Fashion illustrator Nicole Jarecz of Clawson has worked with Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and magazines worldwide to illustrate everything from shoes to handbags. We caught up with Nicole to get the scoop on her latest projects and find out what inspires her in 20 questions.
By Kyla Heat
Photography by Janna Coumoundouros
1. Tell us about your background? I’m an illustrator, but my main concentration is fashion illustration. I work from my studio at home where I create drawings for clients such as magazines, brands and agencies. I even do commission work. Any offsite work that I do is for live sketching events at different stores in the area. During a live sketching event, I create custom illustrations for shoppers. This may be an illustration of them wearing a particular piece of clothing they love or a shoe or handbag they just purchased. It’s a great way for shoppers to have a one-of-a-kind experience at a store and for them to take home a souvenir.
2. How did you get into illustration? I’ve always been interested in drawing since an early age, but when I was a senior in high school, one of my teachers said I should attend portfolio day at the College for Creative Studies. I never even knew you could have a career like the one I have today. A whole new world opened up to me when I went to CCS. I was able to see that having a creative career was possible!
3. Tell us more about the live sketching events. This may sound silly, but do your hands get tired? YES! My hands get tired by the end of the event. I am sketching consistently for 2-3 hours. I have a huge callus on my hand that never goes away! When I do a live sketching event I bring all of my art supplies with me. I have a desk where I set up shop, and then I just wait for people to come by and watch. Shoppers love to stop and see what I’m doing. I love that people appreciate what I’m doing — that brings a smile to my face. During live sketching events, I sketch shoppers modeling a piece of clothing they have tried on or I’ve also sketched shoes and other accessories that shoppers have purchased. It’s a great souvenir for the client to take home with them and hopefully frame! The best part of my job is making art that people will appreciate to take home with them and hang on their wall.
4. How long does it usually take you to draw or design one piece? It really all depends on what the job is! Some pieces take me very little time if the idea comes quickly and naturally. (These are usually the best pieces that I create). Sometimes I can finish something in a few hours. Other times when I’m dealing with a client who is particular, or if it’s a large project, I can spend up to three or four days working on one illustration. When I do my live sketching events, I am able to create an illustration in as little as 15-20 minutes. It really just depends! I try to find new techniques that allow me to work quicker and be more efficient.
5. What companies have you worked for? Elle girl Japan, Marie Claire, J. Crew, Glamour, Roger Vivier, Madame Figaro, Fiat, Ford Motor Company, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Hugo Boss, Pandora Jewelry, Women’s Health magazine, Neutrogena, Avanti Press, Avantages magazine, Undiz, Commons & Sense, Femina Magazine Cohn & Wolfe, Les Senteurs Tropéziennes, Clin d’œil magazine, Laurence King Publishing, Hachette.
6. Where do you get your inspiration? I am very inspired by looking at other artists, photographers and designers. I think it’s important to see what other people are doing creatively. I would also say that traveling has been a big part of my inspiration. I lived in Paris for six years, and while I was there I was able to travel around Europe. Different cultures, languages, food and lifestyle have affected my creative process!
7. What is your favorite thing to draw? I love to draw women, dresses and shoes!
8. How would describe your illustrating/drawing style? I create feminine pieces that are made with graphite, watercolor, ink, charcoal, colored pencil and found textures. It’s all about a feeling and an attention to detail that make my work different than other fashion illustrations. I strive to find a balance between being playful and precise in my work by combining traditional and digital methods.
9. Do you have any special tips or tricks to protect your hands? The dirtier the better. You aren’t a real artist if you hands are clean all the time.
10. What is the most exciting part of your job/skill? I never know what my next project will be. I’ve worked with many different people from around the world that have pushed me to do different things. I actually have more clients from France. That’s the best part about working in freelance — I can work anywhere and with anyone…wherever they may be.
11. What was the most challenging project that you worked on? I think the project I am currently working on is the hardest project yet. The main reason it’s hard is because I am not working directly with the client. I am working through my agency who is working through another agency who works through the clients. When there are too many people working on one thing, it can get confusing along the way. Communication is key, and when thing don’t start off clear on both ends, then it’s hard to get a hold of in the end.
12. Who was your first major client and how did they find you? My first major client was BE magazine. It’s not big over in the United States but it’s a popular magazine in France. They found me through my agent, Colagene, when I had just started working with them in 2010.
13. Who is your favorite artist? I have too many favorites. A few of my favorites are Rene Gruau, David Downton, Bob Peak, Cecilia Carlstedt and Aurore de la Morinerie.
14. Who are your favorite fashion designers? I always love Dior and how their runway shows are just pure magic. I especially loved Dior when John Galliano designed for them. Yves Saint Laurent for its pure, simplistic design — I love the drawings by YSL. Giambattista Valli and Marchesa for their feminine, romantic collections.
15. Who would you like to collaborate with in the future? I would love to work on a project with Kate Spade. It’s such a fun, colorful, quirky brand. I could see applying my illustrations to their brand. I would also love to illustrate my own book, something based on fashion illustration, travel and lifestyle. And of course I would love to do more live sketching events. A dream job of mine would be to sketch at Fashion Week.
16. Where is your favorite place to shop in Detroit and in France? I love to shop at Somerset. My favorite go-to shops are Nordstrom, J. Crew and Ann Taylor. I love how downtown Detroit has grown since I used to live down there during my CCS days back in 2006. I hope that more shops will come to downtown Detroit because there is nothing like shopping in a city setting! Right now, I always go to the Nike store in downtown Detroit. I am a big gym rat and love athletic wear in general so loving Nike comes naturally to me. In Paris, there are so many shopping options… If I really want to shop for a little bit of everything in one place then I go to Printemps. This is their equivalent to Nordstrom over in France. A couple of my favorite stores a la francaise are Maje and Sandro. These are definitely splurges, but if you are looking for a statement piece, not in the sense of fancy but high quality, then I would go here. My everyday go-to in France is Zara. As for now, I do most of my shopping online!
17. What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming an illustrator? The industry is very competitive so you need to just go for it and give it your all. If you think you have it then I would say explore many different mediums and ways of working. Familiarize yourself with all of the programs out there. Sketch from life. Explore, explore, explore. Look at art every day. Research illustration history. There is so much to learn! I also think it’s important to familiarize yourself with the business of illustration. You can be the very best illustrator out there, but if you don’t know how to market yourself, then you will be lost. No one is going to do it for you. Even if you have an agent you still need to remember that you are working for yourself. You are your own brand. Promote your work through social media, join a sketch group, find a mentor — get out there! Also my last piece of advice…don’t expect to get rich being an illustrator. Do it because you love If you love it, then it will show through your work!
18. What projects are you working on now or in the upcoming months? I am currently working on a big project for a French luxury private sale website. I’m not sure if I can mention their name yet. It consists of 25 fashion illustrations for their website. I also just finished a job for Roger Vivier, a French luxury shoe and handbag brand. I worked on three illustrations that were used as greeting cards for their internal team. This was such a fun job and exactly what I love to do!
19. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? I see myself doing exactly what I do now. I love having the opportunity to freelance illustrate from home. I’ve worked with so many different people and projects right from my desk. It has allowed me to stay at home with my babies and watch them grow into little girls. I love what I do and hope to continue to do better and more in the future.
20. Would you ever consider working in the film industry? Good question. I’ve never thought of that before, but I’ll never say never!