Essential Minimalism: Interview with Illustrator Sandra Suy

Sandra Suy illustration

 
Soft yet striking. Spare, sharp drawings that unveil fluent ideas and the intent of the performance. Delicate and refined yet graphic and incisive lines that render strong female portraits. Muted shades accentuated by bursts of colour. A flowing minimalism. The illustrations of Barcelona-born artist Sandra Suy have the skill to show what the subject is about without going into great detail. Her natural style evokes both a timeless elegance and a modern sensitivity, creating interest by balancing so well classic beauty with an edgy energy, simplicity with texture. Sandra Suy has collaborated with Chloé, Adidas, Zara, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour, among others, and whenever her drawing verges on other cultural areas, her artwork becomes even more interesting.

In our interview, Sandra talks about why she changed paths from fashion design to illustration and its place in today’s fashion world, about why she currently prefers digital to traditional media, about the image makers she looks up to and names some of her favourite films.
 

Sandra Suy illustration for Chloé

 
 

”I try to express the maximum
with the minimal visual information.”

 
 
What is your earliest drawing memory?

I remember myself drawing since I was a little girl… my textbooks were always decorated.

Why fashion illustration? How did it start?

I always liked to draw, and I was very attracted to the world of fashion and design. I studied fashion design, but what really appealed to me was the creative and artistic part and not so much the confection of garments itself. Later I discovered that fashion illustration was the profession that offered what I liked most, both things combined.

Your words remind me of Joe Eula, who was Halston’s creative director in the 1970s and whose sharp eye captured the essence of whatever he was drawing, and the simplicity and spare lines of his illustrations aroused from a need to seek the essence of a garment, to express it in a form that stood up to his ideal. How important do you find this crossover element in fashion illustration? Did the fact that you studied fashion design play a big role in developing your style?

Thanks!
I don’t really think so… I think it is a personal taste, a way of interpreting the world. In every artistic and creative expression there are the most minimalist or baroque tendencies, depending on the creative’s taste. Although, surely, the fact that I studied fashion has affected my way of approaching the illustration of garments, but I’m not sure in what way.

How would you describe your illustrative style?

I try to express the maximum with the minimal visual information. Minimalist?
 

Sandra Suy illustration

 
Do you have a preferred medium?

Yes. Digital. But I miss traditional media sometimes. I’m looking forward to using the brushes more often…

So you use technology a lot in your work?

Today it is a big part of my creative process. Technology helps a lot, especially since there is a big difference in the workflow at the level of time spent, especially when you are working with a client, it takes much less time to make changes and speeds up the work.

How challenging is for an artist to do commissioned work? How does it relate to your personal, freelance work?

Sometimes it is quite difficult to keep a balance and keep your style in a commisioned work. The needs of the campaign or the client’s point of view collides with your own style and sometimes it is a challenge to reach a midpoint where everyone is happy with the result. And sometimes it is really easy.

Could you tell me a little about your creative process on any given illustration?

First you have to know what to draw. This may be given by a client, for example, or you just want to draw something for pleasure. In any case, there is a stage of research or inspiration to know the creative direction to take. Once I have decided the inspiration, I make a quick sketch to see if the idea works well. The next step is to work on the final illustration.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

Not really. I’m a little bit chaotic, so usually my sketches are spread over different surfaces and supports. I am not proud of it.
 

Stella McCartney portrait by Sandra Suy

 

What qualities separate illustration from photography? I am asking you this because today everybody thinks they can take a photo with their iPhone.

Well, I think that are two different ways to express an artistic point of view… The big difference is that, in an illustration, the illustrator usually decides everything, she/he is the makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, art director… In photography, the control of the entire production is not always assumed by the photographer.

What does an illustrator bring new to fashion? What is the biggest challenge? David Downton said that “fashion illustration is really about absorbing someone else’s creativity and reinterpreting it”. How would you describe the relationship between illustration and fashion, which I, for one, consider much more symbiotic than that of photography and fashion?

I think it is a good definition. Actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s fashion or not, the illustrator reinterprets through his artistic vision whatever the object of inspiration is… in our case (fashion illustrators) is fashion, but on other occasions it can be flowers, or any other inspiration as the subject of reinterpretation.

Have any fashion illustrators, or image makers in general, influenced your work?

René Gruau, Egon Schiele, Ramón Casas, Japanese aesthetic in general, Kenneth Paul Block, and many more.
 

Illustration by Sandra Suy

 
 

”The big difference is that, in an illustration,
the illustrator usually decides everything, she/he is
the makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, art director…”

 
 

Sandra Suy illustrations

 

Any favourite designers?

This is very difficult! Alexander Mcqueen, Miuccia Prada, Schiaparelli, Alessandro Michele, Rei Kawakubo, Margiela…

Gaby Aghion had a visionary mind and took a revolutionary road, dreaming and shaping up a world of fashion for the woman of the present. The kind of femininity Chloé projects is chic, practical, delicate, romantic, young and free, and beautiful on the outside, but also strong, believable, independent and confident, and even more beautiful on the inside. Your Chloé illustrations perfectly captured that feeling. How was your collaboration with the brand?

Surprisingly, it was very easy working with them, they gave me absolute creative freedom to interpret the essence of the brand, and it was a pleasure and I feel very lucky to have had this kind of experience.

Do you have a dream subject? What is it that makes you want to draw something or someone?

I really want to experiment more with the abstract and traditional media.
 

Sandra Suy illustration

 

Fashion illustration has been in high demand lately and it can often be seen in collaborations between designers and illustrators, but will it ever be able to recalibrate forces with fashion photography in the high-end magazines as it once was?

I think the two disciplines are complementary, it is possible that there will come a time when they have the same representation within magazines, but it is difficult to know.

In this fast-fashion, fast-living world, there seems to be an increased interest in the hand-made, in craftsmanship, in locally-made products, in mindful shopping, in things with true value. How do you see the future of fashion?

It seems that people are becoming aware that “less quantity and more quality” is better. There is much more ecological awareness and people are more aware when it comes to consuming .. All that will have an impact on the fashion industry in one way or another, consumer habits are changing.

In this time and age, what do you wish people appreciated more?

Maybe go back to the real world and real “timings”. We are all connected to the internet, social media screens, the virtual world, the immediate information… that makes us disconnect from the offline experience.

I am a big movie lover and I would like to ask you if you happen to share an interest in cinema (in regard to your Grace Kelly and La dolce vita illustrations). Any all time favourites?

There are so many! Blade Runner, any of Sofia Coppola’s, In the Mood for Love (this is a classic of the aesthetic), Her, The Handmaiden, Where the Wild Things Are
 

La Dolce Vita illustration by Sandra Suy

 

Sandra Suy on Instagram @sandrasuyillustration | Website: sandrasuy.com

 
 
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