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You can’t talk about fashion illustration without talking about composition, which is a catch-all word for DESIGN. How do you design an illustration to make the viewer’s eye go where you want it to go and thus glorify what your illustration is about?
So, a necklace. I did this piece for a retailer’s ad on jewelry. Here is the DESIGN/COMPOSITIONAL thinking behind the art:
1. Pop those red lips (color, sensual shape!) so the viewer’s eye is captured right away. Notice the way the eye starts at the top of the page there and naturally travels down to the necklace.
2. Make the eye journey down to the necklace as unimpeded as possible: gray out the lines of the neck and head/ears - leave out unnecessary lines like the chin. If these gray lines were black, they would fight with the necklace’s black outline.
3. Save the darkest lines for what you want to be the FOCAL POINT. A strong illustration has only one major focal point (necklace), but can have minor ones too (lips.)
4. To strengthen and identify your FOCAL POINT, add more detail. The necklace here is a combination of shape, line and color.
It’s an art to figure out what to leave in and what to leave out. When in doubt, leave it OUT!
Architect Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) famously said,
"Less is more," in speaking about restraint in design. (New York Herald Tribune, June 28, 1959)
Like the body being split into thirds for a fashion figure proportion, so too can the face. We measure from the hairline to the chin.
1. Front hairline (bald men had this at one time so go with where it used to be) to bridge of the the nose - first one third
2. Bridge of nose/eye area to the bottom of the nose is another third
3. Final third is from the bottom of the nose to the chin
As unique as faces are there is tremendous variation on this. It’s only a formula to check if your faces look “off.”
In addition, you can also split the length of the entire head in half as a guideline measure - from the very top of the head to the chin: the eyes will be at the halfway mark.
Strong confident lines will give the viewer enough information so they can use the imagination to fill in the rest of the fashion figure. Don’t over do the lines! Honor your viewer’s imagination.
Isn’t a making-love scene in a movie more erotic when they don’t show you that much? Oh how the imagination loves to fill in the visual details on it’s own.
You’ve heard of Nine Heads (I’m not a fan of the Nancy Riegelman book) for fashion proportions, but there is another yardstick.
From the head to the waist - one third of figure. From the waist to the knees - one third of figure. From the knees to the feet - one third of figure.
This is variable depending on your “style” of drawing and what you want to evoke, but a general yardstick.
1. With drawing fashion, it’s always learning to see the body underneath. Learn to draw the nude figure at a life drawing class.
2. With drawing fashion, it’s about what you LEAVE OUT, more than what you put in. The biggest mistake in fashion illustration - if you want to add mood and flair - is to overdo details. Keep it simple, let the line guide the eye. Use shape and color to define only that which needs defining. Resist the urge to show your viewer everything.