a hit of sunny gu

livliness in illustrations

In recent news it was reported that The Washington Post was purchased for an underwhelming $250 million dollars. It's interesting to note this when considering that not much earlier this year, short form blogging platform, Tumblr, was bought for a staggering $1.1 billion. With those numbers in mind, it's very easy to identify the direction our media is going in. Although it's unfortunate to some, twenty years from now garnering your news solely from the internet will be something our entire population complies with and thus be completely normal. Though, it is hard to imagine the world without print newspapers. It's even harder to fathom a fashion magazine without any photographs in it. Yet, less than a decade ago that was the norm. Before the 1930's, if you picked up a copy of Vogue you wouldn't see a perfected photograph of one of your favorite celebrities, instead you'd find a beautiful illustration. Inside the magazine everything would be illustrated as well- the editorials, the advertisements, everything. Fashion Illustration plays a huge role in the history of the industry and has been around for nearly 500 years. Ever since clothes have been in existence there has been a need to translate a thought or an image into a fashion illustration. As Nicholas Drake mentioned in his book, Fashion Illustration Today, "not only do fashion illustrations show a representation or design of a garment but they also serve as a form of art. Fashion illustration shows the presence of hand and is said to be a visual luxury."

Still, pursuing a career in illustration is discouraged even more so than a career in journalism. Jobs are few and rare and the competition is incredibly steep. However, those statistics don't keep people from dreaming and for the braver creatives, it doesn't keep them from doing. That notion is what attracts me to fashion illustrators. The talents behind the art form aren't doing it for the money, they can't. They are doing it because it is something that they absolutely love to do and technology isn't going to stop them from creating. In illustrator Sunny Gu's case, technology, only assisted the artist in her chosen career path. A few months ago, I noticed Gu's drawings on a fashion blog and was immediately drawn to the vibrant colors, attention to detail, and creativity her work expressed. Shortly after, I looked her up and found out that she had a facebook fanpage, which she consistently updates with every new drawing. I became a fan and every now and then I would see her latest project and find myself ogling it. She seemed very active in her work and her clients also seemed quite major. Not too long ago the illustration above was featured on Swide, Dolce & Gabbana's online magazine. I was both curious and amazed by her. She is talented, completely humble and clearly very driven. I was interested in getting to know more about how Gu became an illustrator and how she turned her dream into a reality. Today, I invite you to explore her work and learn more about woman behind the illustrations.

Take a hit of Sunny Gu.

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Q & A W/Sunny Gu

SM: How did you first get into illustration? How did your upbringing influence your career path? 

SG: I have always loved drawing and painting! Making art has been my favorite hobby since I was a child! I still remember when my kindergarten friends enjoyed their free time playing outdoors, I was so satisfied spending time at home with a handful of colorful crayons and a little sketchbook. In the beginning I was just doing it for fun. It was my high school photography teacher who encouraged me to apply to an art school. That was the first time I seriously thought about turning my hobbies into a professional career. So I worked hard, put together a portfolio and got accepted to my dream school, Otis College of Art and Design in California. I started working as a freelance illustrator when I was studying there. There are many hard choices and challenges along the way, I’m always very grateful to have very supportive family and friends who give me the courage to keep chasing my dreams. 

SM: What did you study in college? How has going to school there benefited your work? 

SG: I studied Communication Arts-Illustration at Otis College of Art and Design. I gained basic illustration knowledge and built my foundation skills during my study in there. The illustration major at my school was very broad, we were focusing on critical thinking skills and how to use different mediums. The most precious things I got from college are the people I have had the pleasure of meeting. I learned to have a strong work ethic from my professors and classmates. I built friendships with like-minded passionate people who share the same dreams as I do. It’s a bliss to have amazing people around you who always make you want to be a better person, personally and professionally.

SM: How did you develop an interest in fashion? Who are some of your favorite designers? 

SG: I have always been interested in fashion. I developed a strong interest in fashion illustration when I came across some fashion illustration books during college. Some of my favorite designers are Raf Simons, Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Prabal Gurung and Mary Katrantzou.

SM: How do you create your work? Is it done completely by hand or do you also enhance it digitally? What do you enjoy most about the process?

SG: I create illustrations completely by hand first, scan, and then adjust some minor details in photoshop if needed. For most of my illustrations, I paint them in watercolor. I love the vibrancy and unpredictable nature of watercolor. Occasionally I use graphite or acrylic paint to render some special textures. Sometimes the process is different depending on the illustration. If I’m creating an illustration with a very complex composition for a client, I normally paint the characters, certain textures and background separately to make it easy when any edition is requested by the client. What I enjoy most is the magical process of making an idea, story, illusion, imagination into a reality!

SM: Is this your full-time career? If so, how did you get the word out and start working with other companies? 

GM: Yes, it is my full-time career. I have a few online portfolios and maintain an active blog and print shop. I update them frequently with new illustrations and designs. I really believe in rapport and the power of word of mouth. I always try to deliver my best work to all of my clients and customers. I build friendships and trust with the people I do work for as well. Offer help and advice to others. A little kindness and generosity can go a long way. I’m always on the look out for new promotion and collaboration opportunities. Connect with prospective clients and other talents. The most important things to do in order to build credibility and start working with more companies are to prioritize quality and great customer service.

SM: What types of things inspire your art work? Are there other illustrators who you admire or have influenced your style?

SG: I find inspirations from simple things in life: sunshine, smiles, a blooming flower. I get inspired by artists, designers, fashion trends, people and artifacts from different cultures. Yes! There are too many! I especially love the works done by great fashion illustration masters René Gruau, David Downton and Bil Donovan.

SM: What advice would you give to other artists & illustrators in order to succeed?

SG: Don’t wait for opportunities to come knocking on your door, create your own opportunity! Believe in yourself and keep chasing your dreams.

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To see more of Sunny's work make sure to check out her Website, Facebook, and Blog. You can purchase one her original works on Etsy and stay up to date with her on twitter.