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Illustrator Interview ~ Jennifer Lilya

May 31, 2011

Hello dear readers, I hope you’re all having a wonderful day!  I wanted to share with you an amazing fashion illustrator who has been inspiring me lately to no end!  Her designs are so beautiful, fresh, and vibrant – with lovely details that keep you wanting more!  I asked her if I could interview her, and she said yes (so exciting!) Here it is!  Make sure to check out her website (which has links to all her other sites)  She also has a deviantART account – so if you have one give her some love!  Enjoy!

N: Firstly, if you had not gone with your dream career – what would have been the next best option?

JL: Fashion Design would have been the natural option for me. I actually designed for a few years in the mid-90s & now I’m doing some costume design along with my illustrating.

N: How did you become a fashion illustrator?

JL: It’s honestly all I ever wanted to do, so I enrolled at FIT for their wonderful fashion illustration program.

N:  Where are you from?

JL: I grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut, about an hour outside of New York City. I still visit every few weeks to see my family & friends.

N: During your studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, what was the most important thing you learned?

JL: One of the most important things I learned was to look at an object not for what it is, but for the shapes that make it up. That way you can get away from “Oh, that’s a shirt” and what your mind thinks a shirt should look like. When you break up objects into shapes, you’re really paying attention to details and how they relate to the rest of what you’re drawing. For instance, a basic collar isn’t just some fabric that comes to a point. If you look closely, it’ll be rounded at the top, following the curve of the neck, maybe slightly rounded at the bottom where it meets the shirt, and each side of the collar will look different depending on the angle of the pose.

N: And what should you not ignore while studying fashion illustration?

JL: Life drawing is incredibly important. It gives you knowledge of anatomy, which I think is necessary to make your drawings come to life. It also helps you to make sure the clothing you’re illustrating looks right on the body.

N:  Aside from moving away for school, is it necessary in your opinion, to move to a more fashion conscious city (like New York) to further your career’s success?

JL: I think it may have been important in the past, but now you can live almost anywhere & still have a great career. There are so many portfolio sites- you can create an online presence & email everything you need. Though you might want to live in a fashion-conscious city for inspiration!

N: Could you share one of your earliest illustrations?

JL: I just scanned a bunch of old artwork from high school in the mid-80’s…I’ll be posting a bunch on my sites very soon. It’s embarrassing, but pretty awesome at the same time. This is definitely one of my first ‘official’ fashion illustrations- I probably found the pose in an issue of Vogue or Elle from ’85 or ‘86. I’d love to find the photo reference I used. As you can tell, I’ve always been inspired by fashion & pretty ladies!

N: What was the most helpful thing in developing your own style?

JL: I think it just comes down to drawing a lot & experimenting with different mediums to figure out what suits you best. If you’re comfortable in the way you work, your natural style will start to shine through & then you can expand upon it.

N: What is your favorite part of the illustrating process?

JL: Everything from start to finish makes me happy! Getting a new assignment & doing research for it is exciting, the actual painting is sooo much fun to do, delivering the art to clients is rewarding & sharing the art on my facebook fan page delights me to no end.

N: What are your favorite techniques?

JL: I love using layers of acrylic color to create an illustration. I build them up in intensity & the girls come to life. Finishing off the illustration with black ink lines is really exciting for me too. I love the process of watching it all come together.

N:  Which Canadian and American illustrators are you inspired by?

JL: My all-time favorite illustrators are Antonio Lopez & Rene Gruau. Their line quality just blows me away!

N:  Which client(s) was your most favorite to work with?

JL: I can’t single out just one…each client brings along new challenges & adventures, so they’re all pretty fantastic!

N: If you were able to choose absolutely anyone to work with (old Hollywood, or present day) who would you choose?

JL: Sketching the costumes for Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face would’ve been out of this world. She was so classy & fashionable- just a natural wonder.

N: Can you describe your daily routine?

JL: I’m a total early-bird- I get up around 4am during the week. I feel so fresh & inspired before the rest of the world starts their day. I make some Earl Grey tea, check my email and my facebook fan page, then get going on my to-do list. I usually work on a few projects at once, so I just go down the list in order of deadline or inspiration importance. I use the day to paint, then I’ll do my paperwork in the evenings- contracts, invoices, updating my portfolio galleries, working with my interns.

N: What was your most rewarding experience throughout living your dream career?

JL: I was really excited when Women’s Wear Daily contacted me to use my illustrations in their lounge at Magic in Las Vegas last year. They blew my art up into huge posters & I got some wonderful exposure from it.

N: What fashion magazines, catalogs do you subscribe to?

JL: I think a better question is which ones don’t I subscribe to. My magazine subscription list is pretty ridiculous!

N: What fashion books inspire you?

JL: Antonio’s Girls/Antonio’s People, Gruau, Fashion Drawing in Vogue, Masters of Fashion Illustration and The Stephen Sprouse Book are some standouts for me.

N: Your dreams for the next 10 years include?

JL: I just want to keep doing what I love- painting all day, expanding my audience, working on challenging & fun projects, collaborating with great artists, having gallery shows, etc.!

N: What’s your mantra?

JL: You only live once- have fun! Do what you love & love what you do.

N: Any inspiring words for aspiring fashion illustrators?

JL: Keep practicing on your own or take some classes, stay inspired in whatever way suits you best- look at art books, go to gallery shows & museums, and no matter what anybody says- don’t give up on your dream. It can totally come true!

All images supplied by Jennifer Lilya
Interviewed by Natalie Brooke for  Musings Of A Brunette © 2011

10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 9:03 PM

    This is so cool! I’m happy that you got to interview her!

    • June 1, 2011 9:59 PM

      Awwe, thanks so much Sarah! I didn’t know you had a blog, gonna check it out! -hugs-

  2. June 3, 2011 5:01 AM

    wow, her work is amazing! i wish i could do something like that!

  3. Daniela permalink
    October 28, 2011 5:29 PM

    I totally love Jennifer’s work, so inspiring.
    Great interview!

    • October 28, 2011 5:55 PM

      Same here – she’s definitely one of my biggest inspirations!
      Thanks so much, glad you’ve enjoyed it!

  4. July 18, 2012 7:20 AM

    Hello Natalie, I love dipping into your blog. You have such a fresh and exciting way to showcase new ideas! I just wanted to let you know of my fashion illustration blog. I have been working on it since february of this year. I would love your feedback please Natalie! I do work full-time in a non related area, and my dream is to push through to the world of art and make a living from what I love! my blog is at
    Thank you,

    Kindest regards
    Sarah Fuller

    • July 18, 2012 11:54 AM

      Hi Sarah!! Thanks so much – that really means a lot to me! I’ve checked out your blog and I love it! Your illustrations are beautiful and fresh! Good luck in everything you do. You CAN do it, NEVER give up! (I’ll be following and commenting on some of your posts!)

      Keep smiling! xxo


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