Saturday, 16 April 2011

Richard Gray

I've long been a fan of Gray's work and thought it was about time I made a post on here. For anyone who might be confused, there are two Richard Grays in the industry. One is the supreme illustrator who I'm going on about here, and the other is a fantastically witty and amusing journalist for 10men magazine where he is the Fashion Features Director. I recommend everyone to follow both, but for this blog, I'm going with the aforementioned. I also need to point out and showcase how superhot and sexy his men's illustrations are, they deserve just as much attention as his women's illustrations and campaigns, of which he is more recognised for.

More after the jump . . . .

Gray had a special working relationship with the late Alexander McQueen and for his SS08 show La Dame Bleue, which was dedicated to Isabella Blow, Gray created a poster sized portrait of Blow which was used on the show's invitation. He also created work for McQueen for exhibitions Fashion at Belsay 2004 and the Black exhibition, also in 2004.
He recently contributed two illustrations to the V&A Museum, who presented a special collection of contemporary fashion illustration presented by The Fashion Illustration Gallery. They have since become part of the V&A’s permanent collection of fashion drawings, and a selection of the newly acquired illustrations will be featured in an upcoming book from V&A Publishing entitled Illustrating Fashion, which is currently being written by Abraham Thomas. This will be the first dedicated book on the V&A’s collection of fashion ‘illustration’ and will provide a summary of the topic through key examples of photography and drawing from the 18th century to the present, so keep your eyes peeled.

The thing I love about Gray's work is the polygonal aspect in which he treats his characters and the way that lines and shapes break up and balance the composition perfectly. Everything fits into place so well, he's a master at working from realist pencil to expressionist-style shapes and proportions, then creating something that combines both. His exotic and explosive use of colour is also something a lot of illustrators find difficult to do, something that can be likened to the photo montages of Matt Maitland(if you like Gray's use of colour, you'll definitely like his).

I'm going to look a little lazy by copying and pasting this interview I've come across, but it's worth a read and would be better than having me just trawl out the facts about his career!

Interview with Richard Gray - fashion illustration as a career
From the fundamentals of fashion design
by Richard Sorger & Jenny Udale

Please describe your job.

I am commissioned to create fashion illustrations according to the client's creative brief. The client can vary, from editorial - magazines and books - or could be a couture, pret-a-porter or high-street designer. I am expected to create a rough/line illustration initially, to showcase my ideas and in response to what I have been asked to do. If everyone involved is happy with this, I will then complete the finished artwork, all within a set time and deadline.

Who are your clients and/or who have you worked for?

The designers/clients I have worked for include: Alexander Mcqueen, Givenchy, Agent Provocateur, Vivienne Westwood, Miguel Adrover, Julien MacDonald, Kylie Minogue and William Baker, Boudicca, Oasis, Printemps.
Editorially, I have worked for Vogue Pelle, for Anna Piaggi's D.P. pages for Vogue Italia, V magazine, Madame Figaro, Flaunt, The Observer magazine, Vogue Gioiello, Los Angeles Times magazine, Sleek, The Independent on Saturday magazine, Mixte, Io Donna, Jalouse (USA), Entertainment Weekly, amongst many others.

What was your career path to your current job for?

I studied my degree in Fashion Design at Middlesex University, UK. During this period, I was entered for an illustration competition in Italy celebrating the great fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez. I didn't win, but I came fourth, and was invited to go to Milan to meet Anna Piaggi of Vogue Italia. From this meeting I was asked to create illustrations for her D.P. pages in Vogue Italia, and also for Vanity magazine. On graduating, these first commissions made it much easier to get other people to see my portfolio, and I pursued my interest in fashion illustration as a career from then on.

What do you do on an average day?

Each day can vary so much from the next, depending on the turnaround of deadlines and the amount of time between them. I could be researching ideas, creating initial concept sketches, or creating final artwork.

What are your normal working hours?

My average working day is probably between 12 and 15 hours, due to the turnaround of work for deadlines. It can, however, be much less than that, and occasionally be much more, and it isn't unknown to work right through the night if necessary to get work completed to deadline.
The flipside of this is that you can potentially also get several days off in a row if you are between commissions. Unless you have determinedly structured your life to be this way, the demands of the job means that it is unlikely to ever be 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

What are the essential qualities needed for your job?

Creativity, the ability to understand a client's creative brief and what they are trying to achieve from your work, and the limitations or expectations of work created towards specific markets. Discipline to make sure that work is done to deadline, even if it means late nights.
The ability to sometimes think outside the brief, and to make sure that your personality still comes through in your work - the reason why you have been approached in the first place.

How creative a job do you have?

Very creative indeed. It's the whole reason a client will come to you.

What kind of team do you work with?

I do not have any team at all, there is nothing to delegate. Any ideas have to be drawn by me, and painting is done by myself. The nearest it comes to teamwork is obviously when the client gets in touch and they will be in contact with my agent, and I will then be given the creative brief by the art director of the client.

What is the best bit about your job?

The best part of my job is the unpredictability of the working year. The surprise and delight when designers or magazines you admire ask you to work with them, and the variation in commissions from one to the next. I think it helps that I have not restricted my career to one single style, so I have a lot of variety in what I am asked to do.

And the worst?

It sometimes feels like there are not enough hours in the day, but apart from that there is nothing to complain about.

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to get a job in your area of fashion?

I think illustration is a career that can be very fulfilling, but like all freelance careers there are no guarantees. Not all people will like what you do, as any art and illustration is such a subject form, so don't be put off if you find your work is not to everyone's tastes, but always listen to constructive criticism and know when to ignore it. Most of all, as important as it is to be creative it is i important to be reliable. The client wants the work done with as little fuss as possible. Everyone is busy, multi-tasking, with a million problems to solve everyday. If you make their life that little bit easier by completing your work for them to deadline, completely answering their creative brief, they are more likely to come back to you again.


  1. Thank you for posting Richard.
    The interview was definitely worth reading and your selection of illustrations was excellent.
    (P.S. Loved Decoy issue 2)

  2. Hello...from Malaysia, with love! I'm so in love with almost everything in here!! Amazing work of art! Feel free to visit my blog.Peace

    Sandra Azwan|Fashion Designer| Illustrator

  3. They're a bit stiff (excuse the pun), and they look too photo referenced. On the other hand, his compositions are interesting and his use of colour is lovely. I just don't like that overtly-photographic style--there aren't many illustrators who can "get away with it". He needs to look at Alex Raymond for a lesson in incorporating photos unobtrusively!