CAPTURING THE SPIRIT OF FEMININE STYLE. INTERVIEW WITH L.A. FASHION ILLUSTRATOR, SUNNY GU
1. You lived in the United States since you were 13 years old but you were born and raised in China. Do you think this background has had an impact on your creative thinking? If so, how ?
Yes, I think so. I can hardly pin point the influences, but I know it is deep in my roots and unconsciously influences every aspects of how I think and how I work. To me, whenever I create an artwork, the process feels like playing a puzzle. I have a bunch of random images, thoughts and words in my head, I just need to connect the dots and hope to visualize something interesting. I believe the memories and cultural influences from China are always among the puzzle pieces during the brainstorming stage.
2. You certainly have made a successful career as a Fashion Illustrator, collaborating with Teen Vogue, ELLE Magazine, InStyle etc. Did someone discover you or did you have an effective strategy to market your talent ?
In my case, it’s an ongoing process. My client collaborations grow with my experience. I didn’t have a dramatic turning point in my career, everything unfolded gradually. Most clients get in contact with me because they have seen my work on the Internet, in publications, through network recommendations, etc. I believe as a fashion illustrator, marketing is a necessary part of the job.
" Most clients get in contact with me because they have seen my work on the Internet, in publications, through network recommendations, etc. I believe as a fashion illustrator, marketing is a necessary part of the job. "
3. What is the Fashion Industry like in Los Angeles? What do you love about it, and what do you hate ?
Most of the local jobs (in Los Angeles) were on site live painting events. For the majority part of my job, I working off-site, with clients located in a different states or another country. Though L.A. is not a fashion capital like New York, I think the Los Angeles fashion industry is growing and has so much potential. From last year, I have been invited to attend LAFW shows, which is a very exciting and an inspiring experience. I’m looking forward to seeing more fashion related activities and events hosted in Los Angeles in the near future!
" Though L.A. is not a fashion capital like New York, I think the Los Angeles fashion industry is growing and has so much potential. "
4. Which commission was the most challenging and which one are you most proud of? Why ?
The most challenging project is the one I’m working on right now. A blank piece of paper holds infinite possibilities, but also fear and uncertainty. Sometimes, it’s a real struggle trying to figure out the right composition, colors, etc. The creative process requires so much thoughts, time and efforts, but it’s always worthwhile.
My proudest project is a packaging series I designed for FANCL. I felt so honored to collaborate with FANCL cosmetics to celebrate the brand's 35th anniversary with a series of special packaging designs. I cherished the opportunity because it’s a brand that I trust and admired for years! For the packaging series, we tried our best to create an engaging visual presentation that embraces FANCL’s brand identity and mission. For each design, it’s a combination of a girl and flower(s); each of them has given a special characteristic and personality. It’s a celebration of nature, purity, beauty, simplicity, passion, care and love. We designed 7 collections in total, and they are sold through FANCL’s website and their retail stores in Japan, Hong Kong and China.
" The most challenging project is the one I’m working on right now. A blank piece of paper holds infinite possibilities, but also fear and uncertainty. Sometimes, it’s a real struggle trying to figure out the right composition, colors, etc. "
5. Talk us through the mediums you use in your work and why you chose them ?
For most of my illustrations, I paint them in watercolor. I love the vibrancy and unpredictable nature of watercolor. I enjoy working with watercolor the most because it compliments my style and subjects, feminine and soft. Occasionally I use graphite or acrylic paint to render some special textures. I also create digital art for surface design and textiles.
" I love the vibrancy and unpredictable nature of watercolor. I enjoy working with watercolor the most because it compliments my style and subjects, feminine and soft. "
6. Who is your favorite Fashion Designer ?
I have so many favorites! Diane von Fürstenberg, Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar de la Renta, just to name a few.
7. You have recently done plenty of express beauty portraits during fashion events. How long does it take you to complete one? What is the most interesting reaction you have had from a sitter ?
The time varies slightly depending on if the client want it to be full body or portrait, full color or limited palette. Normally each one takes 5-15 minutes. I treasure every second I spend with each sitter, it feels very personal and intimate.
One of the most unforgettable experience happened when I was drawing a senior lady during a Shiseido beauty event. She just had a lovely beauty session with Shiseido’s makeup artists. We chatted and laughed while I was painting her portrait. I flipped the paper and handed it to her when I finished the artwork. She had a stunned expression on her face, opened her eyes widely while taking the painting with both of her hands. She looked closely for a minute or two, slowly raised her head, looked into my eyes and asked, “Is this me?” I smiled and nodded. Her eyes turned red and teary, she looked down at the painting again, looked up and said, “Thank you, thank you!” That was the most genuine expression of appreciation I've ever seen. At that moment, I’m infinitely thankful for being able to find and capture the beauty of people through drawing and painting.
8. What advise would you give to an aspiring illustrator, hoping to make a name for themselves in the world of fashion illustration ?
Believe in yourself, learning by doing.