#IllustratorPOV: Renshou Zhang

As a Draw A Dot. reader, you have seen a lot of great illustrations from around the world. In order for you to know the illustrators more, We have decided to continue our new section #IllustrationPOV. Today we are presenting you one of our favourite illustrators – Renshou Zhang.

Loewe Fall 2016 Illustration - Courtesy of Renshou Zhang
Loewe Fall 2016 Illustration – Courtesy of Renshou Zhang

Renshou Zhang is a Chinese born New Yorker illustrator. His work shows a wide range of technical and stylistic abilities, but it’s his runway look illustrations that are catching our attention today. Simple yet precise, Renshou captures the essence of the catwalk moment with a few brushstrokes. You can feel the way the model is walking and the dress reacting to the movement, all so naturally. His talent has granted him multiple wins for The Society of Illustrators student competitions, and his illustrations have been showcased in magazines like Chinese Rogue and Dolce and Gabbana Swide. He has worked in textile design projects with fashion and couture house Marchesa, and made an illustrated storybook for Thom Browne, which the brand also decided to present Rhensou’s illustrations as big murals on the wall for an event held at Joseph Fashion’s flagship store in London.

You can think of his work as minimalistic yet expressive. I love the way he brings down the looks to just the basic textures and shapes, proving you don’t need to be a hyper-realistic painter to achieve accuracy. His precision derives from his ability to convey movement and proportion abstracting the very basic components of each look. Let’s see what he has to say about his work and life as an illustrator.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2015 Illustration - Courtesy of Renshou Zhang
Ralph Lauren Spring 2015 Illustration – Courtesy of Renshou Zhang

How did you start as an illustrator?
I came to the US for college majoring in animation at the beginning, and quickly realized it wasn’t my passion. So I switched my major to illustration right after the first semester.  I happened to have an internship at Marchesa after graduation, where I developed quite some knowledge in custom painting and fashion.  The experience inspired me to start creating fashion illustrations and share them online. After that, to my surprise, more and more clients came to me for my fashion work.  That’s when I decided to start my career as an illustrator.

How would you describe your illustration style?
Painterly, bold and dramatic.

Name 3 fashion creators that move or inspire you (designers, photographers, fashion personalities, other illustrators, you decide!)
My new favorite designer is Johnny Coca.  He’s putting magic to Mulberry.  I also love Ty Wilson and Steven Stipelman‘s work.

Valentino Spring 2016 Illustration - Courtesy of Renshou Zhang
Valentino Spring 2016 Illustration – Courtesy of Renshou Zhang

When looking at your portfolio we can see some digital art and print designs. How did you change from that style to your characteristic simple brushstrokes?
I created most of the digital art in school, and I’m likely to take them down from my site soon. My parents didn’t really understand what I was studying, and they always had the concern that I wouldn’t be able to make a living as an artist which really stressed me out during my school years.  I thought creating work digitally was just easier and more “practical”, though my professors opposed that thought.  They believed I could do a lot more and a lot better than what I got.  But I just didn’t dare to step out of my comfort zone at the time.

While interning at Marchesa, the team loved pretty much everything I painted, and it really boosted up my confidence. It also got me thinking, why not paint my own work if I could paint well on those dresses?  So I went home and created my first fashion illustration for Marc by Marc Jacobs Fall 2014.  The following days Marc Jacobs tumblr reposted my work, which was such an endorsement.  So I just continued to paint more and more.

What led you to illustrate the runway looks and how do you manage to capture the essence of each look so well?
I think there’s always a focal point on each design, and the essence I capture from a look could be different with the designer’s intention.  It’s actually the most fun to put in my personal take on each look and bring out the drama and the story I see.  It’s a part of personal stylization after all.

Oscar de la Renta Fall 2015 Illustration - Courtesy of Renshou Zhang
Oscar de la Renta Fall 2015 Illustration – Courtesy of Renshou Zhang

What are some of the obstacles you face as an illustrator?
I think I’ve learned an enormous lot through all the obstacles along the way, and I don’t know if I should define those things as obstacles anymore.

What’s your dream as an illustrator?
There are too many.  Well, since my recent fashion crush is Johnny Coca, I hope I’ll get a chance to collaborate with Mulberry one day.

You’ve collaborated with big design houses such as Marchesa and Thom Browne. Tell us about those experiences! How did you get the opportunity to work with them? What impact did it have for your professional life?
I had an internship with Marchesa right after graduation.  They needed a painter to create hand painted textiles on their couture dresses, so I was taken in after passing the painting/drawing test on my first day.  They loved what I did and continued to offer me several freelance projects after the internship.  I think my Marchesa experience definitely broaden my eyes and led me into the world of fashion illustration.

The Thom Browne team approached me first after discovering my work online.  I never asked where they saw my work but I think Draw A Dot. sure helped me to gain some more exposure at the time!

Ralph Lauren Spring 2015Illustration - Courtesy of Renshou Zhang
Ralph Lauren Spring 2015Illustration – Courtesy of Renshou Zhang

Fast 5!

We ask our illustrators 5 quick questions to answer with the first thing that comes to mind!

How would you describe your personal fashion style?
Easy, casual with a simple twist.

Favorite season: Spring – Summer or Fall – Winter?
Early Summer in New York is the best.

What’s your favorite music to listen while you do your work?
I don’t listen to music when I work haha.

Name your favorite animated movie or character.
Paprika.  Satoshi Kon is amazing!

What are your 3 favorite artists of all time?
Yoshitaka Amano, Erte and Monet

Courtesy of Renshou Zhang
Personal Work – Courtesy of Renshou Zhang

We want to thank Renshou for his time and sharing his POV with us! To see more of his work, you can visit his social media and portfolio links:

Website: www.renshouzhang.com
Instagram: @renshouzhang
Behance: www.behance.net/renshouzhang

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