Illustrators will always have a special place in this art lover’s heart. I grew up on books like Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, and the Beatrix Potter books, and it wasn’t just the words being read aloud, but the illustrations in these enchanting books that really brought them to life.
Sarah Smart is a London-based live illustrator who has been a part of events for well-known brands such as Dior, Selfridges, and Apple. I recently discovered her through the illustration she did for Belmond Cadogan Hotel which featured an intimate party scene celebrating the worlds of art, music, and literature.
When did you first become interested in illustration?
I was always drawing as a child. I adored art at school but was always under the impression it was a hobby and not something to make a career out of. That all changed when looking at universities.
Are you a self-taught artist?
I’ve certainly taught myself my own style. But I took a foundation art course first and then went on to study Illustration for three more years at Loughborough. I never felt I had my own ‘style’ as such whilst I was studying and experimenting. This is something I always envied other students for, but I certainly learned a lot about what I liked and didn’t like, composition, drawing the human body, etc and my style really developed after leaving.
Did you start out as a live illustrator, or is it something you got into later on?
No, it wasn’t around when I left uni! In fact, as far as I was aware, Illustrators worked for editorial features and books. I had no idea just how much was out there and I fell into live illustration really. At my first event, my hands and paintbrushes were shaking I was so nervous with so many eyes on my paper, but I soon got into a zone and got a real buzz from it!
What are your go-to materials when you’re preparing to head out to a live illustration event?
I have a ‘live illustration work bag’ I take with me as my fear is forgetting one of the tools that I rely on! My tools have changed and evolved the more I have been doing it but I couldn’t do it without a pencil, fine line pen, and watercolors mostly. That said, I’ve found a mix of materials works best for me to achieve what I want to on a super speedy turnaround.
In addition to creating illustrations on paper, you’ve also drawn on makeup bags, etc (at the Bobbi Brown event) How does working on a different material change what medium you use to create the illustration?
Research and practice. It’s can be daunting drawing on something new, but I love a challenge and find it really exciting. I find Posca pens work on most materials, but I’ve also used specialist leather and glass paints and pens.
For live illustration events, what are the most illustrations you’ve completed?
I’m quickest when doing something I know-so drawing fashion illustration portraits on a4 paper. My busiest time was probably at Vogue’s Fashion Night Out when I was averaging about six an hour!
You’ve worked for clients such as Apple, Selfridges, and Vogue. What is the most memorable commission you’ve done so far?
Probably one of my most memorable was being taken out to Paris to draw in the middle of La Galleries Lafayette for Carven. That was a real ‘pinch me’ experience and was something I could have only dreamed about when studying Illustration at Uni.
Is there a brand that you haven’t worked with yet, that you hope to work with in the future?
So many!!! I adore beauty brands and obviously fashion too. I’d love to see more of my work on a large scale, but I’d also really love to illustrate a book one day.
I loved the illustration ‘The Art of Sunday’ that you did for the Belmond Cadogan Hotel which celebrates the worlds of art, music, and literature. How did this commission come about and what did you enjoy the most about this event?
Thank you! I’ve worked with a fair few luxury hotel brands before and when KTW London got in touch with me about their idea for the event, I jumped at the chance of a new challenge. As it was a small and intimate event, they wanted me to capture the feel of the room with all these hugely talented people in it was a fabulous project for me to work on.
As a fashion lover, it must have been an absolute dream to work the Dior for their Dior Culinary experience at The Franklin London. Tell me about what the atmosphere is like at an event given by such a well-known fashion brand and what it was like drawing and talking with fashion influencers in attendance?
I feel very lucky to be able to ‘look forward to going to work’ but I really do and events like this are exactly why. I was able to draw and interpret bloggers in their dream Dior outfit which itself was quite the dream for me! Dior is an iconic brand that really was a joy to draw and paint-I was so so busy at the event, but I was genuinely looking forward to drawing one outfit to the next! It’s often people’s reactions that I get a buzz out of too and the fashion influencers couldn’t have been nicer about their drawings.