Today be inspired by Jennifer Lilya, a successful fashion illustrator from NYC! Lilya’s clients include Elle, Timex, LuxGoddess.com, Travel + Leisure & California Closets.
I invite you to read a guest post of Jennifer on how she started her fashion illustration career, how she creates brilliant artwork, or some tips on how she promotes her work.
THE BEGINNING of Jennifer Lilya ‘s BRAND
I’ve been interested in fashion & drawing ever since I was a little girl. The thought of combining my two favorite interests into a career was just amazing! The reality was that it really could be done & I couldn’t be happier. I went to FIT in New York City to major in fashion illustration & I’ve been working hard at it ever since. Hence, the Jennifer Lilya brand of illustration!
I was lucky to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology from ’89-’93. I had many professors that focused on the importance of life drawing and the human body. That foundation knowledge really makes “my girls” come to life. I think my talent & interest was always present, but the amount of studio time I spent drawing really helped to form my style. It’s still evolving, which excites & surprises me constantly.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
The first step for me is inspiration. I need to be completely excited about a design, a color, or an expression to even begin wanting to draw it. Luckily, that happens very often- fashion is endlessly inspiring each season.
Once I get a spark of inspiration, I’ll do a very light, very rough sketch in burnt sienna acrylic. I’ll then add layers of color or pattern to form the model & her clothes.
The final step is making the illustration come to life with my black ink lines to form a beautiful face & accentuate the clothes and movement. I usually work on 3-4 illustrations at once- I work with acrylics that are very watered down, so I’m constantly waiting for paint to dry if I’m only working on one piece at a time.
I’ve just started selling my art online at Redbubble. It’s a new venture for me, but so far I’ve gotten a great response. I’m also selling some of my original art for anybody that is interested. I advertise on many different online galleries, in the Directory of Illustration & I do direct mailings. Clients use me when they want a fresh, energetic style. Fashion can be used to sell more than just clothes- I’ve been hired to do art for cruise lines & casinos, among many other things.
I’m constantly online looking for new jobs & sending emails to art directors or advertising agencies. The Directory of Illustration has been immensely helpful in clients finding me.
Not to be too clichéd, but what I do is already a dream come true. All I can hope for in the future is to keep getting hired by great clients & to paint when I’m inspired.
DOING WHAT YOU LOVE MAKES YOU SUCCESSFUL
I draw pretty pictures for a living! It’s so much fun to wake up every day & create something that other people appreciate. Every painting & every project is different. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
I think my successes are ongoing. I’ve worked very hard to get to where I am today, so I appreciate all the little steps I’ve taken along the way. Some jobs have been bigger or higher profile than others, but they’ve all helped me form who I am and what I paint today.
Everybody is different, but what helped me was to paint as much as I could to hone my innate style. From there it’s all about self-promotion with a website, galleries on portfolio sites and emails & mailings to art directors and designers.
You can also find an agent, or work by yourself, but the job isn’t just about drawing - you need to be able to self promote & also take care of the business side - contracts, negotiations, usage rights, etc. A good place to inform yourself is to use The Graphic Artists Guild book.
All photos are copyright Jennifer Lilya
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