How To Spend It Interview - Vida Vega - May 2018

Which is, in your opinion, the reason of the recent boom of illustration in fashion and in interior desing (ie: wallpapers etc)? 
I think after the exciting explosion of digital, graphic aesthetics a few years ago people are rediscovering more crafted, tactile qualities. I feel it’s the same in many spheres of art at the moment - like serif fonts coming back over sans serif typefaces after many years, hand drawn/puppeted animation in films (like Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs)… we are all looking back towards things that are more recognisably human and traditionally artistic. A more innocent time perhaps.

Has this revival to do with the immersive digitalization and the need of a more human interpretation of the world?
I really think so. We are creatures of emotion, feelings, love and we respond to these human qualities anywhere we encounter them. I think as much as we live our lives online now, we all know that a hand written letter means so much more than a text message. It’s the imprecision in the line, the finger prints, the paper… it’s a connection to the person that created it, it’s more than words on a screen. Illustration has that same connection.

Htsi has chosen illustration for its latest adv campaign: in which different ways does illustration enhance the perception of a brand compared to photography?
I’ve done a few projects with fashion/interiors brands recently, and I think one of the biggest differences for me is the ability to inject a little humour into the image. You can create a beautiful sketch, but put in just enough of an edge in the idea that it’s not “just” beauty. It shows the brand is self aware, more relatable, but still artistic. I think people value that.
Also, with illustration you are more inclusive. Because the image is stylised, it’s easier for people to see themselves in it. I think we all measure ourselves against photography and if we don’t recognise ourselves in an image, to some extent we switch off, or think that reality doesn’t apply to us. I love that in one illustration I can represent a broader range of people, I’m always mindful of that.
This particular influential quality illustration has is one of the things I was taught in film school, it’s why in the second world war they used animation and cartoons for propaganda or public information films instead of photography or live action. The message penetrates deeply with a huge range of people because there is a lightness and appealing quality to the medium, and everyone no matter what age or gender can see themselves in a character like a cartoon animal.

Has illustration a more powerful sense of storytelling compared to other media of communication (every illustration conveys the idea of a hidden story behind it). Illustrations seem to catch a moment of a story that probably started and ended some other ways, some other times. Do you work/design with a whole story in mind? 

I think every artistic medium has the capacity to tell a story, each has its own specific qualities.
Illustration certainly allows you to be quite concise, and convey a lot with one image. Some of my biggest inspirations are comic book artists that work in single panel comics. The whole story is there in one perfectly crafted image. The purity of that is staggering.
Personally, my background is as an animation director/film maker so I’m always thinking about narrative in every illustration I do. In a way it’s like directing an actor in a scene. You and the actor fill in the back story - who the character is, what they are thinking, how they feel, where they come from - then all of that informs the line they say or the gestures they make in that moment. In illustration I’m the actor and the director at the same time.
For example, with the HTSI illustration with the couple in the hotel lobby, I wanted to hint that they are on holiday, that they are together and that the man is sort of a romantic. The cover of HTSI he is holding is a sketch of Rodin’s Kiss [A Rodin exhibition is also about to open in London so it fitted with the travel theme]. In a way, he is softer than the woman, I like that she is pulling her own suitcase and is a little stronger. These are tiny details but I think they help give the image a more realistic quality and the story is there if people want to find it.

How do colors/decorations in your images related/collide to the story you want to tell?

Very directly! Again, it’s all about conveying a specific mood or story. For a billboard campaign I did for an interiors brand in California, I drew these caricatures of LA types in vivid oil pastel. I wanted it to be playful, direct, and to have something of the colour and vibrancy of the landscape. Also to remind people a little of the hand painted bodega signs and murals you get everywhere in the Latin communities that are also so much a part of the town.
For something like the work I did for Prada eyewear, it was much more about evoking a tone/feeling. I wanted there to be a kind of intimacy to each image but also a sense of mystery and disconnect. The same way that sunglasses allow you to be present and simultaneously hidden. That paradox was my cue and I think in that project it came out in things like the composition and framing. There is one illustration in particular where a woman is almost entirely out of the frame, you just see her hair, her earring and a slice of dress leaning against a wall. A record player is in the opposite corner and there is a big expanse of orange between them. specks of light travel over the space and it looks like they could be coming from a disco ball. It’s deliberately ambiguous and it puts you in the role of observer/voyeur - do you know her? is she talking to someone out of shot? is it a party? What is the music playing? what time is it? It’s that feeling of being half seen.
For one of my HTSI Italy illustrations (the woman with the dog) I really wanted to put a piece of classic Italian design front and center for Salone del Mobile. I went for a Bertoia chair because it translates so beautifully into simple lines and is so iconically italian. Even small things like the window frame, I wanted to feel like it could have been drawn from a building in Milan. Being half Italian, it’s really fun for me to be able to put these details into the work, it’s my little love letter to home.