Fashion illustrations on paper

Keerthana Chandrasekar speaks about her introduction to fashion illustrations, the scope for the same amid photographs’ popularity and her social media presence

Published: 09th June 2022 02:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2022 02:03 AM   |  A+A-

Illustrations by Keerthana

Illustrations by Keerthana

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  If social media is witness to anything, it is that art can take unlimited forms. It can replicate reality, borrow from it, or even take us beyond — to the fantastical and surreal. In Keerthana Chandrasekar’s case, it can invite you to experience fabric, texture and design even on a two-dimensional plane.

With strokes of ink and watercolours — her primary mediums — Keerthana creates fashion illustrations that give you a feel and look of garments that may not exist yet. Some of these have found their way to her Instagram account that has garnered over a thousand followers.   

On the come up
The Chennai girl became acquainted with art at a young age and found a growing interest in creating anything related to people. But it was only in her second year at NIFT that she came across fashion illustration as a subject. “I learned about croquis (anatomy of a fashion figure) that gave me an idea about the geometric and proportionate side of art, but I trained myself to create figures by practice, and not by measurement.

This was also the time that Instagram was getting to its heights. I was inspired by a lot of emerging illustrators and artists. It taught me a lot about style, techniques, proportions, drawing different races and more that also reflect in my work,” she adds. With newfound inspiration, she showcased her work on social media. Despite having fluctuating reception quantitatively, has largely found positive responses. She even got a ‘like’ from the couture house Schiaparelli for a recreation of their piece worn by pop-sensation Doja Cat. 

After graduation, while she began working with a sustainable brand NAMBI-KAI as a designer, she has continued her work in illustrations, now doing the same for commissions. But the purpose of her work is quite different from any other art commission. “Illustration is different from artwork. The latter is created from thoughts and inspiration and doesn’t have commercial value but the former is used to convey a message or as a selling point. These lines have blurred a bit since. 

But I work with designers and illustrate their designs for production purposes and not artistic value. Many designers are good at conceptualising but not at sketching so they seek out illustrators to translate their ideas into sketches to be used for production or to submit for competitions. Nowadays, brands and designers use illustrations for their advertisements, social media or live events in cases of store openings or new launches,” she shares, explaining that any fashion illustrator must know basic proportions even if they wish to experiment, and understand garments, the terminology, what goes into the process, fabrics, drapes, textures and such. To stay on the top of her game, Keerthana practises every day with quick sketches, some of which can be seen on her profile.

New vs old media
Keerthana’s fashion illustrations may stand out from other art but the practice is not novel. For decades, fashion illustrations were widely commissioned to advertise and market apparels that brands had to offer. Of course, now, with the rise of popularity and accessibility of photography, the same is seen far less for the same purpose. Even then, in a market inundated by images, illustrations have found their niche, says Keerthana.

“Photography is really popular and easy to take up and so the competition is very high. But on the other hand, the two mediums are extremely different. The days when illustrations were used to show consumers garments are long gone. That being said, now your eyes are constantly flooded with images. So, in times like these, I feel that traditional art is quite refreshing. I do see people turning to it. It will not become as popular as photography, but it has created its niche. It may not be a default for brands but it is an option.

In photography, some details could be missed, say maybe the mood of the model, but in illustration, everything is created by hand and that demands and gets attention,” she explains. There is another aspect that keeps illustrations exciting, and that is the fact that one can do anything with them. “If there is a huge gown, I can make it bigger, more flamboyant.

There is a lot of scope to make an image  interesting in fashion illustrations, giving them something very exquisite and extravagant to accurately show how glamorous the fashion world can be. With photo, you are limited working with the resources you have…you can be as creative as you want with illustrations,” she elaborates.

At the end of the day, Keerthana loves a good challenge. She’s moving into more live events — taking up realistic portraits as well — and hopes to see herself do more in this field that is still growing in Chennai.

Visit Instagram page: @bykeetna



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