You’re one of Australia's most celebrated fashion illustrators and also teach at a fashion college- where did this love of fashion come from? Also, can you please introduce yourself?
Thank you for your kind words Alex! My name is Pippa McManus and I’m a fashion illustrator. I studied Fine Art straight out of high school and after two years switched over to the Fashion and Textile Design course just across the road at the WA School of Art and Design (now North Metro TAFE). I had always been obsessed with fashion so I’m still unsure of why I chose fine art to begin with but I ended up blending the two and becoming a fashion illustrator which was the perfect outcome. I’m now teaching that class I studied at that college.
Have you been met with any challenges as an artist along the way?
I don’t want to sound whiney but every step is a challenge? But luckily it’s nothing that no other artists
have not been through before. How much do I charge for my work? Do I want to go down a commercial fashion illustration path or do I want to paint for myself? Someone owes me money how do I deal with
that? People are offering me a lot of money for personal portraits but that’s something I don’t want to start
doing, how do I stick to my guns as an artist, especially at times when money is tough? These are just the
tip of the iceberg.
How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create?
I’m lucky in that it is just absolutely at the center of my core to create. I can’t explain it. I gave myself a year off last year as my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and painting was just too hard when I was so sad. As it came towards the end of that year I had so much pent up creative energy that it all seemed to come out all at once in the form of concepts, exhibition ideas, sewing, crafts and learning new artistic techniques. It’s been a busy six months as I realized I could never really hold that drive down but I did need a break to prioritize.
What does body confidence mean to you? Is it something you’ve ever struggled with and why?
Worshiping supermodels never really affected my own body confidence strangely. I traveled to NY Fashion week in 2008 with Aurelio Costarella and it really hit me during fittings that these women are unlike anyone else on earth. For as long as I had been drawing long limbed models I never thought they actually existed! How could I possibly compare my body to theirs when it’s like they are from a different
What’s it like being a woman in the creative industry? Do you find that it has its challenges at times?
I can’t really differentiate the challenges of being a woman in the creative industry to being a woman. It’s just generally not easy! I feel like I lead such a solo creative existence where I sometimes come into contact with other creatives but mostly it’s just me in my studio with my Instagram as my only communication tool.
You’ve been creating well over a decade– how has your work and practice developed over time?
It has changed hugely. I think the best thing to happen over the last 13 years is my confidence had increased. I trust in my decisions more now. I also draw every day now, no matter what. I work from a home studio now and have a solid routine so I get as much done as possible without procrastinating. I start at 9 am and don’t work past 5 pm. In between stretches of painting I have to leave room for emails, social media, lunch, meetings and bunny rabbit pats for Effie who spends a few hours with me in my studio.
When it comes to female support – what comes to mind for you? Is it positive or negative?
Female support to me is such an amazing positive! I don’t have a large family so I rely heavily on my girlfriends for advice and quite often a shoulder to cry on. I have so many strong inspiring female figures in my life, a mother, mother-in law, step-mother in law, my Zomp girls, my high school girls, wonderful older female figures who guide me in so many ways. I’m truly so lucky to have these women in my life.
Your work is very female/body inspired – have you ever struggled with those inspiration and references affecting your body image perception? Do you think social media has played a positive or negative role in your perception?
In the past, my illustrations were super elongated, stretched and skinny. This was the way I learnt to illustrate at college, using the 9 heads technique. I have from time to time copped some flak for it, people said I was promoting an unhealthy body image and I always argued that this is the way it has always been with fashion illustration, beginning with Harpers Bazaar fashion illustrator Erte in the 1920’s. But I think now I’m more interested in adding a bit of realism to my illustrations and making less stylized. Whether that’s because of criticism or my own development as an artist I’m not sure.
What’s your idea of empowerment?
Empowerment has to begin with your own self-belief and love firstly, I think. Then it's about having wonderfully supportive people around you to lift you up.
What advice what you give your 18-year-old self if you could?
That you made the right decision going to art school! For as long as I remember my engraver father (who would pass away a year later when I was 19) and my craft artist mother would convince me I shouldn't become an artist, due to the instability of work and especially income. I’m glad I didn’t listen to them but I was very much doubting my decision at the time.
What the biggest risk you’ve taken to date? What were the pressure points and was it worth it?
I’d say taking last year off. It was a terrifying thing knowing that I might lose my following and would ultimately disappoint my clients who had invested in my work only to see me go underground. For the first time, I had to put my family’s health and mine before my painting, without knowing if I would come back from it. It was a risk on my career but detrimental to my happiness.
As you’ve gotten older – how has your perception of your body and confidence changed?
I don’t think it has changed much. I’d like to say that I’m more confident and care less but I never really did care anyway. If anything I’m much more aware of health now than I was. I don’t like putting bad things into my body and I exercise to keep my brain happy. I don’t smoke, I don’t binge drink, I have vegetarian days, I see a therapist and I meditate every day. These things all benefit my practice and make me a better artist and human. I hope!