Monday, February 23, 2015

Feature: Is Fashion Illustration Is Becoming A Dying Art?

Fashion illustrator, Gladys Perint Palmer, has spent over three decades chronicling couture. The former fashion journalist, front-row fashion commentator and best-selling author, who says she draws faster than she writes, is currently the executive vice president of Artistic Development at the Academy of Art University in California.

We caught up with Gladys, fondly known as GPP, in Bangalore as she visited several Indian cities as ambassador of the Academy of Art University. In addition to networking in India, she has been sketching.

Her illustrations include sights at the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal, women in sarees and anarkalis, the bindi, men in traditional Nehru jackets, fancy wedding attire and Lord Ganesha. 

This is not the first time she is capturing something Indian on her canvas. It turns out she unknowingly illustrated Sonam Kapoor, at Elie Saab’s Paris Fashion Week presentation sometime ago. “I spotted her sitting in the front row. 

She had a beautiful face and I instantly captured it. I was later informed that she was an Indian superstar,” clarifies Gladys, who has also  sketched celebrities like Julia Roberts and Karl Lagerfeld. She finds the 90s—when many individual designers became big names—the most creative period in the world  of fashion. Gladys says it’s not the clothes that interest her, but the people who wear them and the way they carry off the silhouette, colours and dramatic accessories.

This haute-shot illustrator has her bad days too. “The challenge is to hit a  good day. A drawing can take seven minutes or 30 years,” chuckles the soft-spoken artist whose favourite labels to work with are Azzedine Alaia, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano. Her most memorable project has been illustrating Versace’s homes and working on American filmmaker Robert Altman’s ‘PrĂȘt-Ă -Porter’.

Gladys’s artwork is primarily effortless line drawings with incredible use of colour. “I call it the Gladys technique. I love the line. I keep changing my tools. At present, I am using an ink dropper and my fingers. In the past, I have used an eagle’s feather. I don’t know what’s next,” says Gladys, who also uses the digital medium. “I have created several illustrations on the i-Pad. Both mediums though different yet good. What makes the i-Pad nice is that it is practically invisible. You cannot always spread out a sheet and start drawing without being intrusive.”

Given the emergence of new-wave photography, I can’t resist asking if old-school fashion illustration is a dying art and if fashion illustrators really an endangered species. “It’s not a dying art,” states Gladys. “Photographs are important. But there is plenty of work for illustrators too. Illustrators who don’t get work are the ones making these statements.”

This graduate of Central Saint Martins in London and Parsons School of Design in New York, actually learnt drawing from her mother. Apart from publishing her work in fashion glossies and advertisements, Gladys has also published three books of her artwork. All, especially Adam and Yves, have sold well. She is currently working on her fourth book titled Designer Dogs and Couture Cats.  

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