Meet the Expert | Erica Sharp

Do you love fashion? Would you love to get involved in the world of illustration? We’ve been chatting to top illustrator and author of new book Cutting- Edge Fashion Illustration, Erica Sharp, to be inspired and pick up some tips…

Cutting-Edge Fashion IllustrationWhy did you choose to study illustration?
“After completing my art foundation course, I started a degree in fine art. It was during this first few weeks of my degree course that I realized that passion was in figurative drawing rather than painting, and so I changed to do a degree in illustration instead. It was quite a difficult decision to make at the time, because I had always wanted to be a painter, I loved painting portraits. My style had always been figurative, however, and so illustration suited me much better. At that time I was interested in exploring narratives in my work, and the projects really suited my way of working and gave me lots of inspiration. I went on to do some fantastic projects based on children’s books and editorial illustration, and learned new techniques, like screen printing, which I loved.”

Do you prefer fashion or editorial illustration?
“Fashion illustration is really where my passion lies, because I love to draw beautiful women in beautiful clothes. I enjoy the challenge of evoking the fantasy of fashion through colour, line and texture. Editorial illustration is also interesting and challenging; there is usually a narrative or a story that is the source of inspiration, so the first step is to conjure up images in your head based on key parts of the text. Editorial illustration requires lots of visual research too, and pulling different parts of the narrative together to visually communicate the theme; this process is really exciting.”

Cutting-Edge Fashion IllustrationHow would you describe your illustration style?
“My style is linear, and I spend a lot of time considering the way that I balance colour and negative space. I always work with pen or pencil on paper before scanning my pieces and working on them digitally. I often create additional layers using a light box to incorporate ink, texture or paints, with I lay over the top of my drawing, to ensure the placement is right. I love experimenting with Photoshop and there are endless possibilities with both digital and traditional media and techniques.”

What inspired you to write the book?
“When I was planning the book I thought about the qualities my work offered. I also thought carefully about what I would find inspiring and helpful from a reader’s point of view. I wanted to create a useful tool to teach specific skills and techniques in a concise way, as much as I wanted to produce something visually inspiring. I didn’t just want to create an inspiration book, but to include ways to learn creative processes in an accessible way, from the fundamentals to more experimental techniques in Photoshop.”

Cutting-Edge Fashion IllustrationWhat do you love about combining hand-drawn illustrations with mixed media and digital elements?
“I love the fact that Photoshop allows you to combine hand drawn or scanned elements with digital colour and commands. It allows for a hand-crafted feel to work, but also offers great flexibility and versatility. I’m very much traditional in my creative approach and also in my way of thinking, I don’t think I could ever rely on digital processes entirely. For me, using digital techniques is a powerful way to experiment and try new things, and to enhance and bring life into my drawings.”

Do you have a favourite Photoshop technique?
“I don’t have a favourite technique as such, but I find the experimental process, from working with pencil and paper, to scanning and retouching, to experimenting with colour and texture, exciting and satisfying.”

Cutting-Edge Fashion IllustrationWhat are you most proud of in your career?
“I think writing and illustrating my own book has been the highlight of my career so far. It was a challenging and exciting process and I learned so much through it. Other than that, gaining my first ever commission was a real milestone for me, and gave me the confidence to pursue a career in illustration. Soon after I graduated from university, I entered an illustration competition with a well-known women’s magazine. I didn’t win, but the art director liked my work, and contacted me soon after. This led to getting commissioned to create 6 months of horoscope illustrations for the magazine. Seeing my work in print, and being paid to be creative, was the best feeling ever!”

What are your top tips for anyone looking to launch a career in fashion illustration?
“Draw everyday. Even if it a few loose sketches, it really does help both in terms of technique and generating ideas. Life drawing classes are fantastic in helping to observe the human form. Also try to develop your own signature style that reflects your creative strengths. Keep up to date with fashion shows and collect images on mood boards to inspire you. Networking is also important, both online and through attending events, exhibitions or collaborating with other creatives. Get involved in any opportunity that comes your way!”

If you’d like to find out more about Erica Sharp, visit her her website at: www.ericasharp.co.uk. Pick up your copy of Erica’s book, Cutting-Edge Fashion Illustration, or register for her online course to learn a range of new skills and transform your fashion illustrations. Learn more about her course and check out her guest post on our blog too!

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