by Angela McAdrian
artist Eliza Ananian bio pic
This month,we are hyped to bring you an interview with talented L.A-based fashion illustrator, Eliza Ananian. In this exclusive interview, Eliza shares with us a bit of her background including details about her love for embroidery and her passion for fashion which she clearly has a keen eye for. Eliza’s work is so powerful,yet playful. It will be exciting to see where Eliza’s work carries on.
1.) How did you first get interested in art—and, particularly, illustration?
Well, I come from an artistic family. My dad does technical drawings of machines and does wood burning art. My mom is into fashion. She worked for fashion designer, Michael Novarese in 1981. She has also made and designed baby, toddler, and teenage clothes as well as Halloween costumes for me and my siblings throughout our childhood along with dresses she’s made for herself. She also knits, crochets, hand embroiders and does hand beading. She’s VERY crafty and creative. She can make something out of nothing! My mom would always do crafty things with my siblings and I. It was cute and fun! My twin sister does abstract paintings, works with her hands with clay, and hand-makes and designs her own jewelry and other crafts and my brother does animation! So art came naturally for me. It runs in the family. I got into illustration because of fashion illustration. I drew fashion illustration and I would also do random drawings from my imagination and I really enjoyed it and it was fun to just draw. But, when I transferred from my community college, Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC), to California State University of Northridge (CSUN), I had to pick a major. At first, my major was painting, but I was unhappy with it. I realized I had no passion for painting and I was thinking in the long run, how much work can I get from painting? I just felt like I was at a dead end with painting, so I decided to change my major to illustration within the first semester, because all I wanted to do was fashion illustration. And, I figured, I can take illustration classes and be able to draw my favorite subject. I also majored in illustration, because it’s a wide spectrum and there’s so many branches for illustration, from merchandise products, to music covers, to children’s books, to magazines, etc. It had more options for me than painting in the long run. So that’s how I got into illustration!
in progress piece
2.) What inspires you?
Music puts me in a mood and it inspires my designs. Water— every time I’m around water or taking a shower or washing the dishes, I get fashion ideas. It’s so weird and magical how water helps with my ideas, like all my best ideas came from taking a shower or washing the dishes! Colors, Lisa Frank, Karl Lagerfeld, the 80’s, early 90’s, outer space, the underwater world, handmade crafts (knitting, crochet, bead work, hand embroidery, etc)— I love to see how I can bring all that to my illustrations. Nostalgia and my childhood also inspires me. I often visit or look back at my childhood and get inspired by the clothes my mom made for my twin sister and I, the barbie dolls I had, vintage colors, memories I had with my mom making greeting cards and using fabric cut-outs to make an image of a dressed little girl. Also, sometimes, I get fashion ideas in my dreams, and I wake up and I quickly draw them out—that helps greatly!
Hand Embroidered Fashion Illustrations Inspired by South American culture. Mediums used:handmade cotton paper,watercolors,ink pen,circular studs,zig-zag trim,yarn pom-poms
3.) What attracted you to fashion illustrations?
Honestly, I think it’s like a timeline history and it just evolved over time. It started off with paper dolls as a child, and in my teens I wanted to make my own paper dolls, which I did. I drew out the bodies and made up my own clothes designs, but it was like a fail, because the paper wasn’t strong enough, but I had fun and I loved it. I would also buy paper doll books by Tom Tierney and just be in awe at how the bodies and clothes were drawn. When I was 16 or 17 years old I got into virtual paper dolls and would play drag and drop dress up games online that other girls made. I was so in love, that I was inspired to attempt to make my own little doll with clothes on. I went on the paint program and I managed to draw out a pixelated doll with clothing on and I loved and enjoyed it. But, it was in my first year of community college that I fell in love with fashion illustration— it was like the last stage of my timeline history. I still remember it clearly in my head. It was late at night and I was doing homework on the kitchen table of my parents home and I decided to take a break, and I noticed my mom’s Loehmann’s catalog on the table. I took it and flipped through to look at the clothes and I was looking at one of the pages of a model wearing a white or off-white sweater tunic and a very light weight fabric. It was either a maxi skirt or a dress under the sweater, and for some odd reason, I had such a STRONG URGE to draw her! I thought to myself, “oh this isn’t going to come out nice, it’s going to be crappy.” Well, little did I know, it actually came out REALLY GOOD! I was in SHOCK! I remember when I was drawing the clothed model, I was soooo relaxed when I was drawing the clothes. It’s like I was in a trance, like my mind was off and I wasn’t thinking. I felt so relaxed drawing clothes. I was shocked at the feeling— because, I never felt that way before. It just felt so different and I was just amazed at the whole experience of that moment, from how it made me feel and how I was able to draw clothes, like I just enjoyed drawing everything and I was HOOKED!!! It was love and from then on I went full on with fashion illustration. I researched about it, looked up artists, and I was so determined to become a fashion illustrator that I taught myself and practiced everyday for four years from 2007 to 2010 until I reached a level where I was really good and I had my own style. So, I guess you can say it was the enjoyment of drawing clothes that was the attraction to fashion illustration for me. That was the start of me and fashion illustration, everything else before that time, was a history timeline leading up to the last stage.
Hand Embroidered Fashion Illustrations Inspired by South American culture. Mediums used:handmade cotton paper,watercolors,ink pen,circular studs,zig-zag trim,yarn pom-poms.
4.) I love the thread signature you do. Did that come about as an idea randomly or was there an inspiration behind it?
Thanks! Yeah, actually it kind of was random. It was definitely not planned! Earlier this year, on Febuarary 23rd, I was finishing up a personal black and white fine inked fashion illustration of a Y-3 look from the spring ‘17 collection, and it was experimental, and I was using my sewing machine to add a pop of green color to the drawn clothing. Originally, I just wanted to sew and fill in the vest in green color. But, while sewing with my machine, and filling in one side of the vest, as I was done, I pulled the thread from the machine that was attached to my illustration so that I can cut the thread to free it, so I can start on the other side of the vest. I cut the threads and let it hang and I stopped, looked at it and thought, “Oh….this actually looks really cool with the threads hanging loosely! It’s so artistic and different!” I just thought it had a really cool modern contemporary fashion illustration look to it, so I kept the threads like that. I just had a good feeling about it. It felt right. So, I decided that it’s my new thing, my new style, and I wanted to do that to all my fashion illustrations, have threads hanging, like as a way to say that’s my signature.
Mediums used:acrylic white paint,ink,and yarn glued on.
“Moschino Illustration.” Mediums used:Watercolors,acrylics,ink,and hand embroidery.
5.) Do you have any favorite artists?
Jason Brooks was the first fashion illustrator I laid my eyes on over the net and fell in love with his style. It was so ideal. His girls were so pretty and beautiful with that nice ideal socialite lifestyle. It fit nicely with what I envisioned in my mind before I found out about him. Izziyana Suhaimi—she’s an embroidery illustration artist who when I first started with hand embroidery for my fashion illustrations, I had found. I looked up artists who incorporate hand embroidery to their illustrations, and I found one of her illustrations on google images and fell in love, because it’s what I wanted to do. I love her works. She draws girls in pencil and adds hand embroidery on her drawings and also watercolors. It’s very beautiful, fun, creative and a craft, because of all the hard work that comes with hand embroidery.
And lastly, Hayden Williams— that guy is like the king of fashion illustration. I feel like he owns fashion illustration! His work is soo BEAUTIFUL!!! His style of how he draws females and their clothes, it’s so IDEAL and has a bit of old school glamour to them! He’s PERFECTION! I’m always in AWE with his work and can endlessly stare, admire and just look through his works. It’s like a marathon of sight-seeing—via instagram, haha!
“Untitled.” Watercolor fashion Illustration.
“Untitled.” Fashion illustration combining hand embroidery and sewing machine onto cotton paper and photography paper. Artist’s own fashion design.
6.) Can you tell us the process for you when creating an illustration?
There really isn’t a process when it comes to creating an illustration for me. I work best in a spontaneous manner. I just sit down, have music on, and just randomly draw and doodle. I feel that helps. It’s like equivalent to sitting down and writing in a free manner and to let your thoughts and feelings just come out onto the paper in words.. just write, let it all out, clear your mind and usually something comes from that, you know? That’s how it is when I first doodle. I just draw until I feel inspired by something and I look at my work or ideas and say, “Oh I really like this, I wanna do more with it.” I get inspired by that and I start coming up with concepts and start creating my final pieces. But, when it comes to concept work from a client, I’m a very visual person and so I’m able to quickly envision idea concepts in my minds eye after I read the description of the assignment I’m given, so I don’t really need to draw out ideas, but when I really love an idea I see visually, I quickly go and sketch it out. I also do research to better translate my conceptual art with the viewer.
“Stitched in the city.”
Handmade zipper bags. Inspired by Los Angeles. Photographed by artist,printed on cotton fabric,and embroidered patches of artist handstitched. Adobe Illustrator used and Photoshop.”I didn’t have access to screen printing, and wanted to screen print myself onto the background image of my bag, but not having that resource, I had to quickly think of another way, and that’s when printing my photographs on cotton fabric happened, because it was the only solution I could think of that was closest to screen printing.”-Eliza Ananian
“Made this collection based off the ABC LETTERS. Each dress represents a letter from the alphabet. Bodies were drawn and inked out, some of them colored. The clothes were made out of fabric, felt, origami textured papers, tissue paper, beads, sequins, candy wrappers and nature, using leaves.”-Eliza Ananian
Outlined black&white fashion illustration. Inspired by Fall ’14 trends sourced from various NYFW web sources. Starting from first one is: Chloe, Hermes, Joseph, Akris, Balmain, Isabel Marant, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Jeremy Scott, Elie Saab and Alberta Ferretti. “I was inspired by the old fashion fashion illustration they had back in the days, like for Sears catalogs. Fashion illustrators would draw in detail—clothes, under garments, rings, jewelries, baby clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, ALL OF IT, and I was always in awe at all the hard work they had to draw. I loved it, and I decided to make a zine of detailed line art fashion illustrations.”
7.) What are your dreams and goals?
My dream is to be a fashion designer and to own my own brand. I’m slowly doing it on my own right now. I already have the name picked out and I’m designing and hand-making my own bags. It’s just zipper pouches for now which are playful, fun, yet simple looking and I want to put them out there and sell them. Eventually, I want to branch out and make clothes, shoes and other accessories. I just want to design. That’s all I want to do. I enjoy the process of coming up with ideas, sketching them out, actually hand-making the ideas and getting to wear them! It’s so much fun— but, also, the joy I get at the end is incomparable to drawing. It’s exciting and I just get feelings of, this is what I’m supposed to be doing, this is what I was meant for, it just feels so right and fulfilling that I feel like I’m on cloud 10! And I don’t get that type of feeling when I finish an art work. I mean sure I’m always happy when I do finish a piece, but it’s not the same as actually making something wearable that I designed. It’s a whole different kind of fulfilling feeling! As for my goals, I’m trying to score fashion internships or fashion entry jobs currently, so that I can gain fashion experience and slowly make my way in the fashion industry, but it’s hard as I don’t have a fashion degree and most fashion jobs want someone with a fashion degree or experience. It’s very annoying, but at the same time, I’m a stubborn person, I’m optimistic, I’ve got hope and I will never give up until I get what I want!
“Untitled.” Self Photographed,printed on photograph paper,and hand embroidered.
8.) What is the most challenging thing for you as an artist?
That’s a tie. The most challenging thing for me as an artist is the freelance life and the business part of doing freelance. The challenging part of the freelance life is finding more work, finding more clients, and thinking what’s next once I finish a freelance job. I’ve been freelancing for a couple years now and even though sometimes it gets hard when there’s no work—I’ll think about throwing in the towel and quitting and just getting a regular job— but, I just can’t throw in the towel and get a regular job because I’m a stubborn person. I like to hang in there and keep at it, try over again if I fail, until I reach what I want or my goal. I’m like that with everything in my life. I don’t like to give up that easily. Also, I’m not that good at letting go! Though sometimes I think I’m crazy to chase this freelance career. It’s hard. The struggle is real as they say, but I am crazy in some way, because, I can’t just give up and actually quit. I was born with an artistic ability and I just can’t leave it. Freelance is a love and dislike relationship. I love the freedom that it comes with. I’m my own boss. I can work from the comfort of my own home and I can set the hours. But, eventually, the freelance life gets lonely, and I start missing being around a work environment, socializing with people and working as a creative team, and bouncing ideas with others. I honestly rather work in a creative atmosphere, alongside other creative employers/employees than work alone as a freelancer. It just gets lonely after awhile. The business aspect is challenging for me because, while I was at CSUN, I wasn’t taught anything about business as a freelancer such as license contracts, signing and writing up documents to have your clients sign, how to make a business deal, legal things, you know, all that stuff. So, when I graduated, I was left on my own and I felt like a fish out of water. I did however contact a former illustration professor, Laurel Long (her illustration paintings are so beautiful and detailed. I was lucky enough to see them in person, and they’re mind blowing because of all the details throughout the painting’s, it’s pretty crazy!), and she was able to guide me and give me some advice with negotiating rates, royalties, and having both parties sign agreement/licensing papers for protection and what not. She also advised me to get the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. It’s great for every artist to have. You’ll learn a lot and also it helps you with learning how to negotiate and not get cheated by clients, which is great! I’m slowly getting confident with negotiating rates and being more assertive, and that’s my weakness. Being assertive and taking the lead is hard for me. That’s my own personal challenge as an artist, because I’m shy and the opposite of all that. But, doing freelance, also has helped me in that aspect, of working on my weakness and turning it into a strength, so it’s a work in progress! I guess that’s one of the good things about doing freelance—you’re on your own, and you need to learn to take the lead and it helps you with being boss-like. I still feel like I have a lot more to learn though, but I guess, it’s one of those things where you just learn as you go!
“Untitled.” Scanned sunglasses. Printed on photograph paper and hand embroidered.
“Ice-Cream Sunglasses.” Scanned Sunglasses. Printed on photo paper and hand embroidered.
9.) How would you describe your work?
My work is still developing as I’m still exploring as an artist and trying to develop a strong style that will be my signature where people can easily know that and distinguish that it’s my work— that they can recognize it. But, for now, I would say my work is a bit crafty, since I love to work with my hands and add hand embroidery, beads, sequins and use my sewing machine. I have an interest in textile art and I’m leaning towards that as I explore and experiment more with my fashion illustrations. Textile is used in the fashion world and also in art, and I love fashion and art, so it’s a nice and perfect balance for me to combine two things I love so much!
“Untitled.” Mediums used:Magazine cut-outs,sewing machine,and hand embroidery on card stock.
10.) Do you have a particular fashion style, or favorite fashion designer, or label you love?
I honestly love all fashion styles. I love variety. Simple, feminine, edgy, sporty, tomboy, unisex, kitsch, playful, sophisticated, elegant—I have no boundaries when it comes to fashion. I love it all! I love to look at collections for fashion week on t’s fun and can get addicting and I love discovering new designers. Even if I personally don’t like some clothes, I can still appreciate the design and the idea. I have a lot of favorite fashion designers. Karl Lagerfeld is my all time favorite—the guy is a CREATIVE GENIUS! I love how versatile and innovative he is when it comes to designing collections, not just for Chanel, but Fendi, and even his own brand! Karl does a lot. He’s a man of many talents—fashion designer, of course— photographer, film director, artist, editor (he’s got his own The Karl Daily newspaper) and now he’s going into hospitality design, making his own Karl Lagerfeld Hotel. HE’S AMAZING!! He literally created his OWN WORLD, and I LOVE THAT!! I also love how he plans out the environments/atmosphere for his runway shows for his collections. He goes ALL OUT. He outdoes himself always. His runway shows are a show within a show. There isn’t a designer like him. He’s the only one that does it all and manages to stay ON TOP! I hope he never quits on creating. I hope he can live on forever, if not forever, then a reallllly long time. I just can’t imagine the fashion world without him— he’s KING! There’s more designers I love, but here’s a few:I love Betsey Johnson (I fell in love with her designs, because they were so playful— such cute dresses and I loved how fun and vibrant her personality was and still is! I’ll always love her always and forever!), Krikor Jabotian, he’s an Armenian Lebanese fashion designer. He used to work for Elie Saab (another designer I love, I always love every collection he puts out, his dresses are always SO FEMININE and just….PERFECT!! I loved his spring ‘17 collection. It was more youthful, edgy and I loved the 80’s inspired feel of the dresses. It was very fun and a little different than what I usually see from him.), which is so fitting, because Krikor’s design style of femininity is aligned with Elie Saab’s brand. What I love about Jabotian’s designs is that they have an old classic timeless look to them, but also a nice mixture of modern style with an artistic twist in some of his wedding/formal dresses. His dress designs are so feminine, elegant, beautiful and just breathtaking—a WORK OF ART!!! His craftsmanship, the details, the silhouettes, the volume of the dresses, the structure— it’s an art work, and every dress he creates is a masterpiece!! His designs are like high couture. It’s high fashion, it’s quality and it has that old school fashion design feel to the dresses, like hand made, which I LOVE SO MUCH. l love the old school handwork instead of manufactured designs. I appreciate it deeply! I can go on and on about what I feel about his designs. All I have to say to end talking about him, is that a woman would feel like a queen in his beautifully made dresses! Also, Dolce & Gabbana— they’re a nice mixture of feminine, but also playful, wearable garments. They balance it out nicely. I always look forward to their collections for fashion week— always fun to see! And, Kate Spade— I love the accessories she creates— always so simple & playful. Love her work! Finally, Jeremy Scott—I LOVE HIS CREATIVITY!!! The guy is a CREATIVE GENIUS!! I love how playful he is with his designs and how he thinks outside the box!!! I love creative people that think outside the box, something unexpected, something new and different, never before seen. It’s exciting. It’s innovative to push ideas. I’m attracted to garment designs that are out of the box, because it’s so out of the ordinary and the fact that the designers were able to imagine it and ACTUALLY PRODUCE IT and bring it to life always amazes me and leaves me in awe, because we have the ABILITY to create what we see in our minds, with technology always evolving, we have even more power in our hands to create out of the ordinary ideas and bring them to life! I love it and I’m really attracted to it because it’s like an evolution of creating. It’s also like creating your own world. Bring your world to life—it makes me really happy!
“Y3 Spring ’17.” Fashion illustration ink work. Embroidery. “I also love to add a pop of color by using my love of threads, either by my sewing machine or hand stitch embroidery. I keep the threads hanging loose, because clothes are made of threads, so I thought it’s fitting to let the threads hang loose.”
“Alice and Olivia Spring/Summer ’17.” Fashion Ink Illustration with Hand Embroidery
11.) What keeps you focused?
Passion. Passion keeps me focused! I have to have passion for something and I’ll become hyper-focused! Passion is vital for me as an artist. I must have passion for something I do, because if I don’t have it, then I can’t focus, and it would be more of a drag for me when it comes to something. I’m either in it fully or I’m just not at all. I just want to be passionate about what I create and what I do.
“Untitled.” Hand embroidery onto cotton paper,ink and watercolors on handmade paper. Artist’s own fashion design. “The floral bag was an inspiration from my grandma. While I was growing up, she had these black velvet slippers that had colorful beaded flowers on them and I always loved them as a child, and she would cut out the floral beaded part and give them to me to keep to use the beads. I also have a love for old fashion clutches with the gold metal corners and the hand embroidery work on the vintage clutches, so it’s a mixture of both.”-Eliza Ananian
12.) What’s the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I ever received was from my favorite illustration professor, Christian Clayton from CSUN. He told me while I was working on a project, to stop thinking and to just go at it and that I shouldn’t worry about the details and trying to be perfect, because all that will come during the process of creating and I can always change things up. As an artist, I can easily get stuck in a rut with thinking— thinking about my ideas and how I’m going to execute it, but then I get so overwhelmed with all my ideas and the execution that I become too scared to attempt to start on any of them that I run away from it, put it off or do something else. It’s really terrible. Thinking prevents me from taking action and being spontaneous with my art work. He just helped me realize a lot of things about the process of making art—how it changes and evolves during the process from start to finish and that I should keep an open mind, allowing for things to change and to experiment! I know it sounds like such simple advice, but as a person and an artist, I become so hyper-focused that I don’t really leave much room for an open mind to, like, experiment or I just feel afraid, maybe that it won’t turn out like how I see it in my minds eye. And, because I am a perfectionist, I want my work to come out exactly as what I visualize in my mind. It can be almost paralyzing to not make a move of action. The mind can be so….it can be my own enemy, thinking or over-thinking kills the creative process of making art. So I always think of my professor’s advice, when I catch myself in thinking mode and getting anxiety from it all. It’s just best to be free, to let go, turn off the mind and just create!
“Símbolos” finished piece version 1
“Símbolos” finished piece version 2