Why Every Fashion Illustrator Should Have a Fashion Muse

Find a familiar face; someone you love to draw, someone you’re comfortable drawing.

Your Fashion Muse will help you draw when the drawing gets tough.

There’s nothing more frustrating for a fashion illustrator than wanting to draw when you can’t. And the weird thing is, the other day you could! I suppose you could call it the dreaded artist’s block or, as I sometimes say, ‘feeling a bit rusty.’

So, what do you do on those can’t-draw days?

Do you make a cup of tea or go for a walk? Or maybe you start tidying a cupboard. I have really organised cupboards, by the way. Yesterday, I made cookies.

My advice? Find a familiar face; someone you love to draw, someone you’re comfortable drawing. Because, strangely, some people are challenging to draw.

You see an amazing model, and you think, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to draw her,’ but then, for whatever reason, you can’t do her justice.

A fashion muse is a must because when every drawing is looking ugly; she will be the beautiful beaming light to remind why you started drawing fashion in the first place.

Your fashion muse embraces your drawing style. By having a fashion muse, it’s a really good way of coming back to the way you draw—in your personal style.

Did you ever see the film Mannequin (1987)? As a child, I watched it over and over again!

Well, it’s a bit like that scenario: Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy) and his magical mannequin, Emmy (Kim Cattrall), create amazing window displays together and everything comes to life.

Without his muse, there would be no magic.

Who is My Fashion Muse?

At this point, if you’re wondering who my fashion muse is, I confess, I have a few.

Although, I do have one particular fashion face, that I absolutely love to draw, so much so, that I’ll buy any magazine if she’s on the cover.

As obvious as she may be, my fashion muse is a face I grew up with—and she’s still entirely relevant today.

She is Kate Moss.

Specifically Kate Moss, circa 1992; she’s totally dependable. After all, Kate makes anything look good, so why not my fashion illustration?

Why Kate? Well, I’m not exactly a rock chick myself, so there’s no Kate-connection there. And there are other models I love to draw, of course, but, drawing Kate reverts me back to a time when I was a young fashion student in the nineties, ready to explore fashion and art… and Kate was everywhere; she was the model of the moment.

The Fashion Face

I remember drawing Kate wearing that headdress when she was on the cover of The Face, when she was holding a bird in Vogue and when she was framed in fairy lights—the Corinne Day days.

I drew Kate a lot while I was in college and I guess I got used to her. I got used to her wide-set eyes, her cupid’s bow lips and her high cheekbones—I desperately wanted those cheekbones.

And when I say I always draw Kate, I don’t mean I’ve created a million Kate portraits, and now I’ve perfected her. More that I refer to her as a guide for my fashion illustration. Because, each time I’ve tried to draw Kate, she sort of works—like magic!

My drawing may not look anything like Kate Moss, but usually, and unusually, there’s something about my illustration if Kate’s had anything to do with it. Suddenly my work comes together, and that’s the point; your fashion muse will bring it all together.

For me, when I go back to drawing Kate Moss, I feel like I’m catching up with an old friend. I’m with someone I know well, even though I’ve never met her.

Aside from my Pinterest board: Kate Moss {Fashion Muse}, I have a Kate book that I bought in the nineties. It’s simply called ‘Kate.’

It’s a great book with beautiful shots of Kate in the early days. It’s very nineties; current and old school at the same time. There are some amazing shots in there, which are just perfect for me to draw on whenever I need to get into that space—when my work isn’t coming out as well as I want it to.

When you have a fashion muse, you can draw inspiration from the fashion face you love.

The Happy Accident

Let me give you a real example of how Kate has saved the day.

One particular illustration, inspired by Kate, became a sort of happy accident.

I’d been looking in my Kate book and had painted this sideways glance. I never really liked this painting. I used too much ink, and the eyes became very dark, but I rarely throw art away because I like to try to rescue it.

Anyway, one day I opened the back door to our basement to find a red leaf on the doorstep. It was such a beautifully rich colour; I had to pick it up.

The leaf had fallen from the neighbour’s plant which was sat on a window ledge high up.

I decided to scan the leaf in Photoshop, to see how it would look on some of my illustrations, one being the Kate painting with inky eyes, that was in the rejection pile. Suddenly, I quite liked her.

A few months later, that ‘happy accident,’ influenced by Kate, became my best-selling greeting card, selling out in Fenwicks!

How to Find Your Fashion Muse

So, let’s work out who your fashion muse is—because every fashion illustrator needs a BFMF {best fashion muse forever}.

I’d start with Pinterest; it’s such a great resource for fashion illustrators.

Back in the nineties, there was no Pinterest or any social media for that matter. So, it was really about trawling through magazines, tearing out pages and collecting favourite fashion shoots.

Now that we have Pinterest you can create a board and repin others’ pins, which is perfect for researching iconic fashion.

If you need a starting point, my Fashion Muses board is full of beautiful faces. Not forgetting my Kate Moss board, of course!

Other favourite faces include Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot and Christy Turlington.

Discover who your fashion muse is, simply, by sketching lots of people you love to draw, and then by seeing which of your illustrations really stand out—not just for you, but for your viewers. And don’t ask a family member or your best friend what they think because they will tell you they’re all lovely.

Which ones have significant engagement on Instagram, for example? Check your Instagram insights.

But it’s not just about engagement. Think about the paintings you particularly enjoyed creating and why? Who inspired you, and how?

These are questions you may not think matter, but it’s worth thinking about if you can find a fashion muse who will be there for you when your illustration goes awry.

The next time you’re feeling rusty, go back to your fashion muse and just see what happens. I bet she will turn out beautifully.

For more help with your fashion drawing, grab my FREE Fashion Figures Guide here.

“Fashion is about dreaming and making other people dream.” —Donatella Versace

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