With work for top fashion brands like Marella, Prada, and Swarovski; fashion Illustrator Marcela Gutiérrez has made a name for herself with her large, evocative watercolor paintings which depict beautiful women who are often times models. Born in Florida, but raised in Guatemala, Gutiérrez originally wanted to be a designer but a series of events led to her career in illustration. Recently, FGR had the opportunity to interview the creative about her inspirations, work process, struggles getting to success and much more.
…at the beginning [the money] wasn’t enough to live off of. I had my first exhibition and I remember thinking that I had to push myself and do something different so I decided to do very big paintings with ink and watercolor. I had never painted with watercolors and I had never worked with such a big format but it worked.
How did you get started in illustration?
I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting since I was quite young. I did the Central Saint Martins Fashion Design BA and went to work for Alexander McQueen with the hope to design but as soon as I arrived all I did was illustration for prints and hand painted show pieces. The hours were long so I did many illustrations and developed an extensive portfolio of illustrations. I remember when I found myself jobless, I would self commission myself all sorts of illustrations, and I would also illustrate my friends in Barcelona, I didn’t have any money so I would give them their portrait as a birthday gift. That’s when I started getting commissions as an illustrator.
What was the big breakthrough?
Still, at the beginning it wasn’t enough to live off of. I had my first exhibition and I remember thinking that I had to push myself and do something different so I decided to do very big paintings with ink and watercolor. I had never painted with watercolors and I had never worked with such a big format but it worked because I was fortunate to have sold nearly all of the paintings so that kickstarted my profession as an illustrator.
What was your first major job?
I think the paintings for the Prada wallpapers in the Soho and L.A. flagship stores.
What is your process when working?
I start with a bit of research for color and composition, I then proceed to draw and paint, it does take me a few days, depending on the complexity of the painting. I absolutely must listen to music, I’m usually alone working so it feels like having company.
We notice you have worked with Prada before. Did Prada ask for anything specific or were you given free reign?
I worked twice with them, one was for the Minimal Baroque sunglasses, the brief was totally free. The second time was for their wallpapers and the brief was nearly made to measure, from the starting point of the illustrations adorning classic bodice-rippers and pulp fiction paperbacks I featured super-sized close-cropped watercolor portraits of Prada models and the clothing was interpreted in a more spontaneous impressionistic stroke.
What are your inspirations?
Lately, I am looking a lot at the work of Howard Hodgkin, David Hockney, CY Twombly, Jenny Saville, Christian Schoeler, Matisse, Le Corbusier, Luis Barragán among others. For designers I love Céline, Marni, Isa Arfen, Givenchy, Lanvin, Stella McCartney, Prada, Arthur Arbesser, Isabel Marant, 6eme Galerie, Miu Miu, and now Louis Vuitton since Nicolas Ghesquière is on board.
What do you consider the highlight of your career so far?
It’s so hard to reduce that to one highlight. For me it was a dream come true when I worked with Prada, when I worked with Beyoncé, also the work I did with Ezra Petronio for Le bon Marché, and recently I had the opportunity to collaborate with Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin for my first ever campaign for Marella featuring Milla Jovovich.
How would you describe your personal style in three phrases?
DIY, lost and found topped with a hat.
When you’re not working, what are some of your hobbies?
I love cooking, watching movies, and I like to tell myself that exercise is a hobby too.
Can you tell us about any future project you are working on?
I’m currently working on Faction, my first exhibition in NYC inspired on Diana Vreeland.