From fashion illustration to fashion portrait: the journey of an artist
Sharan Ranshi elevates the long-limbed, sketchy model into the world of fine art.
It’s a new life for fashion illustration: one that abandons the blank page and lands drawn women in a storm of salon-luxe color, giving them moods and personalities that make women themselves a interesting thing – not just the clothes they’ve been sketched in.
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“I started out doing fashion illustration and it turned more into portraiture where obviously the clothes are important, but the background is too,” Ranshi told WWD from his home in the UK. “So it’s like a full painting, whereas a fashion illustration can be more of a quick sketch or drawing. It takes me a while to do and I really think about what kind of woman would wear the clothes, what situation I can imagine this woman sitting in, what kind of interiors in. And those are usually things that inspire me.
Most of Ranshi’s works feature women in various states of rest in sculptural chairs or lounge chairs, in home settings where wallpaper, rugs, lamps and tables are parades of multicolored prints, and flora often pops up on end tables or wraps around the subject itself. The clothes, always highlighted in various prints, are current, sometimes off the runway, sometimes a piece from a specific designer or collection, always chic.
The British Indian artist draws inspiration in part from her journey – not only as a graduate of Central Saint Martins in print design, or having spent four years living in India where her painting began – but also as a as the child of Indian parents who were raised in Kenya after the partition of India in 1947, before moving to the UK, where Ranshi was born and raised.
“All these prints and colors, it really comes from this heritage, this kind of mixed heritage, which is why I really like mixing prints,” she says. “Everything is linked to this mixture of cultural influences. And I love picking up influences from everywhere, but it definitely influences the way I work.
Sometimes Ranshi’s inspiration comes straight from the fashion week shows.
This spring 2023 exhibition, designers big and small have given the artist fodder for future work.
“I really liked someone like Kevin Germanier…I think he used recycled toys for his collection this time, but just the colors I thought were brilliant. And Valentino, it’s always really nice classic shapes, which is always inspiring. And the colors, his use of color, I think it’s great,” Ranshi says. “I [also] I love all the up-and-coming little London designers. There’s a guy Ed Curtis who does these hand drawn swirls on t-shirts and I really want to do a painting with one of his t-shirts because I just think he’s brilliant, j love what he does.
When it’s not fashion week, Ranshi finds inspiration everywhere.
“I will see all these amazing designs and it inspires me or if I saw an amazing print somewhere it doesn’t have to be something on a fashion item it could be a piece of fabric on a sofa or a curtain that I saw,” she says. “Or I get inspired by certain colors and then I create my own print.” As for furnishings, Milan’s Nilufar Gallery for Furniture design and vintage and home decor is where some of his painting pieces can be found.
Everything Ranshi does is hand drawn because she says it’s “old fashioned like that”, and her medium is either acrylic, watercolor or gouache on paper. The reproductions are giclée printed on museum quality fine art paper, she says it’s so good, “sometimes I have to look and think which is my print and which is the original.”
Although the artist does commissions for individuals, she also works directly with designers and labels to bring their pieces to life in new ways. Saloni is the one whose dresses landed directly in Ranshi’s domestic scenes.
“I love her dresses because there’s a lot of beautiful prints and she gives me free rein, really, to do whatever I want, which is really nice,” Ranshi said of the founder and designer of the brand, Saloni Lodha.
In some cases, she paints products she loves into her pieces, like Olivia Morris at Home’s beloved Daphne bow slippers.
The artist works on a small scale (A3 paper size, 11.75 inches by 16.5 inches is his largest) partly to give the greatest attention to detail and partly because of some of his influences.
“I really like Persian miniature painting, Indian miniature painting as well, which really influences my work in terms of modern influences,” she says.
But Ranshi’s process, especially when it comes to capturing the mood of her fashion portraits, is a selfish endeavour, the artist admits.
“It must be something I like,” she said. “I can almost imagine how I would feel, what kind of room would I be sitting in if I was wearing these fabulous clothes surrounded by these fabulous interiors.”
The ideal client for his work?
“I would love Dries Van Noten, Nina Yashar [of Nilufar Gallery in Milan] and India Mahdavi [architectural designer] to own or commission art from me, because I think they are all in impeccable taste,” Ranshi says.
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