How did you get into illustration?
I originally studied Fashion Marketing at Northumbria University, a course I chose because it covered a broad base of fashion related skills such as design, pattern cutting, construction, photography, styling, graphic design, illustration, branding and promotion. By my final year I realised that my passion lay with illustration, but upon graduation I was offered a job as Assistant Accessories Designer at Luella, which was too good an opportunity to turn down. I worked there for a year and it was a great experience, but I decided to move back home to the North East and return to education. I studied for an MA in Future Design at Teesside University, which enabled me to produce an illustration portfolio, and one of my pieces was selected for the Association of Illustrators IMAGES 35 annual in the ‘New Talent’ category. This gave my confidence in my work a real boost and I set up a website and began to send my work out to publishers, magazines and newspapers.
What pens/pencils do you use?
I always use a mechanical pencil, a Pentel or Pilot one in 0.5 or 0.3mm with an HB or 2H lead. For colour I use Letraset Tria markers. They are great because they have three nibs so you can have very fine or very chunky lines. For black lines I use Indian ink and a Joseph Gillott Reversible Mapping pen.
Do you have any tips for aspiring illustrators?
I would say its great to take inspiration from other illustrators, but avoid trying to copy another illustrator’s style. Remember that you have your own unique set of artistic skills, influences and interests, so focus on exploring these and your own natural illustration style will emerge. I experimented a lot with different media and subjects when I was a student, but I feel my work really started to come together when I began to focus on what I was really interested in – fashion, beauty and line drawings.
Your new book, The Fashion Exercise Book, features ‘street style’ from different cities. Which city has the best style, would you say?
I’m biased, but it’s got to be London! I think people in London have the most playful and eclectic sense of style, and a more eccentric and bold approach to fashion. London style is definitely more edgy than cities like Paris and Milan, where the prevailing look is classic and sophisticated – which is lovely, but sometimes not so interesting to draw.
Do you have any style icons/favourite designers?
I think Alexa Chung always looks great, really cool and not like she’s tried too hard. Solange Knowles always looks brilliant too – my favourite look of hers is the afro hair with a printed suit or clashing co-ords. Not sure we’ll be seeing this for much longer though, as in a recent interview she said she had ‘print fatigue’!
Iris Apfel is another icon – she is a 92 year old retired textile designer/socialite from New York who has a fabulous over the top style and is always featured in the street style blogs. Her look is really eccentric , and it’s so inspirational to see someone paying no regard to what is conventionally regarded as ‘age appropriate’.
My favourite designers are probably Marc Jacobs, Miucca Prada (Prada and Miu Miu) and Consuelo Castiglioni (Marni). I love their use of colour, print and shape, and their collections are always interesting to illustrate.
Do you have a favourite place to work?
At my desk in my studio at home. It’s a lovely room at the front of the house that gets lots of sun, and I’ve got all my art materials, books and magazines there.
What inspires you when you’re working?
It depends on what mood I’m in, and what stage of a project I’m at. Sometimes I prefer to work in silence, but if I have music on it’s usually Radio 1 or 6 Music, or an album – current favourites include Arctic Monkeys AM, Lana Del Ray Born to Die and Smashing Pumpkins Rotten Apples. My drink of choice is tea, either decaf, peppermint or rooibos. I have a pin board above my desk on which I stick visuals that have inspired me like postcards, pages from magazines, fabric and nice bits of graphic design, like a stylish swing tag or business card. To keep it fresh I usually take everything down every couple of months and start again.
Frances Moffatt is the author of Fashion Exercise Book.
Watch Frances personalise her gig guide page
Watch Frances personalising more pages from her book in our video section.