The girls that Pippa McManus illustrates are special. Not only do these girls have the look, but they also have complex personalities; They’re sexy, innocent and sweet all at the same time.
Today, I would like to introduce you to the fashion illustration world of Pippa McManus.
Let’s start. Out of all the categories in the illustration field, why do you choose to specialize in fashion illustration?
When I was starting out it was more of a case of choosing illustration from all the career options in the fashion industry. I studied fine art at collage and then crossed over to fashion design so fashion illustration was the perfect marriage of the two. It felt like a natural path for me. I have always been able to draw and have been obsessed with fashion since I can remember - in particular the high-end designers.
So, describe the girls you have illustrated? If they were real in life, which city do you think they would be living in? Why?
I tend to illustrate either overtly sexy, hot women or innocent sweet girls. Lately I am learning that there is a way to have both elements in one illustration. It’s a challenge to illustrate that kind of woman but they end up having way more depth to them rather than being just ‘hot girl’/ ‘sweet girl’. I would love to imagine my girls are from some amazing cosmopolitan city where things happen all the time, everyone is out and about and immersed in their city’s culture. Creating their story is my escape.
Well out of all the pieces you have done so far, which piece/ series is your most iconic to date? Why?
I feel like I nailed my style and created a recognisable illustrative signature when I opened my ‘A is For Arizona’ show in June of this year. I worked on my most comfortable size for every piece (700 x 1000 mm), used my favourite mediums (Acrylic, charcoal, paint-pens and spray paint) and illustrated my favourite subject, fashion models! What I learned through this exhibition is that if you stick to doing what you are comfortable and confident in and push yourself in technique, everybody responds in an amazingly positive way.
When you are working on your illustration piece, do you have any strange habits to keep you concentrated?
If only I was that interesting! I will try anything to avoid working at my actual desk, so I move to the floor, in front of the TV or outside in the sun, anywhere but that big daunting desk! I must have music. I am terribly out of touch with current music so my ipod has not been updated for years. All I tend to listen too is 90’s Hip-hop! My fiancé is a jazz pianist and we both have home studios in our house so if the ipod is not playing I will be listening to him practising or teaching. When I illustrate everything is shut out, so concentration is never really a problem.
At this moment, you have 2 blogs: one is about fashion illustrations, while the other is about fashion sketches. Why do you want to keep them separate?
The ‘Sketch Show’ blog is almost like a diary where I jot down an illustrative dialog straight from my brain to the page. All the illustrations are drawn straight from two Style.com photos. I choose them as soon as each show is published, that way I have no time to think about how to specifically draw every piece. It’s very organic I guess. ‘Workable Fixative’ is a home for my planned out, conceptualised illustrations, which are a mix of commercial jobs and personal work. It is also a little bit strategic as I’m hoping to pitch to different audiences and spread my self a bit wider over the fashion illustration industry.
Since your works have been viewed by many people, I am just wondering, what is the weirdest comment you have ever received about your works?
I had middle-aged Chinese man come in to my studio space at 140William on my first day there about a month ago. He congratulated me on acquiring the space and was saying I must be very talented to land something so special in the middle of the city for free. Then he walked over to the only painting I had in the room at the time and proceeded to critique it. It was an illustration of Korean model Hyoni Kang. He said it was the worst painting he had ever seen, she was too elongated, her nose was too far from her eyes, her mouth was sour and upturned, the shoulder spikes on the Burberry trench she was wearing were horrible and I must hate Asian women because she is so ugly. Having gone through 5 years of art school I was used to receiving scathing criticisms on a daily basis but this was just bazaar!
At this moment, I know you are working on a personal project by transforming a past issue magazine in illustration form. How did you come up with this concept? What challenges has it presented?
Ahhh, my biggest career challenge so far. I keep post-it note stacks all over the house so I can bookmark future illustrations while scanning my magazines. After a routine post-it session turned into bookmarking nearly half of that issue I said to myself “god I should just draw the whole thing! So an off the cuff, sarcastic comment to myself conceived a great idea. The biggest challenge is the guilt I feel when I haven’t worked on it for a while. It’s hard having personal projects which you're desperate to finish and having to choose between working on them and doing commercial work that will pay your rent for that week.
Last but not least, if you could only choose one super model to illustrate for the rest of your life, who will you choose? Why her?
Oh wow, that is a hard question! One of the reasons I held ‘A is For Arizona’ was to illustrate a collection of my most favourite models. It was extremely difficult to choose 26 from A-Z let alone just one! I think if I had to choose it would have to be someone quite unique and timeless. I love Zuzanna Bijoch at the moment, especially in all the SS 13 shows that she is doing. But I do really love, and always have, Natalia Vodianova. She perfectly strikes that sweet/sexy thing.
Credit: Pippa McManus