The MNY Spotlight
Sabina Fenn, Canadian Artist
This week we talked to Sabina Fenn, a talented artist and illustrator from Toronto, Canada.
When did you start illustrating?
I started while I was in university, I figured the earlier the better! I wanted to get a headstart because I knew there would be a lot to figure out along the way so I gave myself a timeline while I was in university and told myself I would do projects for low-pay or for free (occasionally) to build my portfolio but that when I was no longer a student I would no longer accept free work. This actually worked quite well for me because it gave me some time to learn a lot in the beginning and turn to my teachers for feedback on my portfolio.
What are some sources of inspiration for your drawings?
I'm very inspired by different cultures and destinations, some that I haven't yet been to! I started travelling to warm destinations with my family at a young age, and I loved seeing the palm trees and beautiful tropical flowers. My dad was born in Africa and we had lots of African-inspired decor around the house growing up so I was always exposed to warm tones and unique findings. I think that sparked my initial curiosity about the world.
Since I went to school for fashion, my illustrations do often have a little bit of a chic flair to them and sometimes that's unintentional but overall I'm very inspired by different cultures.
Who are your favorite artists?
I'm very inspired by Henri Matisse at the moment, I like the way he painted scenery using short brush strokes, and his abstract shapes. For several years now I've been very inspired by famous fashion artists from the past such as Rene Gruau, Paul Iribe and Erté. I also really love to get lost in Claude Monet's intricate paintings.
How do you get out of a creative block?/ How have you been staying inspired in quarantine?
I think I've become pretty good at recognizing creative blocks and when it's time to take a break. I went through one recently because I took on too much work and made myself burnt out. I have a little trick that helps me get inspired again and that's to browse through photos and paintings that are really standing out to me at that time. It could be a landscape, portrait, whatever really! I then compile all of those images and see what similarities I find between them - whether it's the colour palette, subject matter or painting/photography style, I find the commonalities and try to transcribe that into my artwork. I find I do this about every 4-6 months to get a bit of a refresher as my taste often changes.
What's your favorite piece that you've done?
My favourite piece does tend to change, right now my Figure Study painting is my favourite, I didn't think much of it at the time when I was painting it but the more I look at it the more I like it for its simplicity and femininity. Sometimes the simplest compositions have the strongest message!
How do you know when a drawing is finished?
It's easy to overwork a painting. I tend to get a little voice in my head saying "ok that's enough, put the brush down"! It sounds crazy, but I've definitely overworked several paintings and once I get the idea in my head that it might be finished I just put the brush down and look at it again in a few hours to see if it needs anything else.
Is there something you are working on currently?
Always! I usually have a few projects on the go at a time - it's crazy but it keeps me motivated and inspired because they're all usually very different. I'm currently working on my first children's book, a fun floral textile pattern for a Hawaiian clothing brand and I'm also working on adding greeting cards to my shop!
Has fashion influenced your drawings?
Absolutely! As I mentioned before I did go to fashion school for university so that often comes out in my illustrations. I was initially drawn to being an illustrator when I first discovered vintage fashion illustrators. I couldn't get enough!
I would say that I'm also inspired by modern fashion but in a subtle way. I do follow trends but I tend to prefer simple silhouettes.
What are your favorite Mestiza pieces?
Ah! I love all of them, the silhouettes are so beautiful. If I had to choose I would say the Fina Mini Dress because it looks Spanish!
Very talented! Clean colors, delightful interpretations and thoughtful details. Really enjoyed Sabina’s interview and her work!