so was forced to be more restrained in my colour selection. I’m not sure if these things combined have resulted in what I feel is a somewhat subtler portrait. In any case I am super happy with the end result.

Part of me, now that I am finished, wants to say that drawing a man was infinitely more difficult than a woman, if only to justify my reluctance to do one for so long. Truth be told I didn’t find it particularly more challenging. There are of course obvious differences between the male and female face. Female faces are generally less angular with softer features, although as someone whose nose verges more on the “Aquiline” than “cute-little-turned-up-button”, I may beg to differ.

If anything, I would say only the mouth presented more problems for me as without the addition of lipstick the edges or a man’s mouth are much less defined and more difficult to make out than a womans. Where does lip become skin or skin become lip?

Interestingly when considering this question, post portrait, I stumbled across a study by Professor Richard Russell from Gettysburg College. In short, Russell measured photographs of men and women and found that there is a greater contrast between eyes, lips and surrounding skin in female faces than in male faces. This is down to female skin being generally lighter than that of males, while lip and eye colour is essentially consistent between the sexes. Therefore there is a higher level of contrast in a woman’s face and this is regardless of race. Super-interestingly he found that if photographs of faces were manipulated by increasing or decreasing contrast, (that is making the skin lighter or darker), the same face would appear more female or more male.

Professor Russell also found that cosmetics are predominately used to increase facial contrast. Ergo, female faces wearing makeup have an even greater facial contrast than those not wearing makeup, making them even more feminine. This kinda explains for me why I am so much more drawn to choosing female fashion models for my art projects; all that colour and those defined features.

Making the eyes and lips darker without changing the surrounding skin increases the facial contrast. Femininity and attractiveness are highly correlated, so making a face more feminine also makes it more attractive.

So perhaps to compensate for my less than feminine nose I should set my inner Goth girl free and bust out some black lips and pasty white skin for maximal facial contrast.

PS A short follow up to last weeks post; Alina Bolotina made The Impressions top 20 models of fashion week – see I have a feel for this fashion shit

Milan Fashion Week Illustration – Part 1

The arrival of fashion week usually sees me spending (wasting) hours scrolling through various websites checking out the runway shows for drawing inspiration. Each season I seem to happen upon a model whose face I find particularly captivating for one reason or another. This year I found myself saving pictures of this same girl over and over. Eventually I discovered her name; Alina Bolotina. Isn’t that a name that just rolls of your tongue?! Alina. Bolotina. Alina. Bolotina. Alina. Bolotina. She has an interesting, kinda unusual, face; a bit doll like; a bit duck-face/lips (in a nice way). Disappointingly, Alina Bolotina is Russian, not Italian as I had imagined her to be with that name like that and this being a post about Milan fashion week, featuring an Italian fashion brand. Oh well, you can’t have it all… on to the fashion.

Tod’s is a luxury Italian brand established in the early 1900s. Shoes and leather goods are their thing. Allegedly they are also famous for their iconic Gommino driving shoes. Yes, you read right, a “driving shoe”. In writing this blog, I stumbled across an article which pondered the compelling question; “Are Tod’s driving shoes worth the money?”. I didn’t even need to check out the price of a pair of Gomminos, to answer “no”. A driving shoe?WTF? Who wears a “driving shoe”? Now I appreciate that you cannot drive a car in six inch heels, but I never knew you needed a specific shoe to be able to drive a car. And at $690 a pair … it is a resounding “no” from me to the Gommino driving shoe. Oh, and in case you were wondering what the real answer was, the ol’ Gommino’s don’t stand up so well to general walking around town so, if you do decide to get a pair, best to keep them just for driving your Maserati to the supermarket and then change in to your UGGs or your thongs for the actual shopping process.

Wow, this blog post went way off on a weird tangent there! Sorry! Lets get back to the actual drawing.

I chose Strathmore Toned Tan 118gsm paper for this drawing. I’ve used the Toned Grey before but this is my first time using the tan. I think I’m in love. This paper is so nice for portraits, it really makes the whites of the eyes pop. I only wish it was a little heavier weight, 118gms feels a little flimsy for my liking.

I used a fairly limited palette of Prismacolor Premier colour pencils and relied a lot on the tan of the paper to form the bulk of her skin tone.

Once I’d finished I was a bit disappointed and felt like the drawing looked a bit lacklustre and unfinished. I decided to add a bit of white background in the hope that it would lift it. White pencil on its own wasn’t giving me quite enough coverage and I couldn’t create the dense white that I wanted. I dove in to the cache of purchased-on-a-whim-and-never-used art materials under the spare bed and emerged with a Derwent Pastel pencil and a Pan Pastel in Titanium white. I’m not a huge fan of working with pastel pencils as I find they are difficult to sharpen with the lead often breaking and crumbling. The pan pastel, although not as easily manipulated into the little nooks and crannies, is much better at covering large areas.

So here it is the final illustration of Alina Bolotina for Tods at Milan Fashion week. I am trying to do two illustrations from each fashion week, so there is another Milan piece in the works. Stay tuned! (I will try not to ramble on about driving shoes next time).


“Tod’s – Spring 2020”