As fast as a camera lens shutting: I interview Clym Evernden on the power of Menswear Illustration
A new book, launching tonight with an exhibition at Paul Smith‘s gallery on Albermarle Street, celebrates the buoyancy of fashion illustration in menswear. I caught up with Clym Evernden, one of the talents featured in the book to find out more about why menswear illustration is having a moment right now.
1. Tell me about the book project. How did you come to be involved?
Richard Kilroy approached me to be part of the book. I’m thrilled that Richard approached me as I think now is a perfect time to acknowledge menswear illustration in its own right. Fashion illustration has previously occupied a cliche that it portrays almost exclusively womenswear, often in that tired old aesthetic of an elegant woman in the 1950s wearing couture, or walking down Bond street with shopping bags and a small dog. However the book cements the fact that menswear illustration is a fresh and dynamic way of visualising the industry, possibly in tandem with a surge of interest in menswear in the last decade (remember that LC:M is a fairly recent phenomena etc). A lot of the artists featured, myself included are also interested to showing a street level and real representation of clothing rather than imagery which is aspirational or unobtainable. This syncs with the trickle up effect we’ve also seen within the last decade, the interest in street style via sites like the Sartorialist etc.
2. Fashion illustration seems to be having a moment, what with Richard Haines’ Dries Van Noten collaboration et al, what does illustration have to offer in the age of Instagram photos and instant video sharing?
I think people are bored of seeing slick digital imagery. I feel like there was a period when a lot of industries had refined their digital presence so it was almost too digitally smooth and ‘perfect’, so now people are craving to feel a human soul and handwork in imagery. This might relate to the a resurgence of interest in product that is ‘honest’ , organic, and crafted. Also the interest in the ‘self’ as seen in reality tv etc. is often elevated by portraiture… This certainly relates to my live event work.
3. Who were your mentors when you were developing your skills as an illustrator? Is there a canon of great fashion illustrators?
My tutor at Central Saint Martins was Howard Tangye. I was extremely fortunate to have him tutor me as he’s not only wise but is an exceptionally gifted artist himself. He was the one that advised me to explore working with a brush (ink) rather than a rigid line. Also a good friend Camilla Dixon is an extremely accomplished artist and fashion illustrator. Endless conversations with Camilla about art, and the conceptual aspects of art and fashion have provided me with an invaluable source of inspiration and a new way of looking at basically everything.
4. I’ve witnessed the speed of your sketching, when did you discover you had this ability and were you trained to work at such a pace?
I always knew that I could draw very fast (I used to make quick sketches of my pets when I was a child which may have initiated this), and also that people were fascinated to watch me work like this. I finally put two and two together and about 2 years ago came up with the concept of ‘Live event illustration’. Having sketched at many runway shows, I had no other choice but to develop skills at rapid drawing as the models are sometimes only visible for 15 seconds or less. Also skalhing people in observation on the street, on the tube etc, you have to be almost as fast as a camera lens shutting, as even the briefest of lines can accurately describe something if they are on point. So working this fast wasn’t an outcome of training, but the result of necessity.
5 How do you keep your eye fresh? Where do you look for visual inspiration (outside of fashion) in terms of style, technique etc? Which artists do you admire?
My natural inclination in any given situation is to constantly take things in visually. So I think inspiration is constant for me in absolutely every part of life – it doesn’t have to be in an exhibition or something presented on a elevated podium. In fact I’m not very good at visiting art galleries as I spend most of my time watching the other visitors rather than the works of art – sometimes they’re more interesting. Depending on the weather, I might see the sunlight is very crisp and beautiful and decide to take the morning off and go for a walk (like today to the Tate Modern) and the light makes everything: colours, depth of field, architecture look so graphic and beautiful. I end up taking a lot of photos on a walk like that. I don’t really necessarily get inspired by fashion illustrators, but more by artists who project an almost cinematic scape and atmosphere, like photographers and landscape artists. I’m particularly keen on wartime landscape artist Paul Nash at the moment, and photography of areas such as LA and Las Vegas in the 1980s. Also film directors, I’m having a revived interest in Tarantino at the moment. Also in an abstract sense I find music incredibly inspiring and stimulating. Often the rhythm or energy in music I find can be translated into line. I listen to a wide variety, for example at the moment I’m listening to the new Charlie XCX album, dark electronics by Burial, and Wim Mertens (whose music was used at the Craig Green show for the last two seasons).
The exhibition Drawings: Men & Style is at Paul Smith, No.9 Albemarle Street, London and runs from the
16th February – 6th March.
The book, Menswear Illustration, compiled by renowned fashion illustrator Richard Kilroy, brings together the work of 40 illustrators including Kilroy himself, Clym Evernden, Richard Haines and Julie Verhoeven. It is released on 23 February and is published by Thames & Hudson.