Sunday, 6 January 2013

Q&A: FASHION ARTIST DAVID DOWNTON


I'm passionate about fashion illustration and I've always made a point of commissioning fashion drawings on the publications I've worked on. I love mixing illustration with photography for pace and contrast, and my favourite artists include David Downton, Mats Gustafson, Rene Gruau and Carl Erickson. I was over the moon to be given several of David Downton's beautiful fashion drawings a few years ago. They hang in our bedroom and are such a treat to wake-up to every morning! 



One of my treasured David Downton illustrations: Versace, 2006. Acrylic, watercolour and ink on paper
Private Collection/Picture caption

As a leading fashion artist and a regular at the Haute Couture shows in Paris, David's evocative images can be seen in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and a host of international fashion titles. He recently published Masters of Fashion Illustration, a lavishly illustrated book that pays tribute to his favourite 20th-century fashion illustrators and also includes an inspiring portfolio of David's own unique work. The book is a true celebration of fashion drawing and also succinctly depicts how this engaging art form has changed and re-invented itself over the past century, with drawings by artists such as Bob Peak and Andy Warhol looking as relevant today as they did when first created in the 50's and 60's.

I've been fortunate to commission David to create fashion drawings and portraits over the years, including images of Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes, and it never ceases to amaze me how, with just a few well placed lines, he can create such detailed and haunting images. Several of David's artworks included in the book feature in this post, alongside illustrations by some of his favourite artists. 

David very kindly agreed to contributed a Q&A exclusively to this blog, which reveals his favourite fashion artists, his preferred artists' materials and what's in-store for 2013. 

LJ: Do you collect fashion illustrations and, if so, which fashion artists do you have the most works by?
DD: I actually don't, apart from year sheets and vintage Vogues etc. In an odd way I Iike to see them in context. I do have a beautiful René Bouché that his widow gave me, and have bought a few works by my hero (poster artist) Bob Peak over the years. I wish I owned a Gruau or two!


Marella Agnelli at Villa La Leopolda on the French Riviera by René Bouché, July 1957
Courtesy The Conde Nast Archive


A 1963 advertisement for Monsieur Lanvin Figaro Cologne by Bob Peak
Photo Credit



Bob Peak's 1964 paper collage poster for the musical My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, was the first movie poster to win an award from The Society of Illustrators
Picture Credit


LJ: Are you planning an exhibition in the near future? 
DD: Definitely in London in the Spring. Possibly also in Kiev and Paris. 2013 is going to be my year for creating new work...



Lily Cole backstage at Christian Lacroix by David Downton, Vogue China 2005.
Ink, gouache and cut paper with acetate overlay
Artist's collection

LJ: What was your most exciting commission to date?
DD: Drawing Cate Blanchett for Vogue Australia in 2009. Working with Vanity Fair on a portfolio celebrating the Best Dressed Hall of Fame. Last week I drew Dita Von Teese naked. It's all work, as I'm fond of saying...


Cate Blanchett by David Downton, Vogue Australia 2009. Ink and gouache on paper 
with acetate overlay
Picture Credit


Iman by David Downton, London 1999. Cut paper collage, using Pantone paper. Ink on acetate overlay
Artist's collection/Picture Credit


LJ: You have created portraits of many of the most beautiful women in the world. Is there anyone who hasn't sat for you that you would like to draw? 
DD: Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Rampling, Ines de la Fressange....


LJ: Do you prefer your subjects to sit for you rather than drawing them from an image? 
DD: Always.


Anna Piaggi by David Downton, Paris 2000. Oil pastel on Pantone paper. Ink and gouache on acetate overlay
Artist's collection


Linda Evangelista, Paris 2004. Portrait commissioned for the cover of the Telegraph Saturday Magazine.
Gouache and watercolour on paper. Hat by Philip Treacy
Artist's collection



Carmen Dell'Orefice by David Downton, London May 2003
Artist's collection/Picture Credit


LJ: What tools do you use when you create your portraits? Do you have favourite brands or types of pens, paper etc? 
DD: When I'm with the person I use pencils, a dip pen and work in a  sketchbook. I also take photographs. Then, when I am at my studio and ready to work on the 'real' piece, I use gouache, watercolour, ink... whatever seems appropriate at the time. I work on RWS (Royal Watercolour Society paper), or Arches paper.


Erin O'Connor by David Downton. Watercolour and gouache on paper.
Headdress by Stephen Jones for Christian Dior
Artist's collection


LJ: What do you think fashion illustration offers that fashion photography can't?
DD: A singular vision and perspective. It is a different skill set, but drawing and photography are not in competition; they are complimentary. Illustration tells an alternative story of fashion. It is only superficially superficial....



Graphic 1980's illustration of models wearing Halston knitwear by Viramontes
Estate of Tony Viramontes from Masters of Fashion Illustration


Masters of Fashion Illustration by David Downton, £19.95, Laurence King Publishing
Cover image: Yves Saint Laurent, 2006. Ink, gouache and charcoal on paper
Private collection

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