I met Willa and discovered her work a few years ago during an event organised by Links of London which I had told you about here. I had been struck by her beautiful watercolour live fashion illustrations at the time and, when I had to commission an event invitation for work, I got in touch with her again and decided it would be a great opportunity to tell you guys more about her story!
At the time, she was finalising the drawings for a style guide made by Ella Ratliff for La Parisienne event that is currently happening at Sofitel London Saint James until the 17th of November. You can get a glimpse of some of her sketches for the guide on the pictures below.
What is your background? How did you start as a freelance fashion illustrator?
I had always been good at art since I was a kid and was even accepted at Edinburgh school of arts for a degree. But I went on with scientific studies encouraged by my parents. After my first year at uni, I knew I had made a mistake but was too scared to change my path so I went on and, after my degree, I moved from Scotland to London to be a research scientist. A few years passed by and I realised that even if I enjoyed my work, I didn’t love it and it was the same each time I changed jobs. That’s how I realised I really needed to do something different. Since I had moved back to Glasgow after some time in London, I started doing night classes to learn Photoshop etc.
Once my course had been completed, I did a print designer internship for a tee-shirt company and started working for a design agency 1 day a week for a while. But I soon realised I enjoyed much more the illustration side of the job and decided to focus on my fashion and beauty illustration work. I now get to do various commissioned illustrations for magazines and brands as well as live fashion illustrations.
How did you end up doing live illustration?
Four years ago, Kurt Geiger got in touch with me to do live illustration at one of their event. I really enjoyed it as I got to be away from my computer and enjoy the company of people. Since then actually, this has become a trend and I do this on a regular basis. With a group of three fellow illustrators, we have even created a collective called LIL to make our live illustration work more visible and make it easier for brands to reach out to us.
How do you work on an illustration?
I usually start sketching with pencils. This allows me to get the first feedback from the client if I am working on a commissioned work. I then create a more detailed and precise sketch and following that use the light box to fill in the shapes traced on the pencil drawing (thus avoiding having the pencil lines) with water colour. I sometimes also add ink or gouache to create more texture and movement. I then scan it and use Photoshop to add more colours and make it more contemporary. For me, it is important to use traditional illustration methods as there is a quality you get with paint you don’t get with digital.
Obviously when I am doing live illustration, the process is much simpler and more spontaneous!
Where does your inspiration come from?
I have always loved drawing people and even used to draw them from magazines. I am not necessarily interested in fashion as something I would wear, but by the textures and colours you encounter which are a strong source of inspiration for me. This is why I ended up focusing on fashion illustration.
I also take inspirations from the different people I get to meet through my work and especially the personal project I am working on at the moment, London Fashion Peek. The objective of this work is to meet talented independent British fashion designers and, not only capture the essence of this brand, but also the way they work and get inspired which is extremely enriching for me. Indeed, this gives me a sneak peak into their creative process and in return allows me to push my boundaries and experiment. I feel it is really important for me to keep a more long term personal project in order to develop myself on a slightly less commercial angle.
Do you have any upcoming plans?
I always try to improve myself and develop new skills. So I am planning on doing a screen printing course among others in order to work more on mixed media.
Have a nice day!