We spoke with the London artist — best known for his portraits and fashion illustrations — as he celebrates his two-year anniversary as Claridge's first-ever artist-in-residence.
The subject I'm most drawn to...I love drawing at the Paris couture shows. It is a parallel universe where everything is beautiful, a kingdom of indulgence based on artistry, craftsmanship and — why not say it — love.
When I sit down to do a portrait, I begin by...Talking to my sitter, observing, trying to get over any awkwardness on either side. My work is supposed to look effortless and, to be truthful, most of the effort takes place prior to the actual drawing. The important thing for me is to capture the mood, the moment. I am not working in oils or recording someone for posterity; I am responding to the person as I see them...telling the varnished truth. I suppose, ultimately, I am looking for a kind of controlled spontaneity.
My very first art love...Disney animation of the Sixties and the movie posters of Bob Peak and Bob McGuinness.
Most memorable runway show I illustrated...The 1998 Marchesa Casati collection by John Galliano for Dior. It was a hymn to opulence, beauty and excess and the first time I understood the term Fashion Moment.
And portrait sitting...They are all memorable and, in a way, all fun. I loved drawing Catherine Deneuve, who braved a riot and a rainstorm to get to our sitting in Paris; Dita Von Teese naked; Linda Evangelista in couture; Carmen dell'Orefice in anything; Cate Blanchett for the cover of Vogue, and, most recently, the models of the moment, Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls for Vanity Fair. I could go on...
Best advice I've ever received...My art teacher at school used to say, "If it looks wrong, it is wrong!" And he was right.
My favorite galleries and/or museums in London...The V&A, The National Portrait Gallery, Sir John Soane's Museum and The Fashion Illustration Gallery.
If money was no object and I could buy another artist’s work...A Calder mobile, Boldini's Portrait of Madame Charles Max, Matisse's Jazz lithographs, photography by Saul Leiter and William Eggleston and a dozen or so Picasso ceramics.
What brings me back to illustration again and again...I am not sure there is any distinction now between fine art and commercial art (as there was when I went to art school) — the boundaries have blurred. Tracey Emin designs handbags and Damien Hirst designs trainers. Illustrators collaborate with fashion designers and, in come cases, collections themselves; bloggers draw. Today, everyone is an image maker — we have no need for labels. I celebrate that!
A good work of art should always…Inspire, stimulate or enrage. Sometimes all three.
From top: Erin O'Connor, Paris, 2002; Jerry Hall, Richmond, London, 2000; Marie Helvin, Hotel One Aldwych, London, 1999; Stella Tennant, New York, 1998