Wednesday, December 14, 2016

the art of chasing a dream: fashion illustrator


Tell us about yourself and your journey chasing your creative dreams.

My name is Beth Briggs and from the moment I first held a crayon I loved drawing beautiful ladies, fashion and flowers. I have always been an artist! I majored in Art History/Studio Art at Wellesley College then moved to NYC in 1986 in the hopes of becoming a professional Fashion Illustrator. Alas, timing is everything and at that time fashion illustration was quickly being replaced by fashion photography, video and MTV! So my life continued on a different path which included a more traditional career and three kids. Then, two years ago, at the age of fifty, I picked up my paints again and started posting "Fashion Stories" on Instagram (illustrated collages featuring a fashionable character). I began to get requests for fashion portraits which led to my custom illustration service and even moved back to New York City from Boston last year to pursue these interests!
Instagram has been an amazing platform for me. I encourage all artists to post regularly. You never know who will see your work and what opportunities might come your way. In addition to driving traffic to my Etsy Shop and Website it has also led to live fashion sketching gigs and teaching opportunities. For example, I recently shared my tips and tricks for creating "Fashion Stories" on Instagram with basic iPhone technology at the Upper East Side Apple Store. It was a fun event including an interactive exercise where participants created their own artistic vignettes which they then photographed and posted on their IG accounts. It's a great time to be an artist! 


What are your favorite materials and supplies to work with?

I like watercolors, gouache, watercolor pencils and copic markers…..I also prefer a very smooth digital card stock paper as opposed to the more traditional cold press watercolor papers. I work quickly and like a fast drying surface. My technique is also a bit unusual as I prefer to lay down washes of color first, then fill in details with pencils or markers afterwards. I find this technique allows for the most movement, spontaneity and "sketchiness" in my illustrations. I also never do a first draft of an illustration. I do my best to make this clear when discussing a custom order with a potential client. I enjoy getting lots of initial input via photos or descriptions but when I put paint to paper I want to be spontaneous!

How do you go about finding inspiration for your illustrations?

I find inspiration everywhere–everything from shoes lined up in my closet to a stylish girl with a great pair of sunglasses I might encounter on the subway. Pets are a very fond subject matter as well. I am consistently inspired by the fashionable women and pets of New York City and everywhere else I may travel! I take long walks up the East River Esplanade and a favorite hangout for sketching pampered pups is Carl Schurz Park, home to a couple of puppy playgrounds and beautiful landscaped parks featuring whimsical statues and secret gardens. Flowers, pets, chic women and charming children are my inspiration.


I love seeing how other creatives set up their work space. Can you tell us a little bit your your space?

I am blessed to be living in a very sunny 1 BR apartment on a high floor in midtown Manhattan – literally under the eagles of the Chrysler building which is as quintessential New York as you can get! NYC apartments are small so literally every inch counts. My studio consists of a large table top and shelving unit I ordered from IKEA when I moved in! But honestly I don't need a lot of space. Give me some paper, paint and markers and I'm good! To make the move to NYC I had to bring only the essentials with me and commit to a lifestyle including very few possessions. I didn’t even bring a TV! What I have received in return is an unprecedented feeling of freedom which has re-energized my art. I’ve never been more productive! My space is modern and sleek with amazing views of the East River and midtown Manhattan. I’m truly enjoying this space and this moment on my journey while also remaining open to where my journey may take me next!


What is a typical day like for you?

I'm enjoying a transitional time in my life now that my kids are older and more independent. Some people call this "empty nest syndrome"...I call it "amazing!!!" All kidding aside, I'm truly luxuriating in this opportunity to "chase my artistic dream" and create a life for myself that will reap rewards for many years to come. Although I have a demanding day job I have been able to work out a schedule that allows me to maximize my creative time which feeds my soul. 

Monday through Friday I work as an Executive Assistant in Manhattan. I typically get up by 5am and review emails and post to my social media accounts and if I have time I will spend 30 minutes or so at my table top easel before heading to work. I usually don’t work on custom orders until the weekend but I do like to create fun fashion sketches and photos for Instagram on a daily basis. This is my “creative meditation” time. Evenings are reserved for a walk or run, reading and getting 8-9 hours of sleep no matter what!


On the weekends I do all my custom work, fill orders and create new listings for my online shops. I’m an avid runner so I fit in plenty of time for long runs as well. Health is everything! When I'm getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising I am a better artist and happier person! I live within walking distance of the some of the best art museums and galleries on the planet so I take full advantage of that luxury as well. The MOMA is my favorite and an amazing source of inspiration.


What are your goals for your illustration business?

In addition to my custom illustration service I am also constantly adding prints, watercolor clip art and original paintings to my Etsy Shop and Website. Ultimately I would like to travel, teach and encourage others to follow their creative dreams as I have been able to do! After all, life begins at 50 :-)

You can find of more Beth here-


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