Fashion Illustration Nightmare and exercizes to improve your drawing skills

I thought I was a pretty decent drawer. As a kid my mom would provide me with paper and ball-point pen, gather people around at parties and challenge them to name an object or animal that I wasn't able to draw in less than 60 seconds. The highlight was :"...and look! she doesn't erase a single line!". Yep, pretty fun. She probably would have got them to gamble money if she could have.
So when I got to design school, I thought Fashion Illustration class would be a piece of cake. Didn't see what was coming. The first months of lessons were incredibly slow and painful. My models were ugly and awkward and the garments didn't look like my mental image at all. I also felt all the other students' frustration growing with mine.

There is a reason why people go to school, and there is a reason why you are given homework. By doing all the assignments and much much more I have improved a great deal. And I thought I couldn't be any better than I already was!

'Style' was also a concern. My efforts of drawing anything that had an immediately recognizable signature were laughable. Eventually I grew sick of it and I stopped trying, focusing instead on keeping up with the increasing work load. It was to my surprise that one day I turned in an assignment on which I'd forgotten to write my name and the teacher knew it was mine!

How did that happen? How can you have a style of your own without having done it intentionally?
By practicing a lot (I mean A LOT) you become more accustomed to your medium of expression, so that it doesn't feel like a foreign object anymore but actually an addition to your hand and mind. Practice allows you to have full control on the medium so that it can do exactly what you want it to do.
When you know that that line you want to draw is actually going to be as straight as you need it to be, you stop worrying about it and it's like the connection between your brain and your hand is more direct, thus giving better results. Everyone has their style, and it's not really something you can control. It's just the way things are.

So practice, practice, practice, practice, PRACTICE! It takes 10000 hours to master a skill so GET CRACKING PEOPLE!
How do you think the Beatles got to be so good at what they do? They practiced like maniacs for many hours every day!

By the way, I got some good exercises for you lazy ones out there. It's already hard to think of what to draw, plus figuring out how to do it etc. What we want to practice is mainly the manual skills so:

  • draw models in different positions from photographs in fashion magazines or whatever
  • try copying fashion illustrations
  • find an illustration manual and you'll find chapters dedicated to specific parts of the body. For example there will be drawings of feet in a dozen different positions from different angles. Put a piece on paper on top and trace them exactly the way they are and keep them in a file or better tape them to the wall in front of your desk as a reference, so when you can't figure out how to draw shoes from behind you can look up at your template and figure it out from there.
  • do speed drawing drills: fill sketchbooks with just straight lines, curved lines, circles etc. This is a great exercise to whenever and wherever. Watching TV, on the phone, at the bus stop...

And also, don't throw away your drawing attempts. They're great fun to look at when you get better (and you will). Plus you get to post them on your blog when you're trying to prove that your method works.TvT

These are my 'before and after' drawings. They are only 5-6 months apart.



click on them to open the bigger image in a new page!


  1. This is a great post! Thankyou for writing about your experience, it's very inspiring...

  2. I was searching on Google regarding practicing illustrations. And I found you blog, so glad I am here. Thank you for sharing your experience and I am grateful to have your tips on how to practice it :)

  3. This is a great post about illustration!! I've been trying so hard to find my own style, but I think I need to just stop trying so hard and practice practice practice. I can definitely see the progression in your illustrations, they look great!