Hong Kong based artist Tanya Bennett aka ‘Pirate’ has been creating quite a buzz in the fashion industry with her chic and edgy illustrations. With major fashion brands including Christian Louboutin, Ted Baker, Rebecca Minkoff and many others lining up for her paintings, this 32-year-old free spirited artist warms up to ‘The Exquisite Edge’
EE: A British girl working in Hong Kong, how did that happen for you?
I studied clothing design &: manufacturing in Scotland with the explicit intent that it would assist me to move to Asia eventually. A fewweeks post my graduation; I was on a plane with all my worldly possessions in a single suitcase.
EE Let’s begin with your first big break in Hong Kong …
My first major project in Hong Kong was the LKF project. Lan Kwai Fong is an entertainment hotspot and one of its major buildings called California Tower was getting revamped. Four years on, it continues to remain a cornerstone piece in my portfolio.
EE Tell us a bit about your working process.
I always start with a pencil sketch and color it with watercolors and ink – both mediums I love for their fluidity and ability to surprise you. I often also use eye shadow as it has a beautiful blending potential. Lastly, I do a high-resolution scan into Photoshop and a touch-up where necessary. I like to experiment with 3D objects in my work, such as origami flowers.
EE How did learning about fashion help you with your illustrations?
I studied design and manufacturing, and as a result it gave me an understanding of patterns, garment construction and of how fabrics fall on the body, all of which translated into my drawings.
EE What made you think of combining art and fashion?
At University, I was required to conceptualize and produce lines of clothing and for me illustration played an enormous part in that process. In addition to the technical sketches, I felt it was vital to capture the essence of the clothing and the influences behind it, and incorporated those in my illustrations in any way I could. I ended up writing my dissertation thesis on the use of fashion illustration in fashion advertising.
EE Your work has gone big league now with major fashion brands wanting to work with you, how did this happen?
For me, living in Hong Kong has been instrumental in the development of my career. It is a special city that encourages entrepreneurial spirit and values the network channels that are available. Being social and attending events are essential to someone in my field and there are many individuals who are always willing to help. In addition, I value social media as an enormous component of my business. Free platforms, such as Instagram, provide young emerging artists a place to share their accomplishments and to be noticed.
EE: Any upcoming interesting future plans or projects you would like to share with us?
My plan for the coming 12 months is to expand my business with merchandise, through retail and e-commerce. I am developing a line of limited edition, hand finished prints and also greetings cards, gift-wraps and other small items.
EE: You work with major luxury brands and yet live in a quaint fishing village in Hong Kong. How do you make that work?
I live on Lamma, an island 20 minutes from the city by ferry. Since Lamma has no cars and no high-rise buildings it is very peaceful and very green. The rent is far less expensive and the spaces bigger which in um draws a lot of artists, musicians and people from other creative fields. I need the breathing that it provides me to be able to remain creative.
EE: In your experience what does it take to make it in the creative world? Do share it with our upcoming illustrators.
You have to be confident of your own abilities. Illustration is very subjective and each illustrator has his or her own unique style. Open up to new experiences that will influence your art and get you out of your comfort zone.
EE: If there were one piece of advice you would like to give other Illustrators out there?
If you get rejected by one client doesn’t mean that your work is bad, it just may not be the right fit for that particular brief. I love to travel and I think working in a new country opens you to experiences and influences.
EE: If there was one piece of advice you would like to give other illustrators out there?
If you get rejected by one client doesn’t mean that your work is bed, it just not may be the right fit for that particular brief.