Altering Line & Color
Interview Latoya P. Henry
The industry of fashion illustration has managed to advance in the way we observe design art. Fashion artists are no longer limited to working behind the scenes for designers. They're making an impact by exposing their extraordinary talents through the world of social media. What started as something simple, has developed into an international success. Fashion illustrators are creating notoriety for themselves through their work. The question is what separates one artist from another and how do you translate personal expression through image. Although most of the illustrators are focused on, sketching at runway shows, illustrating interesting street style of people passing by and popular bloggers, from my point of view, the element of expression is slightly limited. Whereas, London-based Fashion illustrator Ruth-Sarah McCarthy, is composing an intense impression on the fashion scene for her complex way of illustration. Recently graduating from London College of Fashion, McCarthy has manifested a powerful way on how we view fashion illustration through her abstract, gender less characters. McCarthy’s aim is to feature images with personality through the power of expression. Fashion illustration normally concentrates on the style of clothing, featuring tall stark models, strutting in elaborate poses. For McCarthy her intentions are to pursue beyond stereotypical illustration, fusing a substantial combination of abstract art, fashion and expression.
For anyone who is unacquainted with Ruth-Sarah McCarthy or your work, please share with us a brief introduction?
I am a Freelance Illustrator based in London, originally from Liverpool, England. I graduated from Fashion Illustration at London College of Fashion in 2015, and work for various clients nationwide. My work is inspired by character, expressing personality and humor through my expressive style.
Most of the time it’s a process before you could discover your creative niche. How and when did you know that becoming an illustrator was the direction you wanted to pursue, career wise?
I have always loved drawing since I was young. I loved creating cute illustrations for my friends and designing my own books, making up stories for the characters I was creating. When I went to school I studied Fashion Design, when I enjoyed designing rather than making. Finally, when I discovered I could combine both and study Fashion Illustration, I knew it was the course for me.
I was reflecting about the way you gather inspiration for your work, and the conceptual style of your drawings, and it's intriguing how well you form a slightly abstract vision with a fashion perspective. How did you know both visions would correspond well with each other and what's the relationship between fashion and the arts for you?
Fashion is Art for me, and I feel that both are a continuous cycle of inspiration for each other. Many designers are influenced by the art movements and artists and vice versa, so it just feels natural to me. I also love to bring collections to life in a different way.
In terms of designing the person/figurine in your drawings, where do you mostly gather inspiration and is there a specific artist or designer that peak your interest, when creating a new illustration. Does this person have a major effect on your work?
I usually gather inspiration from imagining a story or personality for the character I want to create. One of my main influences is Jean-Philippe Delhomme, I feel he emulates this technique in his work too.
Let's talk a little bit about the person in your drawings. Who is she or he, and is there a deeper significance behind the motion and setting of your images?
I like to think of my figures as genderless. I like them to be eluding, with their own personality and for the audience to be able to determine their own ‘story’ for the figure.
In the creative community we’re influenced by a specific criteria. For you what is the most influential part of drawing, and would you describe your technique as expressive. Why?
I would describe by technique as expressive as I create pieces based on my mood at the time. I work quickly, and use whatever I create in the moment – I never erase or over work my pieces. I like my work to express how I felt at the time, the environment I was in, and the personality I imagined for the character.
The illustrations you design are very rich in combing line, shape, color and texture. You’re working with drawings that are clearly expressive, for instance the illustrations of Peter Pilotto and Balmain collections. You’ve also mentioned in a previous interview with London College Of Fashion that you love to experiment and have total creative freedom, in detail how do you view your work and at what point do these become conceptual illustrations?
I view my work as an expression of character and personality. I like to create scenarios and personality for my figures, and I create genderless figures that in my opinion become conceptual to whomever my audience might be. I love to work from catwalk as the whole experience then influences the work created; the sounds, the excitement, the audience, the models, the space and, of course, the collection itself. I prefer to work in an abstract style to emulate all of the above rather than creating a photo-perfect copy of an image.
Would you say your drawings are mostly conceptual? Or are they a balance between conceptual and something else?
My pieces are conceptual and expressive. They’re fun and exciting, I think.
Currently you're a flourishing artist, what’s the toughest challenge you faced so far and how did you achieve success through this obstacle?
Starting as a freelance artist has tough obstacles every day. I work full time as a Buyer for a Lingerie company, so I do find it hard to balance freelance work with my usual working day. It is also hard when we feel uninspired – I often have to wake up and work through the night when I feel inspired!
Share with us a typical day in your life as an artist, what's the most indispensable item in your studio and is there something you can't live without?
I work on my art work in the evenings and on weekends. Usually, I come home from work, prepare dinner and then settle down in my studio. I also draw on my commute and make notes of conversations I hear and sketches of people that I see during the day. Then, I create pieces inspired by this once I open my sketchbook. I never push myself to create – if the work I make goes in the bin at the end of a session that is fine too. I cannot live without my fine liners and my sketchbooks – I can only work in books.
We’re all about creating inspiration for those following in your footsteps; could you share any words of advice for emerging artists?
My advice would be to work where and whenever you feel inspired. I love to create on the move and feel most inspired when I am not forcing myself to work!
In the future, what should we look forward to from Ruth-Sarah McCarthy? Do you have any Final Thoughts?
I’m currently working as a Buyer and creating some illustrations for the Lingerie company that I work with which is inspirational. I am currently in the process of updating my website. I am also working on fresh, new ideas for 2016, so definitely expect a mixture of illustration, photography and typography from me this year – I’m excited!