By Alexandra Lippin – December 2013
A beautiful woman, earrings shimmering in a golden light, looks ready to say ‘thank you’ for the gift box in Tiffany blue that she holds near. She’s the essence of style, with her dangling earrings sparkling in a golden light and her red lipstick echoing the box’s ribbon and bow. Look closely at her cocktail ring–it’s cleverly embellished with the emblem for the Costume Designers Guild IATSE Local 892.
The watercolor illustration by Guild member Aasha Ramdeen will adorn the guild’s holiday cards this year, but it also serves to shine a spotlight on a smaller division of the guild’s ranks–costume illustrators.
Ramdeen has been a fashion illustrator for the past nine years and recently began working as a costume illustrator. She grew up in San Fernando, Trinidad, and has an undergraduate degree in graphic design and a master’s in fine art.
“I have loved movies and television for as long as I can remember, and marveled over costume design as an essential component of character authenticity,” she says. “When I moved to Los Angeles four years ago, the entertainment industry and its most talented Costume Designers were now accessible, and combining my love of movies with illustration seemed a natural progression in my career.”
For her first job as a costume illustrator, she created sketches for a presentation.
“The designer was pitching a few ideas for a movie and we had a quick turnaround of two days. It was a great introduction to the industry for me, with its realistic illustration requirements – very different for a fashion illustrator – gestured poses and short timelines,” she says.
A member for only six months, Ramdeen has been making a gradual foray into her new career as a costume illustrator.
“I have only worked with one designer thus far, but it was a great learning experience for me having come from the world of fashion illustration,” says Ramdeen. “My work is heavily fashion based, with elongated figures, loose brushstrokes and suggested lines.”
She’s rapidly adapting to the technical and artistic requirements of her new field.
“There is a sense of incompleteness that comes with fashion illustration, and in making the leap into costume illustration, it was one stylistic trait I quickly learned would have to go. Whereas fashion illustrations are exaggerated representations of beauty and perfection, costume illustrations are realistic depictions of a costumer’s vision; from the seaming detail in a dress, to the tweed fabric of an actor’s1960’s suit,” she says. “I quickly realized that while I didn’t want to abandon my painterly style, I would have to adapt it to this new subject matter and adhere closely to the needs of the designer. Instead of models, I would now be illustrating elderly men, aliens, or superheroes all with a greater sense of realism and character.”
Creating this year’s card, Ramdeen was able to employ a range of her illustration styles and let her imagination roam.
“As the image for a costume design guild, I immediately knew that I didn’t want traditional motifs – that meant no trees, stockings, decorations. I had recently come across a photo of a woman holding a present, and I immediately knew that I wanted to replicate the simplicity of the image. While generic in a sense, I knew it would convey sentiments of the season and the notion of gift giving. Mine would be a fashionable interpretation of that photo, and a reflection of the work that the guild produces,” she says.
“For me the holidays are not necessarily about tangible gifts, but sentiments and gestures as well, and the actions of others that bring us happiness. I wanted to capture that moment everyone can relate to, being the recipient — or giver — of such a present. And as a CDG card, this anonymous woman could not be without holiday attire, accessorized with glittering earrings and a cocktail ring. I simply couldn’t resist infusing my fashion background into the final design.”