INTERVIEW: RICHARD HAINES
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
I am more than thrilled to have Richard Haines answering my questions here on the blog. More than an illustrator, Mr Haines has set a new tone for drawing and live sketching. His genuine interest in fashion, people and life, has made a difference within the industry, leading him to stellar collaborations with Prada, Dries Van Noten, J.Crew, Jil Sander and more recently with YUASA on an exclusive swimwear collection.
I have been following his work since the beginning of his blog 'What I Saw Today'. He has really been an inspiration to me, also because at that time I wasn't working as a full-time illustrator. In a way, his example pushed me to pursue a more creative path. Let's find out more about his:
What did push you that time you opened the blog? What were your feelings and hopes?
I was actually pretty desperate when I started my blog. I had lost my job as a fashion designer, was getting a divorce, lost a lot of money - and no one would hire me as a designer, so it was a very difficult time. When I started the blog in 2009 I didn't really know what else to do and was hoping somehow I could make some money doing it. I remember the feeling of how wonderful it was to make a drawing and post it and connect directly with people. That gave me a lot of hope, and I really haven't looked back since. I consider myself very fortunate!
I visited New York for the first time two years ago and it stole my heart. I feel like your drawings gave me a glimpse of what I should have expected from this vibrant city and its people. What does NY mean to you?
I've lived here a long time, and New York still represents possibility, hope, fluidity, positivity. I'm thrilled you feel my drawings give you a glimpse of what's here. I can't think of a better compliment! I love to travel, and my goal is to spend more time in Paris, but I always love coming home to NYC. The minute I step off the plane I get a hit of the energy, and I know I'm home.
We briefly met by chance in the streets of Paris. Have you visited Paris several times? What do you think about it and its fashion scene?
I've been going to Paris since I was in my early 20s. Paris was, and is, a city of inspiration, beauty, culture. The French have an extraordinary sense of fashion and design, and both the history and contemporary scene is incredibly exciting. I try to go as often as I can, at least every few months!
If you have no brief, what is the starting point for one of your illustrations? What is the medium you feel you can't live without?
My starting point is what emotional connection I have to what I'm seeing. That's really all I need. There are so many extraordinary things I see every day, it's hard to keep track of them and find the time to draw them. It's endless. Medium wise, it's always changing, but there's nothing better than putting a pen into a jar of ink and putting the line down on paper - it's bliss!
This is a question that I have often been asked myself, but also something I am thinking a lot about lately: How do you stay focused and motivated?
I pace myself. If I'm doing a large commissioned project, I know I have to monitor myself, pace myself, and the motivation is that I've agreed to it and I need to finish it (to get paid!). On the other hand, I allow myself time to waste, to fuck around, read a magazine, drink a coffee, then get to work. I've learned over time one of the best things I can do is give myself permission to not work. It makes getting to work easier.
Instagram sure has a big role in your career. Do you feel your approach to it is changing with time?
Yeah, it's an incredible medium and a total game-changer. I talk to my friends about this all the time - we all get into the trap of 'get more followers' but I've relaxed about it more in the past year. If people like my work, they will find it and if they follow, great. If not, that's cool too. I do love the platform and have connected to amazing people, both artists and people who appreciate illustration. It's really pretty wonderful.
What's the funniest thing that happened to you because of Instagram?
My 21-year-old daughter told me my hashtags were desperate, lame. I love her. She's my biggest critic and keeps me very real. And I've pretty much stopped using hashtags.
Sketching live during fashion shows is one of the most exciting things I have done but also the most difficult. Any advice for those who would love to improve their live sketching skills?
One needs to do it all the time, practice, go to as many shows as possible. Look for the overall message in the show and the model, don't get hung up on details, and go to the rhythm of the models, pretend you're on the runway too! Get lost in the moment!
You have worked with tons of amazing clients. Personally, I am really in love with your work for Dries Van Noten. Could you please tell me something about it?
It was a thrilling process, I love Dries and what he represents, so it was wonderful to work with him and his team. I spent a week in Antwerp at his design studio, immersed in his space, riding a bike to the studio every day, I really felt part of the team, and I think it made the work better. It was a process of about six months, and I remember sitting in the audience seeing the clothes, and how well the prints worked with the silhouettes, and it was an absolutely thrilling experience!
If you weren't an illustrator, what would you be?