Rob Phillips is a key figure in the world of fashion. A renowned Fashion Artist, he also holds the position of Creative Director in The London College of Fashion. We catch up with him to get an insight into his thoughts on Fashion Illustration and what inspires his unique artworks.
Your drawings have a distinctive use of line and colour. How important do you think it is to maintain a unique style as a professional artist?
I think it’s quite important to be aware or in tune with your signature. The style of my work evolves, and must do so, but my signature remains. I use a large brush the same way I use a fine pencil so while the aesthetic may look different it's quite apparent that I created it.
I'm very conscious of growing and evolving as an artist. I want to feel challenged, stimulated and I want to develop. I'm told I have a definite signature to my work but through diversifying my media and changing the people I draw, I can develop and continue to feel totally engaged and stimulated. Plus the subjects I choose and the feeling my work emits are part of my visual voice, identifiably my statement. The styles grows and changes and that's healthy for me because I work a lot from feeling. Feelings change and thus so should my style. I don't want to be forever miserable, but alas I fear I will be.
Are there any art materials that you’re particularly fond of using when creating your paintings?
You’re an incredibly prolific fashion artist as well as holding the position of Creative Director in The London College of Fashion. Do you find it a challenge balancing your working life with your own creative practice?
It's very, very challenging, but hey life's challenging so I won’t moan. I'm in a privileged position. My role at London College of Fashion is very demanding and I have to get myself in the right head space to draw, so going from being very decisive and authoritative, to thinking and doing quite freely, clear minded and tuned into to my feelings before I approach the page isn't without complications.
However, I'm very confident in what I do because I believe in it. I have a lot of experience, I'm well prepared and researched, agile and responsive, head strong and imaginative and a very good problem solver. But finding time is the issue and the lack of time scares me. You have to be focused, and have some kind of balance. The type of focus I have tries to equally weigh up positives and negatives that my artwork tends to reflect. Probably more the negative.
You’re the curator of #DRAWFASHION, London College of Fashion’s annual fashion illustration competition. What inspired you to create the competition? Do you think the work submitted by students has evolved over the years?
The idea of #DRAWFASHION came about because I felt that there were no other distinct fashion focused drawing competitions or platforms. So I invented one. London College of Fashion were thrilled with the idea and together with Cass Art the project really flew. It's been a great success.
#DRAWFASHION was conceived because I wanted to encourage more drawing in design in a diverse way, from technical and academic drawing to expressive and abstract drawing and beyond. I wanted to get more people in fashion education to engage with drawing, to open their eyes, see more, think more, re-design the world around them, push fashion design further and communicate fashion in all its diversity and detail in new ways.
Drawing, to me and so many designers, is everything – it’s our unique language, our imagination, a communication tool. Within a design practice it helps you discover and depict people, personify them, create characters, discover new textures, colours, shapes and more. It's equally psychologically beneficial - stimulating the brain and exciting the senses. Ultimately drawing gives form to thought, relieving some space in the brain.
Over the past two years I've witnessed the students work changing. The competition element and the project profile enables students to see and connect to what others are doing and this pushes them in all sorts of directions, whether it challenges them, makes them question things or try new things. You can see that the works become much braver and while there are some nods to traditional perceptions of fashion drawing, students also see past those foundations and go to wonderful new extremes.
Is there anything you look for when judging the fashion illustrations submitted by students?
Personally I look for something immediately different, not referential, something honest yet difficult, something very imaginative and executed with a skilful or interesting use of media that also plays with composition and presentation. Often standard paper can be so boring but as an artist I feel confined to them, socially conditioned to use them, so I hope others explore them further. I'm imprisoned. I look for something that makes me strongly feel or react. I advise all participants to spend time experimenting and practicing before they work on final pieces. Getting to know your media, tools and surfaces can take time, so give them time and put the effort in. Allow time to be free and time to play. Let media do what it wants to do, spend time discovering the characters off media and pushing them. Find new media! The more you give drawing time, the more you'll start to really see and the more you will do.
Find out more about the #DRAWFASHION competition, how to enter and upcoming events and exhibitions on our blog. Find out more about #DRAWFASHION
Explore more of Rob Phillips' work on his website or follow him on social media.