Tuesday, 21 July 2015

How to be a fashion illustrator (chatting with Clara Gomez)

What's great about living near or in London is being in short distance of the variety of things the city has to offer- Some of which can guarantee to make a day complete.
Like Clara Gomez's illustration classes. Mondays can be a drag but Clara will wipe away any negativity, taking you into the night with a face full of smiles and a mind full of inspiration.

I caught up with Clara earlier in the year for an article and below is the result. Her classes will soon be moving to Ziferblat but you can find all the information you need here.

In the heart of Shoreditch sits Paper Dress Vintage, a boutique lined with a black and white tiled floor and decorated with endearing vintage clothes and accessories. Along the left hand side is a bar, selling boutique beers only found in Shoreditch and cocktails served in jam jars, and along the right is a bench covered in dainty cushions. By day it’s a store; by night it’s a bar and events venue. On Monday evenings, it’s a classroom. But unlike your typical classroom, at Paper Dress you feel at home and Clara, with her infectiously bubbly personality, welcomes you with open arms and interacts with you as though a friend. Her presence and her illustrations are enough to cure any Monday blues.

We meet at 388 Old Street on a cheery Thursday afternoon. It was Clara’s idea to meet here at Ziferblat, a hidden communal gem up the road from Paper Dress Vintage where everything is free apart from the time spent inside. One can help themselves to tea and cream biscuits from the kitchen and sit themselves comfortably at flower decorated wooden tables whilst the friendly faces around chat, play guitars and, on this occasion, rather distractingly sing along loudly to ‘Let It Go' at the top of their voices.

This March the thirty year old artist, who has worked with top fashion brands and featured on the cover of the Kensington And Chelsea Review, will be celebrating the third anniversary of her weekly classes. "I never studied to be a teacher so it's been so rewarding," she says in her soothing Spanish accent, her long dark hair flowing down and her chocolate eyes wide with appreciation. She started the classes once realising there were no affordable opportunities for practicing fashion illustration. Attendees vary in ability from veterans who are already accomplished illustrators, those who are new and want to improve to, most commonly, fashion students. "I don't think fashion illustration is included in their curriculum," she says with a touch of disappointment. "They are expected to know already or find a way of learning which is why they come to my class and I'm glad for that."  The anniversary will consist of an exhibition involving work submitted by her class goers and will take place in Paper Dress Vintage. She sees it as a way of embracing the art form, further building a community of illustrators and making her students realise that perhaps this is something they could do professionally.

From being a child who would "spend hours drawing happily" whilst at her Aunty and Uncle's and often told off at school for doodling at her desk, Clara has made a living out of doing what she loves. What's most charming about her is that she has a talent but it's a talent she wants to share. 


Develop a distinctive style
There are many fashion illustrators making a name for themselves: Megan Hess (classic and full of beauty) and the creator of Fifi Lapin (the chicest bunny in all the land) but what sets Clara apart is the whimsicality. Her women are swirly and sweet with a look of youthful innocence. “I was always drawn to the dynamism and flair of fashion,” she says. “I was interested in drawing girls and representing female beauty.”

Seek opportunities
Clara grew up in Santander, Spain, studied Fine Arts at university and then moved to London eight years ago where she enrolled at Central Saint Martins. Getting work afterwards was not easy. “What you need is a body of work that you’ve done for someone apart from your portfolio. So what I started doing was collaborating with friends.” She recommends the University of the Arts’ Creative Opportunities website, which is “amazing” and the newly set up of House of Illustration. All in all though, she says with sincerity that “it’s attitude and luck and being willing to find your opportunities” that’s the key. “They are not going to come to you.”

Be professional
Sat quietly among the action at live illustration events, alcohol infused conversations whirling around the room, amusement is sure to try and overpower and distract from the work. "One of the most interesting things was somebody talking about a menage a trois with their personal trainer," Clara remembers. "I can't laugh. I have to be professional."

It's not always as glamorous as it seems
A loud laugh spurts from Clara's mouth as she's reminded of her drawings for Robbie Williams. She was asked by his stylist to illustrate the costume for his 'Only You Know Me' video when it needed translating to paper but, despite being a huge Robbie fan while growing up, she didn't get to meet him. "He needed to be there at 5am and it was all very busy and I didn't want to be like a crazy fan," she confesses. She also drew Anna Wintour for the Spanish version of 'The September Issue' but admits Anna "probably hasn't seen them. It was the outfits she was wearing doing the documentary so I chose my favourites and drew them for the DVD extras."

Do what you believe
The exaggerated limbs and minuscule waists of typical illustrations, like with photography, can be seen as negative and unhealthy which is why Clara is trying to "convey a beauty that's appealing in terms of aesthetics and not the conventional rules of female beauty" After all, "variety is always a good thing. Everybody's beautiful in their own way."

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