Illustrator Interview ~ Brandon Graham
Today’s lovely interview is featuring Brandon Graham – the creative genius behind WYRT (Would You Rock This?) and professional fashion illustrator/designer. Hopefully by reading this, you’ll not only get inspired, but you’ll learn a whole bunch about him and his fantastic website – which is SO helpful for fellow aspiring fashion illustrators and designers. It was a pleasure interviewing him, he’s a really nice guy – and you’ve just gotta love his illustrations! I hope you enjoy it – and if by chance, you would like to browse through more of his work, check out his portfolio! (: (you won’t be disappointed!!)
NB: Firstly, could you share a bit about yourself – what are you all about?
BG: My name is Brandon Graham – originally from Baltimore, MD and have been living in Brooklyn, NY since 2003. I have a love for the art of fashion illustration and a good comedy show. Recently I had my personal fashion illustrations published in the Great Big Book of Fashion Illustration by Martin Dawber and Basics Fashion Design 07: Menswear by John Hopkins. Before I started to focus on fashion illustration I designed childrenswear for Nike and Fila. After that I designed men’s outerwear for Levi’s and Dockers, then did men’s accessory sketches for Marc by Marc Jacobs.
NB: If you had not gone with your dream career, what could you see yourself doing?
BG: Honestly, I never saw myself doing anything else.
NB: When did you realize you wanted to be a fashion illustrator/designer?
BG: I always liked to draw, then in high school I started paying attention to how I was drawing the clothes and thought being a designer would be a fun job to have.
NB: Did you attend a school for fashion? If so, where at?
BG: Yes, I attended Virginia Commonwealth University and received a BA in Fashion Design.
NB: Could you share one of your earliest illustration(s)?
BG: The flats you see below, are the very first illustrations I did in high school when I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. At the time I didn’t even know that what I was illustrating was termed ‘flats’ in the industry. I remember having this huge urge to start drawing and get my ideas on paper. I was really big on branding and logos back then too and wanted to start a self titled clothing line. The black and white figure drawings I did in high school too. One figure could sometimes take me two days because I painstakingly planned every line because I hated to mess up at the time.
NB: What is your process like, when creating illustrations?
BG: Very simple – first I gather all my inspiration and references before beginning. Then, create the line art using a mechanical pencil. I draw on tracing paper to re-work the illustrated figure until I get a ‘confident’ line. I typically go for poses that are relaxed – it’s kinda a signature of mine. After that I’ll scan the line art in Photoshop to be colored. I illustrate at home on a small desk and pin the inspiration and references on a tack board that hangs directly in front of me.
NB: Which Canadian and American illustrators are you inspired by?
BG: Right now I’m inspired by Laura Laine’s body of work.
NB: If you could travel anywhere for inspiration, where would it be, and why?
BG: I would travel to Italy only because my friend went there last year and the pictures he brought back were beautiful. Plus, I would like to meet some of the master tailors in Italy and see their construction and fitting techniques.
NB: How did you come up with the idea of WYRT?
BG: I came up with the idea of WYRT to help others (and myself) get honest feedback on the fashion illustrations we created. A lot of times people will not give you honest feedback when they are right beside you viewing your portfolio because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. The site helps elicit unbiased feedback from the public.
Right now I’m updating the site to feature the works of 4 illustrators at any given time so the attention and votes can be focused toward those selected illustrators. The illustrators will also have the opportunity to sell prints of their work on the site. If a voter clicks ‘Rock It’ for a sketch/design they will have the opportunity to buy a framed print of that sketch. There will also be a feature of 8 ‘Up and Coming’ illustrators that will also be able to have their work shown on the voting block.
NB: How did you take it from an idea to a reality?
BG: My friend from college Ron Sherrill, owner of TheBula.com, introduced me to a web development company called Blue Fountain Media, and they liked the idea and direction I was heading towards and helped me bring the idea to life. I know nothing about programing and very little HTML, but Blue Fountain Media have been great with taking my wireframes and designs and doing all the necessary coding and back-end work. We’ve been collaborating for almost 2 years.
NB: What can WYRT newcomers typically expect at a fashion drawing session?
BG: At the Fashion Drawing Sessions there is a live model for the illustrators to draw from. We sometime have themes like Jackie-O or Janis Joplin for example to keep things interesting. The drawing sessions are a way to bring the WYRT online experience off-line and create more of a personal experience for the illustrators, designers, and fans.
NB: Will there be any online drawing sessions in the future?
BG: Maybe – people have inquired about that. I just have to figure out the details and overall demand. The sessions seem easy to organize and setup, but a lot of work goes into a 3 hours session. Designer, Kiamesha Smalls, has been assisting me with organizing the sessions, website planning, and other special events like our potlucks which are so much fun!
NB: What is the most helpful business advice that you’ve learned through this venture?
BG: The most helpful business advice is to learn how to write a proper business plan.
NB: Which method of promoting your brand and WYRT do you think works best?
BG: The best method of promoting is word of mouth. I don’t do a lot of online promoting other than through Facebook. The online community has continued to grow and people frequently contact me through referrals and hear about WYRT through word of mouth. When someone enjoyed their experience and share the site with someone else, that to me is the best way of promotion. The site is such a niche site that when people are fashion illustrators themselves or a fan of the art form they ‘get it’ and see the potential.
NB: Which client(s) was your most favourite to work with?
BG: Recently, I worked with Gail Travis who is the owner/designer for New Form Perspective – a knitwear brand that takes inspiration from architecture and sculpture. Gail approached me wanting to have fashion illustrators capture the models and special guests at her fashion show. I brought super talented fashion illustrators Mara Cespon and Meagan Morrison on board because they have done similar events like this in the past and work well under all the commotion and pressures of a fashion show. Mara and Meagan have been featured in major publications, W Hotel Times Square, and The Museum at FIT so I knew they would be perfect for the job. That was a great event.
NB: If you were able to choose absolutely anyone to work with (old Hollywood, or present day) who would you choose?
BG: It would be so awesome to work with the guys from Ocean’s 11, 12, & 13 movie series.
NB: What was your most rewarding experience throughout living your dream career?
BG: The most rewarding things have been getting to meet all of the talented fashion illustrators from all over the world and discovering all of the original works from some of fashion illustration’s greats such as Antonio Lopez. Recently I organized a viewing of Antonio’s work with the cooperation of The Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives.
NB: Your goals for yourself and WYRT in the next 10 years include?
BG: The goal for myself is to keep doing what makes me happy and doesn’t seem like work. The goal for WYRT is to connect fashion illustrators with clients.
NB: Any inspiring words for aspiring fashion illustrators/designers/enthusiasts?
BG: Do what you love : )