Sunday, September 01, 2013

INTERVIEW: MEET HAYLEY WRIGHT OF PAPER & INK

Hayley Wright received her first watercolour set when she was four years old. 

“And that’s when I started painting and have been ever since.” 

Not too many years later and the 23 year old Toronto-born artist is attracting a large following on good old Instagram for her dreamy fashion illustrations under the username @paperinkart. Her series of feminine drawings inspired by fashion editorials and Pinterest perusing use watercolours, ink pens, crayons and sometimes even glitter. I discovered the artist when she painted a replica of a photo shoot I styled in 2012. It was then that I started following her feed of pouted beauties adorned in floral crowns crying watercolour tears, hoping to watch a successful career unfold. 

After only two years in business, Paper & Ink is steadily growing online through a partnership with Society Six – an online artist shop where you can purchase her illustrations produced on everything from iphone cases to tank tops to throw pillows. While people seem to love her work on their accessories, it seems harder to find a home for it in publications.

“People see fashion illustration as a novelty. It’s thought of as a thing of the past done before photography existed," says Wright, a trained artist who studied Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia and then went on to study Fashion Merchandising at the Vancouver College of Art and Design. 

This is the tale from many Edmonton illustrators trying to find pages for their craft in a moment when we are all literally obsessed with photographs. Looking back, the decline of fashion illustration specifically began in 1932 when Vogue published its first edition ever to have a photograph on its cover. From that point on, the "truth" in photographs became more desirable and by the 1950's fashion illustration was dead along with some of its most celebrated artists. 

But, the art form seems to be making a small comeback - ironically through technology. Rookie Magazine, the online brainchild of fashion blog superstar, Tavi Gevinson, features hundreds of often crude, but interesting paintings and drawings inspired by designer collections, fashion muses and editorials. Then there are brands like Edmonton's footwear startup, Poppy Barley, using fashion illustration as a way to connect with audiences. They invite customers to post a photo of themselves on Instagram wearing their product for a chance to receive an illustrated replica of the photo in the mail - a custom illustration of its custom footwear.

This small trending of fashion illustration has Wright hopeful for more work in advertising and editorial. There is something absolutely charming about her tactile representations. It would be nice to see Wright’s work accompanying fashion stories in Edmonton publications such as Avenue or Georgie Magazine, similar to what we've seen recently in the pages of fashion bibles such as Harper's Bazaar. 

Whether or not that day comes, Wright will continue to paint. "It just makes me happy. Whether this is a lucrative business or not, I will always do it."




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