How to succeed in the fashion illustration industry being self taught? - Interview with Fashion Illustrator Kathryn Elyse Rodgers
Kathryn Elyse Rodgers, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University is the mind and movement behind Paperfashion. She has a B.F.A. in Industrial Design and after pursuing fashion and apparel design on her own, she realized it was her true passion. Kathryn is now eagerly pursuing a career in apparel design. She is currently working as an apparel designer for Reebok in Boston.
“I am a passionate, creative thinker and excited about my future and present. I have a passion and love for fashion illustration and I will continue to practice this art for the rest of my life.”
I talked with Kathryn and you can read below her fashion illustrations ‘s story. You can also read why it’s important to be passionate about what you do and how to succeed in the fashion illustration industry but never study illustration specifically.. Enjoy!
* How did you become an illustrator?
I’ve always had a love for drawing/illustrating, but never studied illustration specifically. I just enjoyed doing it because it was a part of the design process. I started getting so many compliments on my sketches that I decided to start doing more fashion illustration on the side. I used it to make greeting cards etc.. and eventually it just caught on and I haven’t stopped! Paperfashion really keeps me going more than anything else though… the thought that people enjoy seeing my work really makes me happy.
* Why did you choose fashion illustration as a focus of your work?
Well, sometimes I feel like it is the focus of my work- but it isn’t! I’m an apparel designer by day.. and only illustrate in my free time. They definitely go hand in hand, but unfortunately I have to keep illustration on the side for now. I really enjoy doing apparel design also… among many other design subjects. If I had the time, I would love to do as much and as many different design subjects that I could! From product design, to furniture design, to apparel design, I’m passionate about all.
* How would you describe your style?
My style definitely varies on my mood, but overall I think my style is happy realistic and whimsical all at once. It’s not overly realistic, but not abstract either. It’s a hand done art, so it shows layers, time, and thought all at once.
* What is your creation process?
I spend a huge bulk of my time rummaging through fashion shows, editorials, trend reports, product design, etc. I get inspired by so many different things and people. Once I decide on a subject (this usually takes me the longest since I love so many things), I go right to the drawing table and do the illustration. I start off in pencil and then go straight into watercolor and finish it off with black ink. I don’t spend time doing sketches and sketches to get one drawing out - That takes away all the thought process in a drawing and the layers/time- which is my favorite part.
* What technique and materials do you use?
I mainly work with watercolor and ink pens. Sometimes I use Tria markers too..
* What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
Illustration wise, is keeping up with everything since I have to do it all in my spare time. I’ve had some very overwhelming days, because I want to do almost every project that is requested, but there is only so much time in a day and at the end of the day I’m the only one that is working on it. I can’t go out and hire help. That is one huge challenge. It’s all on me! I love it so much though, that it’s completely worth it. I just have to start deciding which projects are more important, and which ones I have to let go of. The biggest stress for me is time.
* How do you market/promote your work?
I mainly market my work on my blog. I started here and really went out to get the blog out there. Once it started picking up some press, it really took off on it’s own. I had to keep producing work to keep up with the demand to see it though :). Then I went on to facebook and twitter, which also opened up alot of opportunities.
* Did you worked for some big brands?
Since I am still fairly new in the game, I don’t have alot of big clients under my belt yet. I can say that there is one big client that I just landed for the holiday season! I can’t reveal who it is yet.. but follow my blog and you’ll find out soon enough.
* What are some favorite projects you’ve completed and why?
Some of my favorite pieces are the ones I do for the fun of it. Sometimes too much direction from a client gets in the way of my creative process- so doing illustrations just for me are easier to be successful at.
* What has been your greatest success?
My greatest success is truthfully being about to do what I love to do every single day of my life. I rarely feel bored or angry with what I do. I love to draw, I love to design, and I love to be creative in general. Growing up in a family of engineers has been tough- since creative jobs aren’t as ‘practical’. I’m pretty sure I’ve proven them all wrong though :). There are plenty of amazing jobs in the creative field, because it is a gift not everyone possesses.
* Is illustration the only type of art that you do?
No! It is mainly what I do now since I don’t have much time for anything else, but I love to do other types of art. I can’t say enough how much I love ALL design and ALL art. I feel like I was born into a very lucky generation- design and art are so much a part of our lives today, and recognized by many people.
* Do you have a mentor? It’s important for a fashion illustrator/ designer to have a mentor?
I don’t have a mentor that comes to mind.. but I’m inspired by so many different people. I’m inspired by creative friends of mine, I’m inspired by important illustrators/designs/musicians, I’m inspired by so many different things and just life in general. I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to one person!!
* Is there a dream project you wish to pursue one day?
Of course! It is my dream to open my own studio/shop that combines all types of design and art someday.
* How has your education benefited your career?
Education is education in the end,but what really benefits the most are the people you meet, and the opportunities they give you. You can study and work hard at any school, but in the end grades really don’t matter. It’s all up to you and what you want to do. I didn’t study what I do, I studied industrial design. What do I do for a living? Apparel design! Illustration! All the things I didn’t study. Education to me was just one part of learning the process of design and how the world works. Meeting new people, and going new places is just as educational as school. I’m not saying one shouldn’t go to school, I think it’s one of the most important things you’ll ever do if you take advantage of it and the people it has to offer. One of my favorite quotes is this.. “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you’ve every got.” Education can open up a million doors and it’s up to the student to reach out and try new things- if you do, you never know what possibilities there could be waiting for you!
* What factors should prospective students consider when choosing a fashion school? Are there any different considerations for those who know that they want to specialize in certain areas of the field?
Definitely think about what YOU really want. What makes you happy? What are you so passionate about that you are willing to work for? Don’t do something because it’s popular or easy. Nothing good will ever be easy. Once you think you know what you want, research it, ask people who do it what it’s like. We have the internet, which is full of any information you will ever need. It’s easier than ever to communicate with people.
* Do you feel that is important for someone to be passionate about this field in order to be successful on both a personal and professional level?
Without a doubt it my mind, it is beyond important to be passionate about this field in order to succeed. In the creative field there is nothing more apparent than your passion in your work. You can tell who is passionate about it, and who is not. You are putting you mind into a creative form which people can read. Why waste your time in it if you aren’t passionate? There are a million other people that will be competing with you that ARE passionate.
* Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to enter and succeed in the field?
It’s a tough industry, and it’s all about you in the end. It’s about being confident and just getting out there and doing it. You have to devote yourself to it and spread what you do around the world- don’t wait for people to come to you. No matter how amazing you are, that won’t happen. Be bold and put yourself out there for other people to see and judge. After all, what’s the point of creating things if you aren’t going to share them? It’s no good to only show your own ideas to yourself. Work hard, be passionate and you will succeed!
All Images are Copyright Kathryn Elyse
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