Industrious Illustrating #12: A New Semester

A new season means a new semester, and a new semester means a new Industrious Illustrating banner! It’s been a while since I last posted to this blog, and I hope that the summer was a restful or productive time for all of you, whichever one was your goal. While I have some exciting new projects I want to share with you guys over the next few weeks, I want to focus first on a brief recap of a few pieces I made over the summer.

For most of the summer, I was spending time living with my parents in Hong Kong. We lived pretty close to the beach, so sometimes I’d go down to the beach and look for interesting-looking animals in the sand and rocks. Attached are a few watercolor and ink sketches I made of a Fiddler crab, as well as some clams, sea urchins, and sea snails I found when the tide was low.

Aside from sketching the wildlife, I also made more refined illustrations based off of the scenery and sights I saw in Hong Kong, albeit with a few changes for artistic effect. For example, one of the new pieces on my year 2 banner features a tiger girl dressed in summery clothing while leaning over the railing of a staircase next to overgrown terraces. This is actually based off of a real staircase near my summer home that led down to some tropical fruit trees and a tiny beach (though it wasn’t the one I frequented).


If you look at the other side of the new banner, one of the pieces I added features a girl floating in a brightly lit vestibule as if she’s in a spaceship. This is actually inspired by the Moncler clothing store display in Hong Kong’s International Commerce Center, which always caught my eye when I was walking from the Kowloon MTR stop through the ELEMENTS shopping mall and the ICC lobby. I made a few tweaks to the lighting to make it look more dramatic, but otherwise I kept it close to the reference in an attempt to capture what I liked about the design.

For a side by side comparison:


Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to making more studies of the sights I saw in Hong Kong, or even more pieces inspired by what I saw in Hong Kong, but I’ll be sure to work on some and post them when I have time!

What did you guys do over the summer? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Looking Forward: EnspiRED

Happy Friday, everyone!

Ashley King, Vice President of EnspiRED

We are back to our regularly scheduled content. This week I spoke with Ashley King, the Vice President of EnspiRED, to learn more about how they are adapting to the restrictions that COVID-19 has brought. This was a special interview, as Ashley is not only a talent and joy to speak with, but one of my good friends from high school. I was excited to learn more about the organization that she has fallen in love with.

In a normal year, EnspiRED is best-known for their annual fashion show with proceeds going to a charity they choose each year. Each show has a theme that is tied together through the outfits on the runway, the visuals that accompany the show, and even the wardrobes of those working the event. One of the most recent themes, astrology, was a personal favorite of Ashley. 

During the past year, EnspiRED has obviously had to adjust much of what they do in light of COVID. They can no longer host their fashion show in-person, as it can attract hundreds in attendance, but they are finding ways to fit what they usually do into this new world of COVID. 

I also asked Ashley about how she interprets the intersection of arts and fashion. She told me that to her, fashion is an art.

Current E-board for EnspiRED

“You watch a Marc Jacobs, or a Vera Wang, or anybody’s fashion show and you’re like, wow, it must have taken some ingenuity to put this together, or a really creative mind to come up with that. I very much feel that fashion is in our forum because not everybody can, like, pick up some fabric and make something that everybody wants, and that’s from high fashion to fast fashion. There’s an art to all of it.”

I couldn’t agree more – and the energy that has to go into a fashion show is way beyond just designing the clothes. The staging, the lighting, the music, the makeup, the hair, all add to the concept and sells the experience. 

If you want to get involved with EnspiRED, be sure to follow their Instagram account so that you can stay up-to-date on their upcoming events. Modeling and volunteer opportunities are also available most years, so be on the lookout for those. Lastly, their e-board will be opening up applications soon to lead the organization next year. Ashley’s advice? “Brush up on your interview skills.” Who wouldn’t want to be a part of one of the top fashion organizations on campus?

That’s all from me this week! Come back next week for more about the arts on campus this semester. 

Stay safe & stay healthy!


Extraordinary Slippers: Nicole McLaughlin

Nicole McLaughlin is a Boston-based artist and designer who produces one-of-a-kind fashion creations. Her zany accessory designs, including a slipper made out of tennis balls, or a vest fashioned out of cereal bags, span all sorts of materials and brands. I came across Nicole McLaughlin’s Instagram page over a year ago, intrigued by the hype surrounding upcycled clothing.

The young designer has also achieved more fame due to her footwear and accessory collaborations with popular brands, such as HighSnobiety, Reebok, and Opening Ceremony. She now boasts an impressive following of 384,000+ on Instagram.

McLaughlin’s compositions are the kind of simple but wonderful creative explorations I wish I could make–some designs are hilarious but impractical, others visually delightful. A graphic designer by day, she fabricates her personal experiments for the fun of it. McLaughlin’s designs are always pleasantly surprising–I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of her work to come.

All images via Nicole McLaughlin

Art Influences Art

I have always been a lover of high, avant-garde fashion. From Gautier, Louis Vuitton, and Yohji Yamamoto, high-fashion houses around the world inspired me as a child to think outside of the box when it comes to creativity. I used to wonder incessantly of how in the world did these designers come up with these concepts that enveloped no sense of practicality but all aspects of wonder, dream, and true artistic form?

Couture fashion, designs created for one special, statement-making purpose, is the prime example of how the concept of fashion should literally be considered an art form. Designs that are custom-made, intricately detailed, and sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars not only take a lot of time to create, but also take the creativity and talent of some of the most brilliant artists in the world.

In analyzing some of the designs that walk the runway today, many of which are torn to pieces (figuratively) because of their “over-the-top” nature and impracticality, are pure examples of art forms redefined by other traditional art forms. Paintings, photographs, nature, decor, all are influences of the gowns you see walking the Paris and Milan runways.

This concept of “upcycling,” usually referring to taking something “useless” or “old” and recreating something “new” and “interesting” with it, can be applied to the way in which some high-fashions come to be. Not to say that any traditional art forms are of lesser value to the fashions that are put on display today, but there is a connection as to how these fashion designers fuse the creativity in their heads with the powerful creative minds of the painters, photographers, and interior designers that we come to immediately associate as artists.

Photo Credit:

The image above illustrates a comparison between a painting of a disturbed sea, with blue hues and deep blacks fading amongst each other, and a gown with a similar color scheme in an ombre-flurried effect. Similar aesthetic, different artistic geniuses.

Photo Credit:

Broken, demolished, nature’s colors, all are concepts captured in both of these photographs, illustrating great techniques of the same inspiration board.

Photo Credit:

When you can get the same effect from a painted/crafted wall that you do a dress and satchel, then you know you’ve hit the nail on the head.

Check out some of the Spring 2015 Couture looks for some great inspo!






Everything Old is Vogue Again

“The past is regarded as instrumental to the formation of modernity, of modern times, in the same way that (visual) quotes from the ancient account for the charm and potential of fashion.”

A Visit to the Gallery

 This quote from Ulrich Lehman underscores the UMMA painting A Visit to the Gallery by Pier Celestino Gilardi. In the painting, a group of clothed Victorian women look at a first century marble nude that stands elevated on a pedestal in an elaborately decorated space. The women sit on a couch looking up at the statue and pointing at it, but they do not approach it. In the eyes of the elaborately clothed women, the Venus is an idealized figure from the ambiguous age of antiquity. The deep space of the painting and the visual contrasts between the Victorian women and the Venus hint at a temporal and fashionable distance.

As viewers, we may be tempted to do the same when viewing classical statues. But underneath the obvious temporal, spatial, and nude-clothed differences between the Victorians and Venus there are also similarities. In 2012, the University of Modena carried out an investigation into the statue and uncovered her colorful past.

What they found has changed my view of pristine classical sculptures forever. Far from being a white-washed and bland conglomeration of classical eras, the Venus represents specific trends in fashions and aesthetics that may have produced a different reaction from the Victorian crowd, had they been able to see her in her original state. The University of Modena uncovered layers of makeup, gold hair paint, and earrings.

The gaudy accessories that the Venus sculpture once wore in her heyday would have been used for the same reason of the Victorian women or of any pop star today; namely to elevate her social status and call attention to certain areas of her body.

Kylie Minogue in concert, dressed as Venus emerging from the sea

The makeup of the Venus also once played a large part in her presentation and eroticism. The same scholars that uncovered her ancient jewelry also discovered a layer of bright red paint on her lips and gold paint on her hair. The gold and red would have drawn any viewer’s eye to her head (much like the ostrich feather on the hat of the women on the right).

Venus’s hands are placed on erogenous zones, including her breast and pubic area. In a seeming attempt to cover up her body, she only calls attention to the greatest points of visual impact.

The Victorian women of the Gilardi painting also call attention to evocative areas. With their erect postures (seen in both the seated and standing figures) the women make sure that the elaborate ruffles on their chest and buttocks can clearly be seen. One woman even crosses her legs while seated, enabling her to show a small portion of her ankle. Venus similarly uses her legs to create an exaggerated crook at her waist and reveal an enticing gap between her thighs.

It is always easy for us as modern spectators to perceive the white, podium-displayed visuals of an older era and immediately decide that it bears no connections to one’s own like the distanced women in Gilardi’s painting with their pointed fingers and sly smiles sent in the direction of Venus’s high podium.

But by automatically distancing ourselves from an era without considering its original context we limit ourselves to a singular idea of beauty from antiquity. If the group of Victorian women had seen Venus in her original fashionable state, they would most likely have different reactions to this goddess. I know I will every time I view white antique statues from now on.

Fashion a la Polar Vortex

I feel like if I were to remember one thing about 2014 it wouldn’t be me finishing my thesis (GODDESS PLEASE LET ME), graduating, travelling, whatever . . . it would be surviving not only the first polar vortex but the second one.

The first day since ‘78 that the University of Michigan has cancelled classes. We all know this but BOOM. This is/was exciting. I had a four day weekend. I went out on a Monday.

Besides these obvious points, however, there are some other things that I cannot get out of my mind: snow/cold/chill protective outfits. In short, people’s clothing is heinous. I am (not) some queen heckling on the side of the road, but people have gone absolutely off the cliff.

1. It is -40 degrees.
I have been sick for months, and just got sick again. I’m feeling better but I know I need to cover my mouth. I have maroon skinny jeans on, a maroon winter coat with fake fur, I have a maroon baseball cap on with accompanying scarf and red headphones-as-ear-muffs. I have layers of glasses to protect my eyes and gloves on gloves on gloves. And then someone jogs by me in a spandex body suit and that’s it. And then someone saunters back from the gym in shorts. And then I see someone model walk with their coat WIDE OPEN as they cross the street. I don’t know who ya’ll are but I’m judging you. You might feel like you can stand the cold but your frozen flesh-skin-ice and I think differently. I try so hard not to judge or shame people for what they do or do not wear (because really why should I) BUT ITS SO DAMN COLD I GET COLDER JUST LOOKING AT YOU.

2. It is 30 degrees.
I’m healthy and have stopped putting a scarf over my face, and so people now walk on the same side of the road as me and don’t point as I walk down the sidewalk at them (apparently I look intimidating or eccentric as all get out). I have a reasonable amount of clothing on (basically the same thing as the -40 degree weather but this time I’m less hunched over and I might be singing/breathing the cool air in). And then someone walks by in a 7-layer black body suit and a yellow neon hat pulled OVER THEIR EYES. Hello?

3. It is 0 degrees.
It’s 11:30 at night and I leave my coat in the car; I have just arrived in Ypsi for the drag show. I start to run down the road at full speed in my skinny jeans, polka-dot top, necklace flying up and hitting my face, both hands on the hair to protect it from frizzing out . . . and then I slip. I’m screaming now, full volume, as onlookers, wrapped up in 15 layers, point at the disheveled queer sliding his way into the bar. We all can’t be winners.

The Polar Vortex has come and gone and come again. Each time we are surprised and we cope differently. But one thing remains constant: no one knows how to dress when its negative-you’re-going-to-die-temperature. And that is a subtle art of surviving in Michigan. Because at least if you’re frozen, you can still be one hot mess.