Leigh’s enthralling acrylic, oil and watercolour illustrations combine the worlds of high art and high fashion, with her subject matter varying from Lanvin’s spring collection to backstage beauty. In her illustrations, she evokes “a free flowing feminine expression” in rich, ethereal compositions that are by equal parts soft and strong, yielding both a powerful impact and eye-catching elegance. Errant sweeping lines add a raw, unfinished edge to the whimsical beauty of her work, which she discusses below …
What initially drew you to fashion illustration?
I love to experiment with different techniques and after painting on canvas for a while with acrylics, oils and watercolour decided to take it to paper and found that I really loved how I can use that as a medium to express my art as well. It just felt like a natural progression to illustrate especially with my interest in fashion-related influences.
Are there any illustrators who have particularly influenced you or whose work you greatly admire?
I fell in love with David Downtown work years ago, so I am definitely influenced by his work. I also find so many talents just while browsing the internet that inspire me continually to challenge my work and to try new ideas.
How would you describe your style and has it changed over the years?
It has definitely changed over the years as I have built up more of an expression that I find works well with each piece and with experimentation. But I also love to revisit my old techniques like using charcoal which I used to do more of and add the style that I use currently using to make something different but in tune with my mode.
My work is definitely influenced by fashion and beauty and I tend to tell people that ask that it is a form of fashion related work but with free flowing feminine expression. I am actually in an exhibition in April called “Fashion Unraveled” at Gensler in San Francisco and found that was such a perfect way to describe my work really.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everyday moments, flipping through fashion magazines, music and the emotions it portrays, films, fashion design. I also worked as a makeup artist so I am drawn to the editorial approach of expression that it creates.
Does living in New York have any influence on your work?
I actually live in Denver at the moment, I would love to live in New York, but by just visiting the city I can definitely say yes it is a large influence, especially when I was walking around the city with my camera, I was never bored of finding something beautiful, interesting or inspiring to create.
Tell us a little about your approach to illustration, your methods of applying colours and the materials you use.
For my illustrations I start with a simple pencil sketch and draw lightly until I feel it is going in a good direction, once so, I start to detail darker strokes and really detail the eyes and face first. Once I feel comfortable I finalize with pen and prepare it for the watercolors which most of the time is completely on a whim, I do not plan the colors so much and just let myself go with what I am feeling in the moment. Then to finalize for prints I take a high res photo of it and add a few digital touches or color if needed.
In your work you mix fine lines with vivid brushstrokes of colour, how do you arrive at the elimination of detail?
A bit like I describe above in a sense that I find beauty in the imperfect. I want to find relativity and something unexpected especially when drawing from the influence of fashion, where at most times can be out of reach for most of us.
What makes a successful fashion illustration and an interesting fashion subject?
A successful fashion illustration to me is when it just feels right and stopping when I have that feeling. I have had many pieces where I didn’t listen to my gut and continued working on it only to find the end result I was not happy with at all, to the archive and/or trash those have become. Also I find an interesting fashion subject is one where I find passion for a design I may be looking at, the colour the flow. If it grabs me and I find influence then I definitely want to create from that.
Illustration is often used sparingly in magazines in favour of photography, but what would you say fashion illustration can convey that a photograph cannot?
Emotion in the sense that there are so many artists with their own interpretations of fashion and I think it is appealing to readers to see how that is represented. I do not think one is better than the other, I feel they are on there own separate entity of expression, more of an add on so to speak of the end result.
How would you describe the allure of fashion illustration?
I am currently coveting a print by Cecil Beaton titled Lady Abdy from the 1930′s that is just so timeless and expressive of that era. Again I feel that art is just a wonderful form of expression that opens up a deeper level of relativity that draws others in on another level.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently preparing for the ”Fashion Unraveled” exhibition hoping to get a few new pieces ready for the show and just personal work to share with others on my blog and etsy shop. Each week though brings anew and I am just so happy and blessed to get to do what I love each day