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.
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.
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 Vogue.co.uk as they have the best zoom function which allows you to see every bit of detail...it 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
This is how the final Dolce & Gabbana outfit ran in the paper, sans the feet. I guess I didn't quite get them right!