Lily Qian: Fashion Illustrator


Can you tell us how you got your start as a fashion illustrator?

Drawing was my first love since childhood. I was fortunate to have had traditional training at a young age. While studying Fashion Design at VCU School of the Arts, I landed my first illustration commission to draw a cover invitation for an annual black tie fundraising event, followed by illustrating look books for a menswear company. I worked as a fashion designer for many years, and my favorite part of the job was to hand paint artworks for graphics, textiles, and branding/packaging. It took me a long time to return to illustration full time, and to develop my personal body of work. Drawing, painting, and studying everyday have been the most important steps to becoming an illustrator for me.


What drew you to the fashion industry?

Aside from drawing, I was good at sewing and felt confident working with my hands. I admired forward thinking designers who combined art and fashion: Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen, so many interesting people. I remember reading an interview with Isabel Toledo, where she reminded us that the interesting thing about fashion is that it combines creative fields in design, graphics, photography, and so on. Although it is a tough industry to work in, it allows so many different people the opportunity to do pursue a creative career.


What do you think sets you apart from other fashion illustrators?

Every artist is unique. Our past history, education, work experience, and personal taste sets each of us apart from one another. I appreciate traditional analogue techniques, and enjoy experimenting with different materials and surfaces to evolve my work. I try to incorporate subjects and areas of interests other than fashion. From my experience of working in corporate design, I gained an understanding of branding, production, and photography - which all have enhanced my work in commercial illustration.


If you could do anything, or work with anyone, what or who would it be (or both)?

I've always admired illustrated movie posters, books and book covers. Last summer I was commissioned to paint several billboard & poster ads for an advertising assignment in Germany. It was a nice experience and I hope to work on similar projects in the future.


What is something you have learned/ or been inspired by working in the fashion industry that has had an impact on you?

There are so many hard working, talented and knowledgeable women in the fashion industry. You have to be working in the field to truly understand the work-life challenges they face to pursue their passion. I'm continually inspired by individual designers, artists, and entrepreneurs who strike out on their own despite all the obstacles you must conquer as a professional.

Featured Artist: Clark Lichty
Featured Artist: Dan Foley

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