Francesco Lo Iacono on fashion illustration, mastery of watercolor and his new book


Having been in drawing and painting since he was a child, when he spent his time filling school books with endless sketches, Francesco would continue to study fine art at a higher level. Oddly, however, he had no immediate interest in fashion and was more interested in photography. However, inspirational editorials in fashion magazines sparked his fascination with the industry, and soon after he moved to Paris to work in the womenswear department of a trend forecasting industry.

During this time, Francesco began to take his career as a fashion illustrator more seriously and realized that fashion illustration could bring together all of his interests. His eagerness and enthusiasm for the medium paid off. He’s since been enlisted by top customers, including high-end department stores and respected fashion magazines that caught his eye all those years ago.

In his recently published first book, Watercolor fashion illustration, Francesco shares what he has learned from his career so far to help fashion illustrators just starting out or looking to change and enter the industry. We caught up with him to find out more.

What made you want to release Aquarelle Fashion Illustration?

Ever since I started working as a fashion illustrator, I have always had this little dream of creating and publishing my own book. I would say it was also a matter of timing. I had the pleasure of leading a Fashion Life Drawing class in London for over two years. I loved sharing my tips with other illustrators, working alongside talented young fashion designers and models. Unfortunately, the pandemic struck, so I had to stop everything.

Around the same time, I reached out to my publisher and they thought it might be a good time for a watercolor-focused fashion illustration book, and soon after we had our first Zoom meeting to discuss further details about the book. It was at the start of the very first lockdown in the UK, and that’s when I started working on my book. In a way, I see this book as the natural continuation of my fashion illustration workshop.

Are watercolors particularly suitable for fashion illustration?

Watercolor is extremely versatile. This is one of the things that makes it unique. In the arts and illustration, watercolor has been used in very different ways. Personally, watercolor has been a natural choice, but I also think watercolor can easily adapt to my style of fashion illustration, which can be considered traditional and classic in a way.

In the book, I often mention how I find watercolor to be perfectly suited to solving certain problems or representing something in particular. For example, there is a whole section devoted to how to render certain fabrics and textures in watercolor, and they have been carefully chosen in order to highlight the value of watercolor in that specific use.

Who is the book primarily aimed at, fashion students, or people planning to study fashion in the future?

I have really done my best to make this book useful and compelling for many people. The book is aimed above all at those who genuinely love fashion, illustration and watercolor. Those who love all three, just like me, will find this book the perfect option.

At the same time, throughout the book, I believe I have given valuable tips and advice not only on the watercolor technique but also on the career of a fashion illustrator itself, and to a greater extent, this than it is to be an artist. While I start with the basics, I end up touching on other aspects of being an illustrator, such as developing your style, digitizing your work, and keeping a professional and responsible attitude as a creative.

When I was leading my fashion illustration workshop, I met many different people who were at different stages of their creative journey: fashion students, professional artists, people who wanted to reconnect with their creative side after years of absence. So in writing the book I took that into consideration and tried to give everyone something.

If readers could take one thing out of your book, what would it be?

I think I would really like people to feel, through the pages of my book, all the love and passion I have for this technique and for my job. And with love, also the commitment necessary to succeed as an artist and illustrator.

Watercolor is considered a difficult medium to master. What’s the secret to using them well?

I am aware that watercolor can be viewed this way, and I understand why. In the book I give a lot of information on how to approach watercolor for the first time, offering all my knowledge, and I hope by the end you will be able to master watercolor. But with my guidance, it is necessary to be open, patient, courageous and dedicated. Practice is of course the key to getting the most out of the book. So maybe continuing to practice is the real secret. There are no shortcuts, but I’m happy to share my tips for making your creative path easier and more enjoyable. Also, I think it’s important to keep the fun going. It’s a way to keep exploring the technique and learning.

What advice would you give to people who are considering getting into fashion illustration?

I feel blessed to be able to explore my creativity as a fashion illustrator every day. It has been and still is a breathtaking journey, and I think a mixture of patience, passion and practice has brought me to where I am now.

Build a comprehensive portfolio that shows everything you can accomplish to earn the trust of potential clients and secure their commissions. Each artist has a different path, don’t compare yourself to others and keep focusing on your craft and your art.

Keep practicing and learning, keep feeding your creativity and be patient as this journey may take some time.


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