By Yasmeen Banu
Drawings, paintings or illustrations usually have a story of its own, a vision the artist saw and spilled on paper or canvas. Grace Ciao is one such artist.
The full-time undergraduate from National University of Singapore (NUS) majoring in business administration is a fashion illustrator whose style mainly involves utilizing markers and watercolours. Recently however, she started conceptualizing creative fashion outfits by integrating real flower petals into her sketches.
But combining fresh flowers into her fashion illustrations wasn’t a vision she saw. She stumbled upon it, in what was a purely accidental episode. Ms Ciao was working on one of her illustrations one day and a semi-wilting rose on her desk caught her attention. Captivated by how pretty she found the rose, she also felt it was a pity that its beauty was so short-lived.
It was then that the idea of immortalizing their elegance struck me. Wanting to preserve their beauty, I quickly began adding them to the illustrations I was composing and to my most pleasant surprise, they turned out pretty decent!
The 22 year-old have always been fascinated by runway shows on TV, and subsequently began drawing several of the inspiring designs in her sketchbook. At seven, Ms Ciao started creating miniature dresses for her Barbie dolls with the scrap cloth given to her by her grandmother. “Having studied dressmaking on my own, I am aware of the basic technicalities behind putting an outfit together,” Ms Ciao said.
Besides fashion illustrations, Ms Ciao has also done book illustrations, where she draws cartoon-like images. Both her fashion and book illustrations have very distinct styles, and while she’s more inclined towards fashion design, she feels like it’s good to lend focus to her book illustrations. Shifting her focus around from time to time gives Ms Ciao a fresh and different perspective whenever she returns to her fashion illustrations.
Working with fresh flowers has made the young artist discover that every type and subtype of flower has petals that are unique in their own way- in terms of the shape, size, colour and pattern.
…Lilies and carnation have inspired me to create prints which I otherwise would not have thought of (because these flowers embodies different shades of each colour). I think petals work really well for illustration because their delicacy and exquisiteness mimic those of a soft fabric. For instance, the gentle, fabric-like quality of roses allows me to create folds for flare skirts.
Ms Ciao dreams of having her private label and seeing her creations exhibited on the runway one day. After graduating from NUS, she intends to go to fashion school, and hopes to get a scholarship.
At the present moment, I have a few collaboration requests and I’m really heartened that people are noticing and recognizing my work. It is with an eager and gratified heart that I would like to continue sharing my designs and ideas with people from different parts of the world.
When asked if she has any words of advice for emerging Singaporean artists, Ms Ciao said,
‘Joy is a flower that blooms when you do.’ This quote encapsulates what I firmly believe in: investing in my interests and strengths, and allowing the joy that follows to envelop me.
I strongly encourage budding Singaporean artists to fearlessly pursue their passion for art, because it is fast becoming a universal form of self-expression and communication in today’s world. Starting out may be fraught with challenges, and this was the same for me, but that sense of gratification and bliss when your effort is acknowledged and endorsed – it’s inexplicably overwhelming and makes you realize that all that you’ve dedicated to your passion is worth it.
Ms Ciao also conducts courses where she teaches fashion illustrations to leisure participants and students who are studying fashion or want to build a portfolio for entry to their ideal fashion course. For more information, visit her site at www.graceciao.com or you can also visit her Facebook page. Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram too, so you can be updated with her recent illustrations.
Meanwhile, here are some skilful and appealing illustrations you can feast your eyes on!