Interview with fashion illustrator Laura Laine

When did you feel that you want to draw? And why did you choose fashion to illustrate? Have you had any drawing/painting background before entering the university?


I was always drawing since I can remember, my parents are both artists so this was something that was always strongly encouraged in my family. I did art classes outside school and was drawing constantly just for myself. I also applied and got in an art oriented high-school. After graduating I wasn’t sure at all what I wanted to do, except that I knew it had to be something creative. Back then I had been doing some modelling for a few years, and that had sparked an interest towards fashion, so I decided very spontaneously to apply to study fashion design at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki (nowadays called Aalto University). I got in with the first attempt, but pretty soon it became clear that designing wasn’t my thing after all. I was so much more interested in illustrating fashion. I have a bachelor degree in fashion design, but I started to do illustrating jobs already during my studies, and was quickly working full time with freelance illustrating as well as teaching fashion illustration at my university.


You have rather recognisable style, how did you find it? How much time did it take?


It developed quite organically, I never thought about it consciously, I was always just drawing in the way that interested me. I guess it’s just a result of gradual continuous discoveries over a period of time.

You make very detailed hand-drawn illustrations. How much time does it usually takes to create a one?


It takes about 2-3 days, sometimes less if I have to, but I prefer to have a few days per one girl. The more time I have, the better the result.


Do you have somebody who inspires you now, artists or illustrators? Are there any artists/illustrators whose influence on your style you feel?


I have been strongly influenced in the past by Japanese manga and the the works of Egon Schiele and Aubrey Beardsley. For many years though I've been more into artists whose work is based on colour (like Anish Kapoor or Choi Jeong Hwa), but wasn’t ready to incorporate colour myself in a more prominent way into my own work. Now I’m starting to experiment with it more, and also with different materials such as inks. I’m currently really into the works of George Condo.


Do you keep your eye on other contemporary fashion illustrators? And what is your attitude to trends in illustration? Is it good to keep an eye on trends or is it important to look inside the self and draw as you feel?


I don’t really follow it that much. I think that to really become something exceptional in any field it’s extremely important to be genuine and express your creative vision freely and authentically. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on around you, I think looking at others' works can be very educational and inspiring. But I feel that following trends leads to a kind of a sad, restricted life.

Tell about the creative process.


I can get inspired by photos, pieces of clothing, art, anything actually. But many times the idea for a pose or a shape comes from a photograph. I collect inspiring images but I use them quite freely, the photo is just a reference, a starting point. It always happens that the illustration moves to a direction of its own during the process. The less control I have over it, the better it becomes. The more I start to analyse and think, the worse it gets.


As you make hand-drawn illustrations how do you usually solve a problem of changes?


I usually don’t have to make big changes after the image is ready, since we go through a sketch phase with the client. However, it does happen sometimes that I need to change some detail, and I do it as a kind of a collage cut-and-paste way in photoshop.


Are there any differences in work process for brands, magazines and advertising?


One thing that’s a clear difference is that with advertising the briefing is much more controlled and precise, and with magazines and brands I get usually more creative freedom.


When you were a beginner in illustration, how did you get your first commissions and what difficulties did you have?

My first commissions were through friends that were working in advertising and fashion. They were quite easy and fun to do. I think the first difficulties were with my first big assignment that was for Zara, where I had to produce 16 illustrations and I had a week to finish everything. I tried to be easy to work with and didn’t ask for more time, but then ended up doing 16-hour workdays for that entire week.

And what difficulties as a professional illustrator do you have now if any?


Freelancing always has its own difficulties, everything is unstable and I don’t really have good balancing routines. It’s also difficult to keep the creative process flowing and free and not to get stuck.



Is there any difference between an illustrator and an artist? Have you ever had an idea to become an artist?


It seems that without a conscious move from my side, I’m getting more and more into doing exhibitions. So my work is shifting more towards being an artist. Client work is an assignment and usually involves some sort of compromise. With artistic work there’s a total freedom of expression. I have also worked with glass for a few years, and have had exhibitions of my glass sculptures. This is something that I will also keep doing more in the future.

I don’t feel that for myself I have a need to label myself as either this or that.

Do you have times when you feel like you don’t like the piece of work you do at the moment, feel dissatisfaction with yourself? How often does it happen and what do you usually do in that case?


Many many times! I’m usually very dissatisfied with the piece at one point or another during the process. I can make corrective moves while working, but sometimes I end up disliking the end result. The funny thing is, with time this can change completely, and with the new perspective I start liking it again. My theory is that when you stare at something long enough it will always start to look wrong somehow.


What do you think about life-drawing, do you do it or not? It’s a trend now to make fashion sketches from backstages at fashion weeks, do you do it?


I love it, and I think it’s really good for every illustrator. I should do it more but I don’t have enough time. I believe it’s the absolute best way to learn to draw a human body and different poses.
I’d never been drawing backstage, would be interested to give it a try.


You picture the materials very natural-like and detailed. Do you use references or you need to see the depicted object in real life?


I wish I always had the real piece of clothing in front of me but unfortunately this is almost never the case. I usually work with photographs. But I can research a piece of clothing further, if what I’m getting in the briefing is not enough. I do often material research also, and it helps if I have something physically at hand that can help with that. For example a leather jacket to study how leather shines in different angles.

I think my studies in fashion design also are a big help here, because I have basic understanding of patterns and the behaviour of different types of materials. So I can work quite far with just one small reference photograph.


“Not a day without a line” is that about you?

I don’t draw every day at all. For me the breaks help to keep the creative energy flowing.


Interviewer Mari Am


All the pictures belongs to Laura Laine