Laura Gulshani: When Fine Art and Fashion Collide

Lara Mansour   |   10 - 04 - 2017

Laura Gulshani is a fashion and beauty illustrator who combines fine art inspirations with modern design trends to develop a unique expression of current fashion styles.


Living in Toronto, Canada, Laura’s work is marked by a vibrant use of colour, heavy brushstroke work and a focus on details. Her detailed illustrations executed with a painterly style capture the spirit behind the most beautiful fashion collections, either focussing on the most exquisite accessories and jewels, or the vibrant prints and hues that make up the look.

Here, Laura shares with us what inspires her artwork, which artist she looks up to, and how she can be seen in a far more understated work uniform in comparison with the intricacy of her paintings.

Tell us about your journey to becoming an artist?

I’ve always loved fine art and fashion, and loved mixing the two, but I never considered a serious career as a fashion illustrator since I didn’t think I had the chops for it, and I knew how competitive it was. But after some encouragement from my professor at university who helped me structure my thesis around fashion illustration, and through illustration opportunities at magazine internships, I realised that perhaps I had something different to offer, and that maybe such a creative career was possible in Toronto. I painted non-stop for a year, working on improving my skills and trying to find a style that spoke to me at this current point in my life. I made sure to promote myself as much as I could through Instagram, and tried to establish more contacts in the local and global fashion industry. Through this, my now-agent spotted me, and after a while jobs started trickling in. Through exposure on the social media platform, I have gained most of my commissions, which has changed my life. I’m still working hard at my craft everyday to create something unique, and carve a spot for myself in the market.

How would you describe your artistic creations?

I’m in love with anything Matisse, and the eras of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. I love the imperfect, textured, outlined, suggestive, colourful visual impact artworks of that time had, and being messy and a lover of colour and texture myself, those periods always speak to me. I would like to say that my artworks are a mix of fine art (but not too fine!) and modern influences. I am passionate about fashion design, albeit I’m not much of a fashion designer, and so I am naturally drawn to those fine details and parts of a garment that took lots of time and effort to create, such as appliques, embroidery, and textile patterns. I absolutely love to blow up these parts and paint them on a large scale to really draw attention to this detail; it’s a joy to draw with that much focus on a beautiful creation. I also focus on brushstrokes, because the raw, dimensional effect one can achieve from a single stroke adds a uniqueness to the overall piece.


What inspires your work?

Any garment that is detailed, structured, colourful, or plays with transparencies, is something that immediately draws my attention. I loved that artists from the Impressionism & Post Impressionism periods often captured a fleeting moment between subjects, so that always inspires the compositions of my work.

What do you think and dream about when you are painting?

I think about every stroke and how it should be laid down. My mind also wanders and I completely forget where I am, and in that moment, I think about everything and anything in my life. I kind of lose track of time and I’m not really conscious of where I am. I don’t think that’s a bad thing? Maybe that’s how much I love to paint…

Who are your favourite artists?

First and foremost, Matisse. I also absolutely love fashion artists who put some sort of fine art spin on their work, such as Kelly Beeman, Tanya Ling, and Gill Button. I also love Jean-Phillipe Delhomme, Wayne Thiebaud, and Michal Pudelka for photography. There are so many artists I follow on Instagram who consistently inspire me.

Do you try to incorporate their styles into your own artwork?

Not really, aside from composition influences from photographers. I actually try not to look at other fashion illustrators’ works too much, so that I don’t subconsciously incorporate similar elements in my own pieces, and stay true to my own vision.

How do you feel art and fashion are intertwined?

Fashion is art. The art umbrella includes fashion. Painterly arts and textile arts inspire one another and always will; the runways of Spring 2014 were a testament to that.

What is it about fashion shows that inspires you?

I love the fantasy world that fashion houses create to showcase their collections, particularly Prada, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs, Dior and Chanel. It conveys the inspiration behind the collection and helps me understand it as well. Seeing furry carpets, floral rotundas, mounds of gradient sand or whatever sort of elaborate setting was fashioned, sparks an image in my mind that I want to illustrate. Only at the show do you feel totally immersed in the designer’s vision and can truly appreciate the work that goes into each garment, an experience that you just don’t get from my perspective of sitting at home behind a computer.

How did you find yourself concentrating on painting fashion images?

From combining my love of the world of fashion and fine art. I paint things I wish I could wear in a world where sporting tweed knee-high Chanel trainers to the grocery store wouldn’t earn me a few judgemental glances.

Do you have a particular designer that you enjoy illustrating?

I have too many, Christopher Kane, Delpozo, Mary Katrantzou, Chanel, Dior, Miu Miu, and Rochas. Prada does hold a special spot in my heart because of Miuccia’s love for, and continuous support of the arts, and the artistic inspirations that are integrated in occasional collections.

What are your favourite colours to paint with?

I love to use any bright, bold colour, and especially favour applying an iridescent pink/blue hue as the background of my works. Somehow, that colour complements almost every garment I choose to paint.


How would you describe your own personal style?

I love to mix minimalist pieces with something embellished, and finish it off with a statement shoe. I’m really into metal earrings and structured tops right now. I’ve always favoured styles from the 90s, being a baby of that era myself, so slip dresses, exaggerated hoops, fiddler caps and lots of denim are included in my usual repertoire.

Is it a completely different look in and out of the studio?

Yes! Although sometimes, if I’m anxious to start painting, I’ll head straight to the canvas in my work clothes, but normally I throw on my pyjamas and get to it.

What is your ultimate dream or commission to achieve with your artistic work?

My dream would be to collaborate with big fashion brands, like Marcela Gutierrez has with Prada, on any sort of brand promotion, whether that’s on an in-store supplement, a lookbook, creating a textile, etc. But I try not to go about my work with those bigger dreams in mind; I just focus on enjoying what I’m doing now, and hopefully those things will come later.

Capturing the beauty and style seen on the catwalk, from Prada to Dior, and Delpozo to Fendi, Laura shares why she chose to paint each of these beautiful creations. She explains how she captured the spirit and essence of the collection in focus, to create a unique and detailed piece of art.


Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017

This collection was perfection. I loved the glitter and retro-like look of these five particular pieces, and couldn’t choose which specific one to paint, so I had to paint them all! I feel that the image captures a moment, and I love the rhythm created through the combination of detail and colour. The set design perfectly complemented the collection, and the collection of metallics and candy pastels perfectly complemented the glamorous set. So, to encapsulate both, instead of creating a zoomed-in composition like I usually do, I created an overview look of a moment in the show.


Marco de Vincenzo Spring 2017

I really wanted to show off the beautiful textile of these Marco boots, and the adorable back bows, so I tried to conceive a composition that would do both, but in a captivating manner instead of a simple, still shot view of the shoes. To me, what makes the image is the contrast of light and dark colours, the feminine pinks and cool blues, and the movement in the skirts. I was inspired by the show’s backstage presentation, with its colourful walls and flooring, and so I incorporated those hues as the setting of this illustration. The collection displayed many bold colours and funky designs, so I tried to take the most memorable elements of that and compose them into one illustration.


Anya Hindmarch Spring 2017

I chose to paint this picture because I saw this imagine online and I loved the sharp contrast of element. A traditionally designed, flawlessly crafted coat backing a cheeky, furry accessory. What I like about this composition is the cool-warm tone colour balance, and the rendering of the different textures. It’s all about capturing those funky details that define every Anya Hindmarch collection!


Prada Spring 2017

When I saw this look from Prada’s Spring 2017 collection, I immediately thought, ‘that’s what Holly Golightly would wear to bed.’ I like the serenity of the colour combination, and capturing a still, quiet moment of a bubby, talkative character. I feel like the collection was about celebrating the modern woman, a boss lady with a strong personality who still retains her femininity, and that’s totally Audrey Hepburn/Holly Golightly.


Miu Miu Spring 2017

The patterns and textures of this Miu Miu collection captivated me, as did all the quirky swim caps, and images of chic ladies by the seaside popped into my mind. So, that’s what came out. There is a stillness to the scene, which I feel captures very fashionable ladies enjoying a relaxing moment beachside. The combination of warm colours and patterns adds a lot of energy to this painting of beachside babes wearing swim caps.


Delpozo Spring 2017

The details of the Delpozo collections are always the best part! The crystal earrings were the stand-out feature in this collection, and paired with the volume of the structural garments made for a fun image to paint. I really like the zoomed-in quality of this composition, allowing the viewer to enjoy the details and the raw brushstrokes. I made sure not to smoothen the strokes, which enhanced the dimension of the garment. The play of bold and pastel hues, and this sort of ethereal quality that the collection had, are what I tried to inject into this painting.


Chanel Resort 2017

The energy of Chanel’s Cuba show was infectious! I loved watching the models dance on the runway and their brief interactions reminded me of Renoir’s energetic paintings with groups of people sharing conversations at a party. Obviously, I’m no Renoir, but his busy compositions inspire me. The mix of colours and rough suggestion of faces, limbs, and clothes are what gives this image spirit. I had been dying to do something like this for a while, that was different from my usual work, through integrating more body movement. Capturing the models in action, dancing down the Paseo del Prado I think expressed the joyful sentiment of the Chanel cruise show.


Fendi Fall 2016 Couture

I honestly would have painted a head-to-toe version of this artwork that displayed the full Fendi garments, but being that I had little paper resources at the time, I had to settle for a cropped shot. This couture collection was a complete fairy tale, and I must have known it was inspired by illustrator Kay Nielsen, because I was immediately pulled to the decorative workmanship done in fur. Perhaps because all that detail took so long, since this piece is about 36 x 48”, I really favour the intricate patterns I managed to incorporate, and even though there were a lot of different colours used, they all still complement each other. There was a lot of bottom-heavy movement in this collection, from the elaborate hem designs and the whimsical boots, so although I wanted to paint a full-scale piece, I think cropping into this lower half did show off the best parts of the collection.


Simone Rocha Autumn 2016

I’m not sure why, but I’m automatically draw to looks that have a lot of top-heavy details, and so I end up painting a lot of portraits. This Simone Rocha collection was rich in collar and earring embellishment, and that contrasted against the sheer, delicate, frocks was so decadent to me. I’m always trying to use raw brushstrokes when rendering faces, but without creating an ugly or lumpy-textured result. I think this time it worked out quite nicely, and the brushstrokes in all colours complemented each other. This collection played a lot with contrast; contrast of transparencies and contrast of a luxe, yet dishevelled manner of styling, especially accented by the loose up-do. Leaving a build-up of paint in the floral pattern and the hair, and letting the brushstrokes fly free was my way of conveying this.


Dior Spring 2016

There was something poetic and artistic about Raf Simons’ final collection for Dior that made me want to draw it in a fine art-inspired way. I really don’t remember why I chose to put her on a sofa, but the red in this Dior garment reminded me of the red Matisse used a lot in his works, so the idea of combining prints as he so often did came to my mind. Not to toot my own horn, but I love the imperfect, illustrative style of this image. I also love the combination of patterns. I’m happy with how it turned out. There was something youthful, sweet, innocent about Raf Simons’ Dior girl, and I hope that’s conveyed by her unassuming posture on the sofa, the patterns, and the underlying pink tones of the colours.

By Eliza Scarborough