Conversations: Fashion Illustrator Sue Dray
12 September 2018
You will often find Sue Dray, donning a gravity-defying fascinator, sat front row at London fashion week, sketching runway looks as they go on her iPadPro. A prominent figure in the world of illustration, Sue’s career has been defined by raucous moments of madness and creativity — drawing for fashion icons like Vivienne Westwood and Pam Hogg. 
In conversation with Sue Dray, we talk about her life’s next big milestone. After leaving her role as the Head of Fashion Illustration at the London College of Fashion - Sue once again finds her life in a state of flux. To Sue however, this only signals the beginning of a new phase in her art, and a chance to explore uncharted territory. What’s next for Sue? We can only hazard a guess. Because her life is just as ‘haptic’ as the illustrations that have characterised her wonderfully ‘less ordinary’ career. 
Tell us a little bit about yourself what you do/your idea/your business does?
My work as a fashion illustrator is about drawing from the catwalk. I am bi-annually invited to draw at London Fashion Week to draw the runway looks of different designers. I quickly discovered that the runway was my studio. It’s where I feel the most inspired - I love the madness and full on creativity.
Photo by Celina Villegas
Do the spaces that you work and spend time in play a part in influencing your thought processes and ideas?
My current project is at the Villa Lena Foundation in Tuscany, as an Artist in Residence and Creative Contributor. This experience has allowed me to experiment with oils as a medium, which is something I have wanted to do forever. The heat is so intense that, as soon as I lay out my palette in acrylics, they dry up immediately! So using oil paints allow me to slow down and let the paint weave its magic. I am planning an exhibition in London and Florence exhibiting the outcome of the work produced in this residency next year

"It’s the constant practice that gives you the confidence to make your lines dance. It takes only minutes to draw, but a lifetime of practice to be confident in your mark and just let it be."
In what ways do you push the boundaries and try to be ‘less ordinary’?
How I push my boundaries is by staying young at heart. I suppose it’s never getting caught in a time trap and always looking to the future. When Apple asked me to test its new iPadPro for them with their new Apple pencil, I jumped at the chance and I saw the future of illustration. 
My catwalk drawings are about responding to a moment. It is ’haptic’ and is all about capturing the essence, flow, attitude, silhouette, and feel of the season as seen in a fleeting vision. For me that’s it, I rarely work on the drawings retrospectively, as this only ruins the work. It has to be live and instant. If you don’t capture it then, it’s over and lost. It’s the constant practice that gives you the confidence to make your lines dance. It takes only minutes to draw, but a life time of practice to be confident in your mark and just let it be.
What do you love most about London? Is there anything in the city that motivates your creativity?
London is my home town and I adore it. It’s a diverse mix of people and cultures, so you can never be bored or uninspired. I travel from my home in Battersea Park to locations all over London just so I can draw. My favourite sessions are with the Arts Model Collective who put on amazingly detailed and meticulously themed drawing evenings at the Underdog Gallery in London Bridge. I travel to Dalston for their infamous Sketch Sesh evenings.
Whenever I am in New York, I try and coincide my visits to attend the monthly drawing evenings at The Society of Illustrators. It’s run by the super talented fashion illustrator Bill Donovan. They are packed with New York creatives and you draw, drink, eat, and socialise together. The models are Amazonian and the collections are contemporary — it’s a great evening out.
What trusted ‘less ordinary’ place in London do you find yourself going back to time and time again? 
I am always looking for vintage or charity clothes and love to find unusual finds. I also can’t resist buying jewellery and the basement at Grey’s Antique Market in Bond Street is the perfect place to get reasonably priced 50s and 60s pieces. The last piece I brought was a single silver hand by Askew and everyone comments on it - such a find. If you are ever in Amsterdam and love vintage, you have to visit Laura Dols on Wolvenstraat it’s a hidden gem and the clothes are impeccable and carefully selected.
Which ‘less ordinary’ B&Bs, hotels or apartments have you discovered and fell in love with in other cities you travel to? 
One of my favourite Italian restaurants in New York, il buco, has just opened in Ibiza , and  you have to visit if you find yourself in either places. In Paris, I like Le Barbe du Papa in Rue Lentonnet. It can be found just around the corner from The Paris College of Art in the Gard du Nord district and is for the local Parisians. The food is totally authentic, as is the atmosphere. However, I always think that the best places to drink, eat, and be entertained are the places you find yourself by being curious and venturing out! 
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies

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