Black India ink, graphite and Vogue: Inspiration and insight from fashion illustrator Aasha Ramdeen

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One look at Aasha Ramdeen’s work and it becomes immediately apparent: she loves fashion. Her work exudes a vibrancy and playfulness that launches her images right off the page. Find out how she creates that energy.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
I live and breathe fashion. Everything about it inspires me. I am equally inspired by the trendy fashionista crossing the street before me, as the Vogue magazine on my coffee table. I have a vast appreciation for all art, but nothing influences my illustrations more than fashion itself. From textile designs and color palettes to the models themselves.

Has your inclination always been toward fashion and beauty?
No. For a long time I was interested in people and portraiture, but they were often posed in some way, never natural. I suppose fashion was an obvious progression from that.

What other subjects are you good at?
Aside from fashion, I have always been good with animals, horses in particular. I resisted architecture for a long time, but when it became compulsory at grad school I discovered I was quite good at it. The line work can be really beautiful.

What tools are essential for your art?
Unquestionably, black India ink and graphite. My work would be nothing without them!

Why do you think it is advantageous for the client to use drawings rather than photography?
While photography is a beautiful medium in its own right, I think when it comes to communicating an idea, it simply cannot achieve that of an illustration. Illustration has the ability to relate abstract concepts and ideas, without being bound by reality. It is limitless in its creativity and can break the rules of representation and complex ideas. A photograph cannot. With photography still being such a widely used commercial medium, illustration also serves to separate one client from the next. It is a sophisticated form of expression that is subjective in its interpretation.

How do you bring a client’s vision to life?
Before seriously pursuing Fashion Illustration, I worked in Advertising where you are almost never given a layout but rather have to design based entirely on a written brief. That experience has proven invaluable to me now. My job as an illustrator is to provide the client with a visual for their product, so I first spend time speaking with them at length to understand what exactly it is they are trying to convey. From there an idea will emerge and I provide several rough sketches for review until a visual concept has been established between us.

In an industry where too much line or an overworked image can be its ruin, how do you decide when to stop?
Knowing when to stop can indeed make or break an image, but I do not have a definitive answer. There is just something innate that tells me when enough is enough. It’s not so much a “decision” to stop, as it is a feeling. Often I will walk away from an illustration thinking it’s complete, only to revisit it a few days later to add a single line. At that point I know it is finished. My illustrations are always completed digitally however, so if I do happen go too far there is always Photoshop to correct any overworking.

Do you use models in your illustrations?
I have never worked with a live model. Not that I am opposed to it, it just never seemed a necessity. I am quite obsessed with fashion photography and a magazine image will often provide the primary inspiration with imagination taking over for the rest. If a more specific reference is needed, for example a hand, I’ll just take a photo of my own. There is definite spontaneity that comes with working from a model, but I prefer working from photos.

You can see more of Aasha’s work on her Way Art Illustration page.