Fashion and art have often gone hand in hand with both being a creative reflections of inspiration, style and passion. For those Belle’s who have a love of fashion, it is not necessarily just of the wearable type. Fashion in art that you can adorn your home with can help to create an intimate boudoir or illustrate your own sense of style.
Bridget Davies has been fascinated by art and fashion since her childhood. With a 1st class BA in Fashion and Textiles from Bretton Hall, University of Leeds she then worked in the fashion industry for several years as an embroider and fashion designer.
Eventually she returned to her first and true love, painting figures and illustrating fashion. Since then, she has evolved into a successful freelance artist, and creates from her studio in West Sussex.
Here Belle About Town talks to Bridget about her inspirations, her favourite illustrators and, of course, fashion…
At what age did you first discover your creative side?
I have always been drawing and I have always seemed reasonably good at it. I started creating clothes for home-made paper dolls and, as I found out recently, my parents didn’t have to do much entertaining as far as my three little sisters were concerned as it was me who continually kept them amused with their little paper families with fancy wardrobes. I was also aways sewing up little outfits out of anything I could find, from crepe paper to giant papaya leaves from a tree in the garden (I was brought up in Hong Kong). It was a very natural progression for me to go into art. I didn’t ever imagine doing anything else in life.
How did your family encourage it?
My family has always been very supportive of my art. My mum is artistic so a lot of my early education was based around creating, whether that was baking and decorating cakes or doing drawings for my homework. My parents were also very keen on travelling and, being based in Asia I saw a lot of the world and was visually stimulated by all the art and various cultures I experienced as a child.
If you hadn’t become a successful artist, what was your fallback career?
There wasn’t one really… it was always going to be art! My mindset when I went to university was to do a degree which would result in a full-time job. I discovered that I actually enjoyed drawing fashion and people more than designing for then and if I had my time again I probably would have done a fine art degree. I was thinking differently at the time and, even though I did enjoy my degree, I did seem to get more personally out of the illustration side of things. This was introduced to me by a couple of visiting tutors who had a lot of passion for this area. I also very much enjoyed embroidery and went into the fashion industry for many years as an embroidery designer before returning to painting.
You started in fashion design before moving over to illustration, what brought about that change?
I took a fashion degree but seem to concentrate more on embroidery and the fashion illustration. It did take quite a few years to decide to paint again, but that was partly due to lack of free time.
What inspires your work?
Vintage dress is my favourite thing. I’m not too worried about following fashion, and this might have been why I opted for the embroidery when leaving university, but I do love dress, and regularly hunt through thrift shops and vintage Internet shops for gems from the past. I tend to lean towards antique and vintage and have always be a collector of pieces of clothing, books, fabrics etc. In fact a lot of my sketchbooks are old books and photo albums bought at thrift shops, or old music scores found on eBay.
Are there other fashion illustrators or artists that you look up to?
I love artists and illustrators who’s work is very free. I like the idea that less is more! All the illustrators from the 40s and 50s – Christian Berard, Eric, Rene Bouet-Willaumez, Rene Gruau. Modern day illustrators such as David Downton and Aurore de La Morinerie have such wonderful work… using the brush with such spontaneity and freedom. Toulouse-Lautrec is one of my favourite painters; his use of graphic and composition in his posters I find very inspiring. Such bold use of block colour and genius draftsmanship. Ooh, and I also love the work of Egon Schiele.
What is your favourite piece of theirs?
Toulouse-Lautrec ‘Confetti’, a poster of which I bought in Paris when I was fifteen and I still have framed up now. As for the fashion illustrators, there is so much to choose from and I wouldn’t know where to start. I find the studies for the finished pieces more interesting. I quite like mistakes!
Which designers do you love at the moment?
I love the Dior collections from the 50s, and also the more up to date ones now!
Do you keep up with the catwalk trends or do you imagine your own styles?
I tend to imagine my own styles when it comes to framed art work as I can create the outfit to work with the painting and the space I have. I sometimes try to use fabrics on my paintings which is very much trial and error so this tends to unfold as I am working on a painting. My finished piece is more about the overall feel of the painting rather than trying to focus on what is the essence of the accessories or details in an outfit.
If money wasn’t an issue, what couture fashion piece would you buy?
Vintage Vivier shoes in a pale pink with the crystals.
How does it feel to see your work being sold in a department store as well as in galleries?
It’s good publicity for me and very flattering that they like to have my work reproduced to sell in their stores.
How long does it take to create an average piece?
The beauty, to an extent, is to know when to stop rather than try to work out what to do next, and some of my favourite pieces took very little time at all. Less is more. I rarely do too much planning beforehand as when I try the planned approach it doesn’t seem to produce something I necessarily consider better to something painted off the cuff. It can be quite difficult sometimes, as I tend to create what I consider to be better work when I am not really thinking about it. I guess it is a bit like when a runner hits the zone – they forget they are running. It’s the same ting happens to me with my art. If I am working for someone for a commission or illustration I have to approach it differently and can’t get carried away with myself.
What’s your favourite piece of your own art?
Hard one, I tend to change my mind a lot. My work, although it is all using the same sort of techniques, can look quite different. I guess my favourites at the moment are ‘What to Wear When Walking The Dogs’ as they look a little like they are up to no good. I also like ‘The Powder Room’ because of the lady in the middle’s eye contact with the viewer. It’s my paintings that give an impression of a fleeting moment caught on the paper. Piano Lady as this was the first piece I painted on the vintage music paper. And lastly Mirror and Beads as it is the same use of water and ink but I have created the light areas with bleach.
If you reflect your self in your work, what would that illustration look like?
I am sometimes happy and I am sometimes sad. I don’t feel the need to explore any of my negative feelings through my work and I guess I would want to paint the happy feelings, maybe with a hint of uncertainty. I can’t tell you how it would look though… I’d probably be wearing a beaded dress and pointed shoes.
Now that you have made a name for yourself doing what you love, what is next for you?
As regards my painting, even though I deeply admire artists who will explore and push a medium, concept and subject matter to its limits I do like to experiment. My favourite medium is ink, and my favourite subject matter is elegant dress and ladies, but this doesn’t mean I will not find my inspiration elsewhere – you name it and I would be happy to try my interpretation onto paper, or card or fabric etc. I need to find time to indulge in more life drawing as I would like to create a series of nudes and I also would like to somehow incorporate my monoprinting in with my free fashion work. I have a backlog in my head of ideas to do. It’s like a big long frustrating traffic jam! I am also trying to design a small range of silk scarves but it is taking a lot longer than I was expecting. The images don’t seem to work the size they would need to be for a large scarf so I will have to try my hand at it on the computer.
To discover more about Bridget or buy her art, visit www.bridgetdaviesart.co.uk.