Meet GFF Talent Yuxuan Zhou, a second year fashion design student at University of the Creative Arts, Epsom. Alongside design, Zhou’s passion is for illustration — a skill that she’s been honing since childhood. Inspired by Anime and life drawing, she combines styles to create something entirely unique. Read our Q&A with the talented young creative and see some of her varied illustrative styles below!

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What inspired you to begin illustrating and how has your illustration style evolved over time? 

With a strong interest in drawing since kindergarten and formal training in sketching in an art studio when I was in primary school, I developed a strong interest in human form, especially hands, eyes and curvy lines for quick sketches and life drawing. Later influenced by Japanese Anime, which strong influences on my personal style, I started my comic project and study on anime style. While studying art history and theories, I start to seek reference from historical paintings for human form while contemporary art for new means for expression.

After entering university, I was encouraged by my tutor to look for different materials and medium, such as collage and digital painting and also reference to several contemporary fashion illustrators. I gradually move from the previous line drawings and markers to pouring liquid paints over the canvas and mixing marks made from ink, acrylic markers and pastels. With the practice during life drawing sessions, I start to explore exaggerated and overlapping figures, looking for a more organic, interesting but elegant way to present bodies and garments. I think what drives me to continue is the passion to illustrate things exist or do not exist in the world.

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How do your illustrations influence your fashion design?

I usually do quite a lot of sketches along with my design process, the illustration skills facilitate me to visualise my ideas and then I try them out on the stand. I think my illustration style and design style are influencing each other, my design would be influenced by the emphasis of sophisticated femininity in my illustration while for each project I try to look for the best style to express the mood of the project. As my illustration style changes and evolves, so do my design projects.

What techniques do you use when illustrating? 

For fashion illustrations, I prefer traditional medium, which is drawing or paintings on paper and canvas, but I also have a project completely on the digital medium. Technique wise, it is just a little bit hard for me to describe because I just select the tools and colours I think suitable for the project and let it flow on paper. While for my personal sketchbook and illustrations, I usually test different colour combinations and create different textures on a small scale.

When creating an illustration, what is your process? How do you start and what steps do you follow?

I always look for loads of images of fashion shoots in fashion magazines, references of poses such as dance movements or cyborgs corresponding to the project as well as inspiring illustrators for colours and medium. After that I’ll close all the referencing images, start some quick drafts on my “secret idea book” and transfer the poses to A3 paper. With the reference image of my stand work and line ups, I usually start with the large area of colours using watercolour or ink and later zoom to details such as face and the fabric of the garments with fine brushes and pens. 


What direction do you plan to take after university?

I haven't started to think of the concept for my final year as I just finished one project for year 2, but definitely want to try some new techniques in fabric manipulation and push myself in thinking and designing. I also plan to go for postgraduate study after that as I quite enjoy the process of study new skills and techniques, but so far I still do not have a very clear decision.