If you read magazines, chances are you’ve seen Melbourne illustrator Sarah Hankinson’s pieces livening up the page. Hankinson has captivated audiences with her use of minimalist line and juicy splashes of colour, using both traditional and mixed media. Hankinson is co-founder of The Windsor Workshop, a Melbourne-based studio, and Santiago Sunbird, a creative services agency. You can also find her in group and solo shows across Australia and, we predict, soon the world.
When was the moment that you realized you wanted to be an illustrator?
I’ve always loved and felt very passionate about drawing. When I was studying I tossed between fine art and graphic design, none of them quite right for me. Illustration was the perfect combination of the two! It was so exciting to discover illustration and that I could make a living doing something I love.
Why fashion illustration?
I feel like I never really made this choice, I just fell into it. I love fashion so it was natural for me to draw this kind of imagery and direct my career on this path.
What is your source of inspiration?
I could spend hours on end looking on blogs and fashion and beauty sites; they really do inspire me! Beautiful fashion photography inspires me, but so do many other things more indirectly such as fabrics, exhibitions, colour combinations, different cultures, an amazing garment, movies, and music.
How did you refine your signature style?
My work is strongly fashion-oriented and generally made up from layered pencil and a hint of colour. I’d say my style is quite simplistic, usually focusing on one detail; some of the pieces are elegant and some of them are playful. I love capturing beauty in an illustration and work to create beautiful youthful imagery. I try to make each piece a balance of light and dark, thick and thin, clean and crisp lines, empty and full space. Three words to sum my illustrations up would be: feminine, pretty and youthful.
You like to use mixed media, but do you have a favourite technique?
I like to use crisp clean lines to draw my subject and then bring in an element of freedom in watercolours or ink to contrast the linework. I love watercolours; I feel the boundaries of using them are endless, and even though I have been using them for years, I’m only just beginning to explore what can be done with them.
Do you have a one favourite illustration amongst your work?
I love the piece entitled Hubba Bubba. It is based on a photograph by my friend. She is Frank and the composition is quite striking.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Last year I was commissioned by USA Target to create an illustration as a profile picture for their Facebook page. Each month they have a different worldwide illustrator and it was such an honour to be featured alongside such amazing illustrators as Kathryn Elyse Rodgers and Swedish illustrator Stina Persson, who has inspired me greatly, particularly when I was starting out.
Do you have a favourite artist?
I love the freedom and confidence of Julie Verhoeven, Vita Yang and Kat Macleod’s illustrations. They are so simple yet so striking.
Can you describe the art/fashion scene in Melbourne?
The art/fashion scene in Melbourne is flourishing! So many people are doing such great things and everyone is very supportive of each other. It’s so inspiring to live in a city full of such illustration talent.
The Australian fashion world has gained a lot of recognition over the last few years; have you seen changes in how Australians view fashion illustration through this?
I think Australians are appreciating and becoming more aware of fashion illustration. Our fashion festivals always incorporate elements of illustration into their programs, which is nice.
Some have said that illustration is a dying art form; how do you feel about the subject?
I think there will always be a place for illustration and it has made a resurgence in the last 10 years. I feel people will always appreciate the hand-touched uniqueness and feel of illustration as a visual luxury. Illustration can capture the spirit and essence of a brand or designer in an intimate way that cannot be matched by photography.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator?
I’m sure I would be doing something creative. I also run a studio, so perhaps more of that, or running a gallery!
If you could move anywhere in the world and work, where would you go?
I have two quite different desires; one would be New York and the other Spain. I am going to New York for a few months later this year and it has been somewhere I have always wanted to go and somewhere I think I will love; the creative energy seems amazing. In contrast, I could also see myself living in the quiet countryside in Spain, drinking sangria, eating tapas and drawing the day away!
If you could speak to any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
I love the work of Bernadette Pascua, and would love to meet and chat with her about her work.
Any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Work hard! Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t happen straight away, it takes time and commitment. If you are passionate you can make it happen.
What are your goals for the next 5 years in your career?
I have just started working with my sister on a creative services agency: Santiago Sunbird. We are working on design with a more illustrative and handmade feel, and I am really enjoying stepping away from fashion and spreading my wings in more illustrative forms. I hope to expand this further in the future. I’d love to gain a few high-end fashion labels as clients and perhaps work on something a little different like an animation or coffee table book.