Kelly Thompson: W.I.P RUBY Illustration

Inspired by the sunburnt deserts of California, our RUBY Diamondsspring/summer 2014 collection launches in stores this Saturday July 12th. To celebrate, we've teamed up with talented artist and our friend Kelly Thompson who has created a limited edition cactus illustration for us - think Palm Springs!

Kelly's W.I.P series is back, with Kelly sharing her creative process for her RUBY Diamonds cactus.....

I was commissioned to do a pretty illustration of a cactus inspired by Palm Springs. My brief for this project was that the image would be on a simple neutral palette and had to include a pattern similar to the collection's key Baja print.

Baja Print 2

I began by figuring out with the RUBY team the level of detail needed in the print and the best kind of cactus to use. I sent through some examples of my other botanical work and also a selection of different cacti. Showing clients pieces from your own folio is a really great thing to do at the start before drawing anything, it can save a lot of time on revisions if you know the exact style they are after. From here I worked up my first sketch with some great references supplied by RUBY. This meant I was able to skip a round of rough compositions and move in to a more revised sketch.

Flower Sketch

After showing these to the RUBY team, simple revisions were made to include a little more shading on the pot and the addition of a second fallen flower.

First Sketch

From here we focused on colour and together decided that only the flowers would be coloured, so I sent through a revised illustration with an extra flower and my first round of pink colouring. To tie in with the collection I based the flower colours around the Ace spot print and created several tonal options ranging from an orange-based lolly pink to a peach.

Print Comparison

Colour Comparison

The peach option won all round and the image was signed off to be printed, completing a breezy design job.

Final Image

Thanks Kelly! Race into one of our RUBY stores from Saturday July 12th to get your copy of the limited edition print with every RUBY spring 2014 Diamonds purchase x

Kelly Thompson: W.I.P Iii

It's always exciting when someone asks you to do a cover, particularly as an illustrator because many editors are a little cautious about it often choosing to stick to tried and true photography. Last month I was approached by Little White Lies Magazine (UK) to illustrate Cate Blanchett for their Woody Allen edition - I was provided with a mock up showing the style of my work that the magazine liked which is always very helpful, along with the following brief:

The idea:

We require quite a charming portrait of Cate that could be seen as quite perfect or beautiful, but then add some element to the portrait afterwards that suggests her signs of inner (mental) struggle and anxiety. Throughout the film, Cate is quite a mess, popping pills and swilling vodka non-stop with Mascara running down her face and marks down her cheek where her tears have eaten away at her foundation. We would like it if she looks relatively normal/happy (a reflection of her former self), but her eyes are welling up with tears and the hint of mascara beginning to roll down her face.

Colours: Please work in colour but quite muted/pale tones just like in your example. Cate has beautiful blonde hair so that could be emphasised a little. As well as her blue eyes and gold earrings.

Positioning: As far as the positioning, you can zoom out a little and show more of the top of her head and shoulders. She wears some nice fancy tops and cardigans in the movie, maybe it would be nice to catch a glimpse of one!


About the film:

A life crisis causes a socialite to head to San Francisco, where she reconnects with her sister. Blue Jasmine is quite a harrowing film, at times sad and depressing but strangely uplifting and funny at times, proving that money doesn't buy you happiness and that anytime something, or someone can pull the rug from under your feet. From the outside Jasmine looks beautiful, classically dressed in high-end fashion and talks the high society way but just on the surface there are cracks beginning to appear. Deep cracks that lead her to a nervous breakdown.

I was also provided with some various references of Cate in the film.


From here I worked up my first illustration draft, as I have mentioned in my previous posts it is always important to create your own references to avoid any copyright issues, and so I pieced together a few different photos of Cate to work from and get what I needed. I decided to throw reference to her drug dependency by featuring a light wallpaper in the background made up of pill containers, and for this draft I also included a little bit of colour just so the client had an idea of what I was thinking about for the palette. The client then decided that they wanted a full wallpaper pattern including the following elements:

- Lemon twist link

- Sunglasses

- Diamond Ring

- Mini (Stoli) Vodka Bottle link

- Pill bottle/s


At this point I then re-negotiated my fee as I had originally only priced for a portrait, not a selection of secondary elements. The client removed the sunglasses and the ring from the required elements and increased the budget to include the wallpaper.

From here I altered the hair and started to colour, I was working on two other projects at the same time so I had to do a bit of juggling. I hadn't managed to work up the wallpaper elements yet, but had started to colour so I showed the client some colour options so they had something to view as I worked on the wallpaper. I asked the client if they preferred a coloured or uncoloured shirt.


The client preferred the shirt uncoloured and then mentioned that they had liked my very original sketch (I had photographed it not scanned it), they liked how much more textured the paper had looked and asked if I could boost the the curves to bring out the texture some more. They had also done a poll around the office to see if anyone recognised her as of the office people had thought it was Angelina Jolie (??? WTF) and so they asked if I could emphasize some of the smaller details that make Cate, Cate. At this point I went back to my original refs to study her face some more. Cate has very distinguishable cheeks so I contoured her some more, added more shadows and boosted the curves to make it more contrasty.

The client liked this new version a lot more, and the office all agreed I had achieved a much better likeness. They just asked if I could adjust her hair colour a little more. I then worked on the additional wallpaper elements they had requested and resupplied the image for them to view.


Once the client viewed the image with the wallpaper they then decided they preferred her with a plain background as the wallpaper was a little distracting (don't worry I still get paid for it). The wallpaper was pulled from the cover, the illustration was approved and here is the final cover as it appears on the current issue of Little White Lies Magazine. All in all a very nice fluid job to work on and always exciting to be a cover girl!


Kelly Thompson: W.I.P Ii

Early in May I was approached by The Sunday London Times to illustrate for the Mrs Mills advice column in their Style Magazine. Whenever someone approaches me from an international location it is always exciting, as when I'm at home drawing all day it's nice to know that what I am doing has an international reach and following (phew)

I was asked to illustrate Mrs Mills in four outfits, one per week over the month, with four more coming later during the London winter. Having regular re-occurring work like this is always a pleasure as the majority of projects are in and out, so I set aside a couple of days per week for each one in between other projects I had on the go. I was given the following description of Mrs Mills and the following four outfits to use as reference.

Mrs Mills

Outfit Options

The specifics of Mrs Mills is that she is an early 30's woman that is still very sexy and stylish. She is brunette and looks like you don't want to get on the wrong side of her but she is stunning beautiful. So a bit scary but not ugly. She likes her make up to be strong but stylish, so dark red nails and lips, full eye make up, with some expression on her face, as if she doesn't approve or smirking. She is not based on anyone in particular, but I have attached an old version of her if that helps.

The client also provided me with references from my own portfolio that they liked, which is really helpful. Quite often when people approach me for projects I like to ask them what they like about my work, and which pieces are their favourites, this helps me to decipher what kind of direction they want and ensures that we are on the same page from the start.

Kelly Thompson

As I always work from reference I first spent some time looking for good poses. Mrs Mills had to be standing each time so I spent around an hour looking through magazines and my saved files for bodies that would be good to work from. A lot of the time if I don't find the exact pose I like, I will piece together a body from one, arms from another, etc etc until I have what I need. Before I chose my first pose I sent a selection to the client to see if they had any preference, it's always good to check as some clients like to decide on every step along the way, where as some are happy for you to do what you prefer. It's important to sort that out from the start to avoid redraws if possible. Luckily for me they were happy for me to decide, so off I went.



The first outfit I had to draw was the yellow Balmain suit, very jealous that Mrs Mills gets to wear this. I always find that when drawing current fashion it is helpful to search for more references for the details, so I went to as they have the best zoom function which allows you to see every bit of was during that time that I discovered that Balmain was going to be tricky, It's not until you are asked to draw a Balmain suit that you truly appreciate the details involved! I'll add as a note that when working as an illustrator it is very important to weigh up the budget vs the time you put in. The Balmain jacket is amazingly detailed, so it would have been impossible for me to draw it in full detailed glory without going over budget in this instance, so I picked out the main details that were required to make it recognisable and stuck to those.

Using a combination of my resourced pose and outfit references and the clients guidelines I created this first sketch.

Mrs Mills 1

Luckily for me the client liked it, only asked for the earrings to be removed, and approved her for colour. It is always a great day when things get ticked through so fast! This is her with colour below.

Mrs Mills 2

The editor then decided she didn't like the shoes and asked for the pants to be lengthened and widened. Usually I ask for all changes to the sketch to be made prior to colour and signed off as it can be difficult to go back once colour has started. Most of the time additional changes to the sketch after colour would result in an extra fee, but as the first stage was so quick, and I could make the changes using Photoshop I let it slide for this one. This is her with her new pants, as appeared in The Sunday Times.

Mrs Mills 3


For the second week I was asked to work from the Versace dress and so I began to sketch her outfit. I had sketched her body and was about to work on the head when the client informed me that they had had a change of direction with the outfits and they now wanted the following from Erdem. So many patterns! The client didn't realise at this point that I had already started on Versace, so I showed them how the sketch was looking anyway. Although it does happen sometimes, it is always sad to scrap a sketch entirely.

Outfit Inspiration


While they decided on Versace I started Erdem. They decided that they wanted softer makeup and longer hair for this one, something a little more feminine, slightly more mature, and she had to be holding a pencil. Once again I searched for more Erdem details (which are mind blowing by the way) and decided how I could suggest Erdem without illustrating the full details. This is my first draft.


I was given the go ahead to colour, but asked to make the hair a little shorter!

Erdem 1

Erdem 2


Luckily for me I was given the go ahead to complete Versace in the end. Her legs had to be moved in slightly prior to colour, but other than that she was good to go.



The final illustration was of Mrs Mills looking summery in Dolce & Gabbana. As with the other illustrations I flicked over to the Vogue site for my close up and re-discovered that Mrs Mills does indeed have a taste for intricate clothing.

Mrs Mills

My initial sketch was approved quickly and I moved on to colour, but once coloured it was decided that maybe the legs weren't quite right so I performed leg transplant surgery, something I am highly skilled at. This is the illustration with her new relaxed beach pose.

Mrs Mills 1

Mrs Mills 4

I then had to give her an additional pedicure and was asked to spread the toes a little more on the foot on the right (Feet are not my strong point, I need to work on this). We had a couple of feet revisions in the end.

Mrs Mills 5

This is how the final Dolce & Gabbana outfit ran in the paper, sans the feet. I guess I didn't quite get them right!

Mrs Mills 6