By Stuart McKenzie
Published by Bloomsbury ISBN 978-0-85785-829-0
Review by Maia Fjord
Creative Fashion Illustration is a book that aims to present readers with a selection of easy-to-follow exercises designed to develop essential fashion illustration skills, as well as handy tips and inside knowledge from someone with experience in the industry. The book was written by Stuart McKenzie and is filled with his own illustrations, which demonstrate the exercises throughout. Aimed at a broad audience, the book is suitable for almost anyone who’s interested in fashion illustration, from a complete beginner to an experienced illustrator looking for new ideas.
From the start the book points out that there is no right or wrong way to create a fashion illustration, only a set of creative techniques to experiment with, which I found immediately encouraging. It goes on to explain that the techniques it describes aren’t meant to be considered a set of rigid instructions, but instead are designed to let you experiment and develop your personal strengths as an illustrator. This seems a very positive approach, and a good way to go about teaching drawing techniques to someone.
After the introduction the book is broken down into chapters which cover all the key points of fashion illustration, such as silhouette and proportion. It starts with simple concepts with each chapter building on the one before, and slowly works its way into more complicated exercises. Each chapter begins by introducing the concept it will cover, such as Line or Light and Shade (and later more difficult subjects such as Fabric, Texture and Movement), and then goes on to provide a series of drawing exercises related to the theme. There are multiple example illustrations provided alongside each exercise, which really helps to explain the concepts and techniques. The fact that McKenzie occasionally suggests what could be improved in his own illustrations seems particularly encouraging, as it makes sure the reader understands that these drawings aren’t being presented as perfect, and shows that there is always room for improvement even if you’re a successful illustrator. Each chapter ends by encouraging you to assess your work and to review what you’ve learned.
Overall, Creative Fashion Illustration seems a fairly essential book for anyone interested in creating fashion illustrations, as the exercises it provides are useful for everyone. However, it seems particularly helpful for beginners, as a more experienced illustrator may already be aware of some of the techniques and exercises it presents. It’s very accessible and easy to follow, and encourages readers to think creatively and develop their practice by offering helpful tips and providing an abundance of illustrations which help to explain the concepts and exercises throughout. The friendly tone of the text is very encouraging and makes the reader feel comfortable experimenting with each exercise, and makes reading Creative Fashion Illustration a very positive, confidence-building experience.