Step 3: Ta da!

Well as you may have guessed by the title of this post, step 3 in the custom order process is completing the final artwork. Once the line drawing is perfected and approved by the client, (Adam, who's name I can now share with you because he gave it to his wife Heather this past weekend for their first anniversary so it's no longer her surprise 1 year anniversary paper gift) I then get to work on the coloring and fabric rendering.

I love this step. This is where the illustration comes to life, the make it or break it moment (well, hours really). Some bridal illustrations take only one to two hours to render in color, like Heather here. But some take much longer, when the dress is head to toe lace or a ornate vintage gown. So here she is, I hope you liked seeing and reading about my process and getting a peak at my messy desk here.

I got an email from Adam last night telling the gift went over really well: "Heather loved it! It literally brought tears to her eyes!" I couldn't ask for anything more, I looooove a happy client! It was also such a pleasure to work with Adam, so thank you for that Adam, and thank you for letting me share it all here on my blog. Happy 1st Anniversary!

Step 2: Polished line drawing

This is the second step in my custom illustration process. After the client, which in this case is a groom who has purchased this as a surprise 1st anniversary gift for his bride (how perfect right, commissioning me to do an illustration (on paper) of his bride because your supposed to give a "paper" gift for the 1st year! Sorry, I digress, but what a great concept, it never occured to me before.) After the client choses the "rough" he likes best (step 1) I then proceed with the final line drawing. This is the point where I perfect the sketch and make sure everything is perfect before beginning the final color rendering. It's also the clients last chance to make any change requests. Want to add the veil? Feel she looks too thin or too curvy? Now is the time to tell me and have me make any needed changes.

In this case the client, said groom, did not want any changes. I proceeded to the coloring step right away and was able to finish it up and send it out. He's giving it to his wife this weekend, on their anniversary, so finger's crossed she likes it! Monday I'll share the final illustration and her inspiration photo.

Obsessed with: Valentino

I laughed, I cried, and I didn't want it to end! I'm talking about the incredible documentary about Italian couturier Valentino (and his partner Giancarlo) called Valentino: The Last Emperor. I saw this film when it opened last May with a sold out crowd of fabulous fashion folk. By the look of the line outside the theater you would have thought we were waiting to get into the tents for the hottest show of fashion week. At the time the only theater nationwide that it was showing in was the Angelica, a small indie theater in downtown NYC.

It was simply fantastic, exceeded all expectations! I saw my good friend Renaldo Barnette, waiting in line to come in as I was coming out and I was practically in tears telling him how great it was (Ren went to the showing that was introduced by Andre Leon Tally, but that one sold out quick, so Jen and I had to go to the previous showing.) Since then I've had this postcard, shown above, on my fridge and have been waiting patiently for the dvd release. This movie is incredible, so great in fact that I can't seem to come up with the right words for it without sounding like a gushing fool. I loved it, and I really think you will too. It's rare for a movie about fashion to really get it right. (Remember the train wreck that was Pret-a-Porter?!?!)
Valentino: The Last Emperor truly takes you into that world, the world of the fashion elite. Another reviewer said it perfectly: " This film exemplifies everything I love about the fashion industry- the hype and glamour of the shows, the weekly flitting from one city to another and the daily encounters with fascinating people." You get to go inside the genius' behind the 45 year old label. You learn how a real couture house operates, and about the man behind the man, because it's also an incredible love story.

It turns out it's still playing at theaters and festivals around the world. You can click here for theater info, or to watch clips from the film click here, or finally to pre-order your dvd click here (available to ship Sept 8th)...I just ordered mine. :)

One of the many great quotes from the documentary is Karl Lagerfeld saying to Valentino "compared to us, the rest are making rags." I love it!

Image above are two working sketches by Valentino from the Ara Pacis Museum exhibit. Fabulous, aren't they!

Step 1: Roughing it

Last week I got an order from another husband. I just love those husbands who order custom wedding illustrations as gift's for their wife's. It's so sweet! I decided this would be a nice opportunity to write about my process of creating a custom illustration.

After the client places the order with me, either through my etsy shop or by contacting me via email, he or she then emails me photo's from the wedding. Sometimes I receive entire online albums, sometimes a link to their photographers website, and sometimes its just a hand full of photo's. (I've also had situations where the wedding was a long time ago, so no online pictures exist, and in that case they sent me actual photo's through the mail and I returned them with the completed order.)

I also send the the client a questionnaire asking if they have a favorite part of the dress, prefer a specific angle (like a back shot), etc. Once I study the photo's and the questionnaire, I then get to work on what I call the "roughs". I sketch out different poses and different looks tyring to see what looks best and create a nice composition. Once I have a bunch I chose my favorite 3 or 4 roughs and email them to the client to see which one they would like to go with for the final bridal illustration. Which one would you chose? Stay tuned for step 2, which I'll post friday, and you'll see which one the client chose.

Retail Therapy: new shoes

For me there's nothing like some retail therapy to lift my spirits. Finding that perfect "thing" that is "just so you", it's such a high. I've been a little down lately, worrying about life, my career, my future, and just all those issues that us girls worry about. This past sunday after brunching with 2 girlfriends we ended up strolling around my neighborhood and doing some unexpected shopping, and it was just what I needed. I completely fell in love with these shoes, and had to have them (even though I have no business shopping right now...) Well I LOVE them, so much so that I thought I'd share them here with you. Maybe I'll start posting some of my fabulous finds from time to time.

They're genuine leather, pale blush pink, pointy tow flats with square silver studs. Surprisingly, they're Steven by Steve Madden. Originally $129.00, but thanks to Loehmanns and my birthday discount, I got them for $50! (Zappos has them on sale too.) And my rug is a crewel work rug by Williams Sonoma Home... I feel like I'm 5 years old, I don't want to take them off!

New illustration in the shop

In addition to writing a blog, I'm a huge blog reader. I love seeing the rooms people design, the DIY projects people come up with and the outfits that people put together and are inspired by. While looking through some fashion blogs this week I came across Elaine and her blog, Clothed Much. I fell in love with this photo of Elaine sporting her new floppy straw hat and just had to draw her.

It's so funny, I just realized she's the second illustration in a row that I've added to my etsy shop featuring a girl wearing a hat. Maybe I'll come up with another one or two to make "a hat set" for cards, bookmarks, and prints. If your interested in purchasing a print of her click here.

30 and Fabulous!

One of my best friends, Jamie, celebrated her 30th birthday last week. Jamie is one of those girls with great fashion sense, who isn't afraid to take risks and is simply adorable. (don't you agree?!) Knowing how much I love this dress, she wore it to my birthday the week before hers, which is where I took this photo. Happy birthday J, I hope you like the sketch!

(Dress is Free People, bag is Prada, and flip flops are Havianas.)

Wonderful wallpaper

I absolutely love the wallpaper options that are available right now. Besides being a great focal point in a room, wallpaper can also act as the perfect accent to enhance your artwork. Like a fantastic outfit, a fantastic room needs to have contrasting layers and accessories.

Here are 3 styled shots of prints from my shop, that are all enhanced by some fabulous wallpaper. The top and bottom photo's are Ferm Living (my favorite wallpaper company), and the middle one is a floral working sample from my previous job, that never actually made it to production. (Sorry if the photo is blurry, it's a old shot from before my blogging days!)


I've added a fun new listings to my etsy shop. Her name is Mystie and she's a bit of a funky fashionista. (I actually hate that word, but for some reason it just suits her and I don't mind it here!)

Here's a little history about me, and why I chose that name for this print: The summer I turned 16 I lived in San Francisco and took classes at the San Francisco Academy of Art. I lived in the dorm, and made friends from all over the country. There was one girl I kept in touch with as a pen pal (yes "pen pal," as in actual letters through the mail because this was before the internet!) and her name was Mystie. She was very artsy and I although I lost touch with her years ago I'm thinking maybe she looks something like this now.

iPhone app

Even though I am a Mac user in every other way, I am one of the unlucky few who do yet have an iPhone. (sob, sob) I do have however, and iPhone application featuring my art work! The creators of iBridalGown contacted me a little while back about purchasing my Rebecca illustration as the background and main image for their iPhone application. iBridalGown helps brides in their wedding dress search by storing all the info as well as photo's of the dresses you try on.

Needless to say, I let them purchase the rights to use it and here it is. Hopefully one day I'll post a picture of my own iPhone with the app on it, but for now here's the image from their site. The app is available to purchase for $3.99 through itunes if your interested. It sounds like a great thing to have if your a bride to be and still on the hunt for that perfect dress.

Why Chose Just One

When I start a custom illustration I always send the client a few "roughs". These are quick and loose sketches just to try out different poses and layouts to see which ones work, how to best show off the details of the dress, and which pose the bride would prefer. Often times there are emails back and forth contemplating the pros and cons of the different sketches and seeing if I could combine different elements of the different roughs into one.

Well Shannon here was the first bride I had who just couldn't decided, loved two of them, and decided to order both! One is simply her and her gorgeous dress, and is more of a traditional fashion illustration. And the second one is mimicking a shot from her photographers album fully styled with all her wedding props; veil, bouquet, and even a monogrammed umbrella.

Shannon was definitely a satisfied customer, because I received the the sweetest email from her shortly after mailing out the artwork:
"I had the most wonderful surprise in my mailbox yesterday - your illustrations arrived! I can't even describe how delighted I am. I literally gasped when I saw them! You captured every detail and I will absolutely treasure these forever. I took them in to a frame shop to have nice frames done up for them so I can hang them in my bedroom and enjoy them every day. Thank you so much for being so patient with me and working so hard to get everything perfect. You have a real talent for capturing the feel of the fabrics and movement. Thank you very much for the wonderful illustrations!"
I love a satisfied customer! That and knowing my artwork is up in someone's home, it just never gets old! Thank you for the "thank you" Shannon!

Christmas in July

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a greeting card company out in Minnesota. They were having a "fashion illustration emergency". (I kid you not, that was the title of the email!) They needed some holiday time illustrations and pronto. I received the email on a friday and they needed sketches by end of day sunday!

Well, needless to say I got the job done, and thought I'd share one of the illustrations with you here. It was kind of funny to be sitting in my hot apt in the middle of July sketching out winter holiday scenes!

Brides brides and more brides

Being the heart of wedding season, I'm a bridesmaid in one wedding, planning another wedding, and sketching lots of bride clients. So I thought I'd share more of my past bridal clients with you.

Above are Sheryl and Scott. Sheryl is friend and former colleague of mine. She requested a sketch as her wedding gift, and here it is. I love her dress, don't you! I'm sucker for anything pink, so the pale pink satin waist paired with the delicate beading got me. I also love her bouquet choice. Perfect for their fall wedding in the Berkshires.

Lori is next, she is the pretty blond in the lace mermaid gown. Lace is one of those things I procrastinate working on because its so tedious to render properly, but then once your finished it's just beautiful. The same thing goes with most prints actually. I dread rendering prints like plaids and florals, but then once I get it done it's usually the highlight of the illustration. Another detail that I really like about this dress and I think came out really well in the illustration is the pleated trim around the top and bottom, it's a very nice touch.

And last but not least, in this post, is Mary Ann. For this job the client was her husband, Keith. I love it when i get to work with a husband, it's a very different experience then working with a bride or friend of the bride. When I begin working on a custom piece I send the client a few rough sketches for them to chose the pose and layout they like best. I was trilled when Keith picked this back pose. Most of the brides chose one that's a strict front view, it's nice to something different and it's also a great dress for this pose! In the photo, you can't see her pretty satin sash, so I moved it over a bit to highlight it in the illustration.

I heart...

Al Hirschfeld caricatures! For almost 75 years his line drawing appeared in The New York Times. He captured what was happening in American theater, on Broadway and the crazy characters that can only be called New Yorkers! I just love the fluidity of his pen strokes and the whit and humor of his drawings. I know they're not fashion illustrations, but they're fabulous doodles none the less. 

Almost everyone knows that Hirschfeld (1903-2003) hid his daughter's name in his iconic drawings.  It began in 1945 when his only daughter, Nina, was born. In 1960 the publisher of the Times received a letter saying Hirschfeld should let people know how many Nina's they should look for. From then on he signed each piece with his name followed by a number. I love spotting a Hirschfeld and searching for the "Nina's"!

Here are some of my personal favorites: Above; Audrey Hepburn, Woody Allen, David Letterman, Al Hirschfeld self portrait, and the Rat Pack. 


I'm off to go shopping for a project I'm working on. Unfortunately I won't be hitting up the stores shown here, no Prada, Bendels, Bergdorf's or Harry Winston. (Well not today at least!) This is a sketch I did a little while back for the Material Girls website. Thought it would be nice to share with you and to get me in the spirit of the day ahead. 

Betsey Johnson

Living in New York has some really great perks. One of my personal favorites is that you never know who your going to bump into crossing the street (I once seriously collided with P Diddy), making a salad at the local Whole Foods (once grabbed the same salad tong as Kyra Sedgwick then proceed to tell her how much I loved her iTunes playlist which was currently playing on my ipod as I stood there), or sitting next to you at dinner...tonight that was Betsey Johnson. 

I went to the gorgeous Boathouse restaurant in Central Park tonight to celebrate my birthday. I've been itching to go again since seeing it featured in 27 Dresses, which I happen to watch every time it's on tv. (Sad I know, but I'm a sucker for any romantic comedy and find Katherine Heigl so likable and relatable.) I sat down with my family and friends, checked out the amazing views of boaters, gondoliers, and upper west side skyline, then glanced to my right and who was sitting next me but Betsey Johnson!

It always such a trill to meet a fashion icon! I had to say something right, so I  gave her my card telling her I was a fashion illustrator myself and that I loved her work. She loved the card, with my sketch on it (the same one currently here in my blog header above) and said she would love to see more of my work! We chatted for a bit before I turned back to my table, and she was just delightful. 
Betsey has been creating feminine and whimsical designs since opening her first boutique in 1969. That's 40 years of "girls just having fun" wearing Betsey for their bat mitzvahs, sweet 16's and prom's. She built an empire of 75 freestanding stores, is carried in over 500 department stores with licensing deals for products like luggage, shoes, and jewelry. The Betsey Johnson fashion show is always a fashion week highlight, quirky and fun and always ending with Betsey cart wheeling on down the runway. 

 New York Magazine recently stated that after her this coming fashion week she's headed into retirement. . . But retirement Ralph style, which means very hands on. We shall see I guess. I just hope that the Betsey esthetic never changes. She's a true fashion design rock star! 
Shown above are some of Betsey's fun design sketches. The first is a submission to Michelle Obama for her inauguration dress, and the second is a prom dress sketch she created for Elle Girl Magazine. Betsey Johnson photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo.