For Art's Sake

This story appears in the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below. 

Story by DENISE K. JAMES | Illustration by SUNFLOWERMAN 

Fashion illustration was once the only way for admirers of couture to envision clothing in print. Whether commissioned for editorial or advertising, these depictions of dresses, suits, handbags, scarves and other articles of one’s wardrobe were drawn with color, whimsy and the indisputable air of imagination that, frankly, is not found often in a photograph. Before leading the artistic movement, Andy Warhol first gained fame as a commercial artist and advertising illustrator, drawing shoes for the likes of Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Harper’s Bazaar throughout the 1950s. But with the rise of photography, fashion illustration slowly began to decline. (Vogue put the first photograph on its cover in place of a drawing back in 1932 — what many consider to be a turning point for the popularity of the art form.)

For years, fashion illustration seemed in danger of becoming extinct (thanks to computers and cameras); it found itself on the fringes of the art and fashion worlds, nearly eroded from people's minds. But it has enjoyed a recent comeback, beyond a presence in fashion magazines, offering viewers the delight of looking at something not camera-made, but rather penned by the hand of the artist. Art works featuring vibrant forms of color and silhouette add life and imagination to the interpretation of fabric and texture. This and the complex variety of stylings have whet the appetites of new collectors, thus giving rise to a fresh generation of sketch design masters. Southern artists, such as Matthew Miller, known as Sunflowerman, have already garnered a devout following for the rich drama and perspective the Southern fashion voice creates on paper.