My Story: How I got into Illustration

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fashion and art have always been a part of me.  It's cliche to say I've been drawing since I can remember but that's the absolute truth.  I can remember several times throughout elementary school that kids paid me to draw them something and the praise I gained for my artwork was truly addictive.  It's no shocker that I sought out a creative career as an adult but illustration was never a career that I planned for.  I started my professional career as a fashion designer straight out of college but I couldn't be happier with the opportunities I've stumbled upon since taking a leap of faith and moving to New York City in 2012.

After landing a job at Calvin Klein as an assistant designer, I was on top of the world.  I was finally reaping the benefits of all my hustle in the fashion industry and loving my new team.  Unfortunately, the universe had its own ideas.

I started to notice changes in my energy levels:  Some mornings it was almost impossible to drag myself out of bed.  I began taking sick days due to pure exhaustion and when I did make it to work, I would sometimes fall asleep at my desk.  I was also gaining weight in a slow but steady stream and no amount of cycling or pilates was counteracting it.  I went to a few doctors but they were all convinced I was stress eating and exhausted from my new job.

After a year of struggle, I decided to resign and take some time to work through my health issues.  It was heartbreaking for me to let go of my design career, but I knew I needed to focus on my health and dedicate my time to healing.  I was sleeping close to 18 hours a day and essentially watching my life pass me by.  Doctors were hesitant to label my health issues, so I went untreated for Hashimoto’s disease for two years, causing significant weight gain, new food allergies and a host of other undesirable health problems.

It was during this time that I realized I needed a creative outlet.  I decided to try my hand at watercolor as I had seen some beautiful watercolor paintings online and was intrigued to try it for myself.  The beginning was rough.  Watercolor takes a good deal of skill and technique.  Through countless hours of practice and plenty of botched paintings, I found my footing.  

I (almost) feel lucky that my health forced me to take some time away from design.  I never would have had the courage to quit my day job to pursue art as a career and I couldn’t be happier with my new-found purpose in life.  I have been a freelance illustrator for almost two years now and I am happier than I have ever been mostly due to the creative freedom I enjoy on a daily basis.

My weight gain is still a struggle.  I have found a doctor who listens to me and I’m well on my way to recovery, however weight loss is a very slow process for someone with hypothyroidism.  I have spent the last few years hiding from friends, family, and followers, embarrassed about the dramatic change in my appearance.  Sharing my story and my struggles with all of you brings me a wonderful feeling of freedom and acceptance.  I'm so happy to finally be able to open-up and share how I turned one of the worst things that's ever happened to me into one of the best.

How One of My Idols Became My Mentor

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

fashion illustration by Jessica Durrant for Dena Cooper's blog, Brushstroke a la Mode

It was scrolling through Pinterest in 2012 that I stumbled upon Jessica Durrant’s gorgeous work for the first time.  There’s something so effortless about the way she combines her lines and washes of color that makes anyone think they can pursue watercolor with ease.  Pick up a paint brush and you might find it to be a little harder than it looks.  I know because that’s exactly what I did.

I’ve been drawing since day one (okay, maybe day two) and I’ve always spent my free time sketching in pencil or charcoal.  I went to school for fashion design and before that, I had an extensive background in fine arts but I had never touched watercolor before.  I bought my first novice set of watercolors with a pack of brushes and a pad of inexpensive paper and I got to work experimenting with this new fluid medium that bled all over the page at any contact with moisture.

fashion illustration by Jessica Durrant for Dena Cooper's blog, Brushstroke a la Mode
Needless to say, conquering watercolor took me a great amount of effort and practice but I’m not sure I would have had the inspiration to try without seeing Jessica’s amazing talent.  Since then, I’ve followed Jessica on Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and her blog.  Her voice in the illustration community is one of positive energy and encouragement which is especially unique given the competitive edge to any creative industry.  She is constantly striving for transparency with her audience which is what makes her followers such devoted fans of her work.

I was over the moon when reading Jessica’s announcement that she would be participating in a mentoring service called RookieUp and went straight to their website to book an hour with her on the phone.  RookieUp is an online platform connecting creative professionals to those in need of a mentor.  There are several experienced professionals from web designers to photographers and illustrators all with differing specialties.  

fashion illustration by Jessica Durrant for Dena Cooper's blog, Brushstroke a la Mode

On the morning of my call, I was filled with excitement at the prospect of chatting with an artist I had been following and worshiping for years.  When the phone rang it was like talking to an old friend - Jessica was so warm and considerate.  We talked about building a freelance career, finding clients that speak your language (figuratively, of course) and dealing with rejection as an artist and a professional.  Almost two months later, many of Jessica’s words are still on repeat in my head.

The experience was unforgettable but furthermore, Jessica has stayed in touch on Instagram when she has a spare moment from her dream job.  I will definitely be using RookieUp to contact her again in the future as my illustration career progresses.

All artwork is intellectual property of Jessica Durrant.  Thank you so much to Jessica for allowing me to use her work as a part of this post.

My Draw A Dot. Submission: Comme des Garçons

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Every month I look forward to Marcus Kan’s Draw A Dot. fashion illustration open call.  Each month he picks a different runway collection for illustrators to focus their talents.  This month’s open call was a tribute to the avant-garde fashion icon, Rei Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garçons just in time for the Met’s much anticipated exhibition, Art of the In-Between.

In preparation for this month’s contest, I scurried over to the Met to get a look at Rei Kawakubo’s work first hand.  This particular collection of her work ranging from the 80’s to present day challenges the duality of fashion, breaking down conventional ideals of beauty.  Above all Rei Kawakubo is a revolutionary and forward thinker exemplified by the popular saying, “whatever you think Rei Kawakubo is, that's what she's not”.  She’s the Björk of fashion - on a different wave length than the rest of us.

I love seeing fashion up close and personal.  There’s a sense of texture to a fabrication that just can’t be properly portrayed in a photo and as an artist, this dramatically changes my perception of a collection.  Rei uses color to establish an identity with her pieces which is beyond brilliant; the textures are dramatic and visually striking but her unique use of silhouette is the show-stopping component in her work that had me oohing and ahhing throughout the entirety of the exhibition. 

My submission focusses this love of texture and silhouette in a monochromatic drawing with splashes of the lovely cream color used in her Fall 2014 knits.  Although many of the illustrations that Marcus features in his final nine winning picks for the open call on Draw A Dot.’s Instagram feature playful over-the-top compositions, I thought it best to illustrate the simplicity of Comme des Garçons’ chaos that I find so enticing. 

You can see my submission from last month featured on the Draw A Dot. blog.  Wish me luck!

Brushstroke a la Mode

Monday, May 15, 2017

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I have created Brushstroke a la mode as a sacred place for me to share my past, present and future as a creative and hopefully use my experiences (read: mistakes) to inspire you to be your most creative self. 

As a disclaimer, I am known to be extremely open and truthful (sometimes to a fault) and I plan to expand on that here in it’s most pure and unadulterated form. I think the world has seen more than enough “style bloggers” wearing obvious outfits with nothing particularly intriguing to say about them. Fashion is so much more than #ootd. There’s a fine art to fashion that gets me genuinely excited. It’s this excitement that I draw my inspiration from and what I will be sharing here with all of you. 

I’m so delighted that you’ve chosen to embark on this journey with me. There will be humor, there will be struggles, probably an occasional feminist rant…but ultimately I think we will all feel refreshed and relieved having shed the sugar coating to focus on the truly magical world of creative freedom.

by mlekoshi