Richard Haines is among today’s most sought-after fashion illustrators. It is not uncommon to see Haines seated in the front row at Fashion Week’s most desirable shows, busily creating drawings for clients including TheNew York Times and InStyle magazine. Recently, he’s had two exhibitions in New York City: “The Line of Beauty” at Envoy Enterprises on Chrystie Street (2009) and “The Line Exposed: Selected Erotica” at John Bartlett (2010). Next month he is included in “The Boys of Bushwick,” a group show at Norte Maar Gallery in Brooklyn, opening April 1.
Fuller+Roberts Co. in Los Angeles is presenting his first West Coast exhibition, curated by Diane Rosenstein. The exhibition, April 8 to May 7, will consist of original drawings — many published in The New York Times as well as on the artist’s wildly popular blog, What I Saw Today.
Fuller+Roberts Co. is a design gallery and showroom founded by screenwriter Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies) and interior decorator Scott Roberts. Inside the new La Cienega space is a carefully edited selection of 20th-century design, an eponymous house collection, and fine art photography.
The Advocate: Why are you an artist?
Richard Haines: Hmm. Good question. I don't think I could really be anything else — aside from a fashion designer, which I did for years. I always think of the movie Auntie Mame when she gets a temp job and the switchboard blows up — that's me. I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil — I think for me it was a way of surviving, of being, of existing. And later it became a way of supporting myself. I'm now at the point where I realize my art is my voice, it's what I have to say about the world, and people seem to want to listen, so it's pretty awesome.
What catches your eye?
People who hold themselves a certain way, who have a certain kind of swagger. Guys with style, and that doesn't mean a guy wearing a lot of expensive clothes. It's more about a person who is confident, has a great sense of themselves, is sensual, humorous, alive. Right now the long, lean line of a guy in a small jacket or pea coat and tapered pants is so much fun to sketch.
Tell us about your process or techniques.
I think my technique is pretty old-school — right now I'm using charcoal pencils and acrylic paints, and playing around with new materials and papers. I think part of what makes my work interesting to people is the subject — guys on the street — and the fact that I mix it up with social media. Everything I do is scanned, blogged, tweeted and Facebooked. So it's a mix of old-school and new technology.
How do you choose your subjects?
The other day I was thinking, OMG, I can approach the sexiest, most well-put-together guys to sketch for my blog — is this a dream job or what!? I love what I do, so I'm out all the time, and I'm always looking. I've seen some of the most amazing people at my local coffee place or on the train into Manhattan. I also go to a lot of events, clubs, and parties, so the issue isn't that I don't know what to sketch, it's more how do I keep up with this and how to determine what makes it on the blog and what doesn't. New York never disappoints in that respect.
How do you describe your work?
That's another really good question. I work very quickly, so it's really about capturing the moment, the gesture, or that second. It's why I always carry a sketchbook. If I see someone on the train, I like to get it down ASAP — so I think there's a spontaneity there that people respond to. It's also very untechnical. I leave all the smudges and mistakes in my work. I’d say it's not about perfection, but more about being human and real.
What makes a good artwork to you?
I think honesty is a big part of drawing the viewer into the work. Is it genuine, real, or is it fake? People can sense that a mile away, and people don't like feeling duped or talked down to. When I'm sketching I'm really, really happy. When I see someone on the street who catches my eye I turn into a giddy 5-year-old and all I want to do is get what I see on paper. And I think people pick up on that excitement and freshness and it makes them want to be a part of it too. As an artist I love that ability.
And I also think good artwork comes for a lot of work and discipline. I sketch every day now, so I give myself the opportunity to work on my technique, to try new mediums, and to work at getting better. I’ve had so many students who thought style could happen without knowing the basics and working constantly, and it just doesn't happen that way.
What artists do you take inspiration from and why?
There are so many great artists who inspire me. Anyone from Matisse, who mastered the quick, brief, strong line, to fashion illustrators like Antonio [Lopez], who was able to take modern cultural references and incorporate them to make strong, dynamic illustrations. I have an obsession with artists from the ’30 s and ’40s: Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Eric, and later René Bouché and René Gruau. So much beauty to learn and be inspired from and to translate into our world.