Sarah Darby has a unique talent and it's the gift of illustration. Sarah felt a need for change and wanted to have a career on her own terms. Having not picked up a pencil since she was 16, she decided to take some night classes and post her work up on social media. Sarah's followers have fallen in love with her fashion illustrations and watched as her artistic skills came to life. Since her rise to fame, she has worked with renowned brands, has been named one of Harper’s Bazaar’s ‘12 Australian Fashion Illustrators to follow’ and was an official illustrator at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival for 2015 and 2016.
I interviewed Sarah about her fashion journey so far, giving an insight into everything from how she creates an illustration, to tips on how to stay motivated.
Firstly, I have to say your illustrations are beautiful and unique. You’ve come such a long way since when we’ve first met congratulations! How does it feel to have worked with some of the renowned brands that are in every fashionistas wardrobe?
Thank you! It feels amazing - and I still feel genuinely surprised when anyone does!! I'm definitely learning as I go.
What were you doing before you picked up the pencil?
I worked for Coles in Marketing for years, and before that, I was a publicist in London.
What made you want to start illustrations?
I had my second girl, Gracie, who is 3 now. I was struggling to manage the kids and my job, but I wanted to have a career. I thought what can I do on my own terms? I remembered that I used to enjoy drawing, but I hadn’t picked up a pencil since I was 16. I took up some evening classes to learn about fashion illustration and I just started to draw and post on insta.
How did you turn your passion and hobby into a career?
I think the marketing background helps. I’m pretty proactive in approaching people that I admire and want to work with. That combined with my age - somehow I don’t feel so afraid of ‘no’ anymore. I don’t take it as personally as I used to. As with anything, people only see the successes. There are lots of knockbacks and weeks where I hit the refresh button on email a lot!! Also, its trial and error. Not every avenue is the right path for you!
Photographer: @ Simonshiffphotographer
How long does it usually take to create an illustration?
If I'm at home, it's an hour. I do pencil then black liner then colour. The jackets take much longer as I have drafted an outline, cut a template, transfer the image, ALL before I actually paint the picture!
Also, how do you keep motivated and inspired?
I’ll confess, I definitely have my wobbles. I'm a real victim of self-doubt. But I remind myself that it's a pretty awesome gift to be able to spend your time doing something that you love and still have time for your kids. As a pick me up - I read the Collective mag cover to cover. It's so inspiring and it's full of awesome people doing cool things!
You were named Harper’s Bazaar ‘12 Australian Fashion Illustrators to follow’
How did that make you feel to read that?
Shocked! Flattered… and then I took a deep breath and realised that I'd name hundreds of artists who I think are better than me! So I think of it as good marketing - and I get back to trying to earn their respect!
You were the official illustrator at Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival for 2015 and 2016. Tell us what did that involve?
I feel so lucky to have had a chance to work with VAMFF! In 2015, I got to sit in the front row. Actually in seat 1A. Which was pretty exciting for someone who has never been invited to a fashion show at all! I covered some of the shows for their insta feed. I also covered the street style from outside the event. I loved that. It gave me such a great opportunity to meet people! Last year I did a few sketches from runway, but I also did the illustrations for the High Tea event which was fab. I illustrated the menus, place setting and table numbers. It was really fun to let loose with a creative brief - it was Alice in Wonderland meets Great Gatsby! How fab is that?!
image credit : Streetsmith courtesy of Frowtribe
Your latest project currently is working with FROWTRIBE creating bespoke illustrations on vintage denim and white shirts, tell us all about it! Sounds amazing to create your own unique one off piece!
I feel like I have found my thing. I just love drawing on the denim jackets. I love the idea of making these pieces that people will wear. As soon as I have finished one, I have 10 more designs I want to draw up! Working with FROWTRIBE is great. Amy Shaw, the Director, is amazing. She has such an eye for fashion and having her select what jackets I illustrate, just means that customers are guaranteed a cool jacket. I love fashion, but I don’t have the eye to pick out the styles! I rely on bloggers like you to point in the right direction!! Working with Amy means I just get to focus on the design!
Any special projects we will be seeing soon?
I'm not done with FROWTRIBE! We have some more awesome secrets to reveal! And I have some fun, more unusual illustration collabs coming up too! Enough to keep me out of trouble!
Any advice to any budding illustrators out there?
Have fun and support others who like to draw. Comment on each other works and encourage. Don’t see other artists as competition - go and make friends! And be bold. Approach people you want to collab. The worst they can do is ignore you or say no thanks. That’s not so bad really, is it!
Be sure to check out Sarah's Foxy Five questions below and her social media Channels!
FROWTRIBE customised denim jackets
Chocolate or Savoury?
Salt and vinegar chips are my biggest weakness!
Favourite place in the world?
Canggu in Bali. But anywhere with sunshine and water that’s warm enough to get in without a wetsuit on!
I never leave the home without my…
kids!!! (Well, it certainly feels like it. ) Pencil and a thin black liner!
Favourite illustration you’ve drawn?
Probably the one of the back of my own jacket. Its a pic of Inka Williams, who I draw a lot… she has beautiful eyes!
Heels or Flats?
Definitely flats! Nike high tops, silver brogues or boots. You can’t chase a toddler in stilettos, I have to be realistic!