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.
Drawing fashion tip:
This example shows the difference in wool, silk and taffeta and how they drape. Wool is stiff, but fluid, silk very fluid, and taffeta has a lot of body so it’s more architectural and stiff.
There is also a center line to the body which curves with the torso. Use this center line to align your seams, and/or garment details.
Always remember the shape and movement of the body underneath. The clothes only move because the body does.
One of the things about drawing fashion that is ESSENTIAL for you to know is the anatomy of the body in terms of bones and musculature. If you are designing menswear, then the male form, women’s wear - the female form, of course…
If you don’t understand the form under the clothes, there is no way to make the clothing drape and fit correctly on the body. It will never look right until you are familiar with the human figure and how it moves, bends, stretches and twists. But mostly is how it’s built, muscles and tendons on bone structure.
If that sounds too boring and scientific, it probably is. So I would suggest going to a “life drawing” class. These are classes where artists get together and draw from a live model, usually, if not always, a nude model. It’s a great way to practice blind contour drawing and learn how the human figure is put together.
All the exaggeration that comes into play with fashion drawing will come on top of a solid drawing foundation.
Do you know the jazz musician Wynton Marsalis? Jazz is all about improvisation. Wynton Marsalis promotes the appreciation of classical music, since once you learn the structure, then you can improvise. Same with this - learn the structure of the body first, then improvise (exaggerate) in fashion drawing.
Most community colleges and areas that have artists will have a life drawing class. No instruction, just the model. Find your confidence and attend one. Usually cheap ($8-$12), and great for your fashion drawing foundation.
Blind contour drawing
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Blind contour drawing is a method of drawing widely used by art teachers, where an artist draws the contour of a subject without looking at the paper. The artistic technique was introduced by Kimon Nicolaïdes in The Natural Way to Draw, and further popularized by Betty Edwards as “pure contour drawing” in The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
The student, fixes his or her eyes on the outline of the model or object, then tracks the edge of the object with his or her eyes, while simultaneously drawing the contour very slowly, in a steady, continuous line without lifting the pencil or looking at the paper.
Nicolaïdes and Edwards propose different ideas of why blind contour drawing is an important method of drawing for art students. Nicolaïdes instructs students to keep the belief that the pencil point is actually touching the contour.  He suggested that the technique improves students’ drawings since it causes students to use both senses of sight and touch.  Edwards suggests that pure contour drawing creates a shift from left mode to right mode thinking. The left mode of the brain rejects meticulous, complex perception of spatial and relational information, consequently permitting the right brain to take over. Blind contour drawing may not produce a good drawing, however it helps students to draw more realistically, rather than relying on their memorized drawing symbols.  Blind contour drawing trains the eye and hand to work as a team, and it helps students to see all of the details of the object.
1. ^ a b Nicolaïdes, Kimon. The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study. Boston: Houghton Mifflin company, 1941. ISBN: 0395530075
2. ^ a b c d Edwards, Betty. The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999. ISBN: 978-0874774191