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We Chat With Fashion Illustrator Kerrie Hess

In our increasingly digital age, the renaissance of hand drawn fashion illustration is a somewhat unexpected and unappreciated precedent. As computer programs like Photoshop and Illustrator become more and more capable of replicating the intricacies of artists, the ‘organic’ nature of traditional art forms seem inevitably doomed. But, there is light at the end of the drawing board; digitalism has not quite yet taken over, with hand drawn illustrations fronting fashion campaigns the world over, and appearing in articles published by the likes of Harper’s Bazaar on this season’s ‘must follow’ illustrators on Instagram.

So why this revival? What does hand drawn illustration have that digital is to develop? We spoke with renowned fashion illustrator Kerrie Hess to hear some of her thoughts on illustration’s newfound popularity.

Kerrie grew up in Brisbane and studied Graphic Design before taking the leap to move to London at only 19, following her aspirations to pursue a full-time career in illustration. At the time, fashion illustration was not as imminent as it is now, and Kerrie felt she was trying to create a career that didn’t really exist yet. More than a decade on and Kerrie is now one of the most sought after fashion illustrators in the business, with career highlights including high-end fashion labels like Lancome Paris and Kate Spade. Kerrie was also the first Australian to exhibit her work in the Paris’ Le Meurice Hotel in January of this year, establishing herself as a global go-to in fashion illustration. 

Kerrie’s work has an effortless look of Parisian chic – definitely something that every fashion girl aspires to, but she confesses that like every creative, her art comes with its own struggles. Not only does she have to deal with a daily bombardment of emails but she also tells us that ‘sometimes when illustrating with watercolour, it just might not work out, and I have to start again. I always prefer to do this than keep working on something that I know has lost its magic.’

Perhaps it is this ‘magic’ of hand illustration, that has kept its place in the world, despite the prevalence of digital work. Kerrie claims to shun the electronic aspects of illustration, adding that ‘it’s just not [her] path’ and that she ‘prefers to spend as much time as possible off the computer’. She feels that there is ‘a little more mystery in painting and illustration’ which is perhaps why – despite this digital age – we are still obsessed with work like her own and artists of the same ilk.

When Kerrie started out as an illustrator eighteen years ago, there were no courses or study options available, but nowadays, Fashion Illustration is taught in Universities and TAFEs all over the country. Embedding its roots in the fashion industry, illustration is not going anywhere, so how does an artist like Kerrie approach a new artwork?

Kerrie cites her inspirations as old Hitchcock films and music of the same era like Nat King Cole and Nina Simone. She explains that ‘the women in the Hitchcock films were the ones who gave [her] the glamorous but almost austere heroine aesthetic’ that she is now so famous for. Each artwork she does is different and Kerrie tells us that ‘50% of every illustration is in [her] head, and the other is spontaneous while [she] is painting’; the magic is either there or it is not and such is the nature of an organic art form.

Straying from the use of technology is not unique in the world of fashion illustration and with works as beautiful as Kerrie’s – we are glad of it. There is something exquisitely individual about each artwork that Kerrie creates and perhaps this exclusivity is part of the mystery and magic that makes hand illustration so appealing, and that is something that is impossible to achieve with a machine.

The Fashion Advocate x 

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