Saturday, October 1, 2016

Fashion Returns To The Drawing Board With Donald Robertson

Donald Robertson!

Once upon a time, Donald Robertson was an art school failure. Today, he is one of fashion's most loved artists.

Donald Robertson was born in 1963, in Toronto, Canada.  As an art student there, he was actually asked to leave the school he attended. Why? Because he “shunned realism” (Vanity Fair - Callahan, 2015).

Though Robertson’s aesthetic – longer, skinnier, exaggerated characters – did not live up to the art-school-standards, Robertson never stopped drawing. Criticism did not impede his overwhelming passion to create cheeky, collage-like, and immensely creative works of art. Robertson stood behind his bold pieces, and worked to start his career as an illustrator, creeping into the world of art and fashion.

Donald Robertson featured with an assortment of his artwork

Hence, in the 1980s, Robertson helped launch MAC cosmetics. He later moved on to work at several New York Magazines – i.e. as a Roving Creative Director at Estée Lauder, and as an influencer in the rebranding of big name magazines such as American Glamour. His work on these magazines and rebranding sparked Robertson’s name-recognition in the fashion industry. Today, Robertson works as a career artist, drawing and painting for major brands in the cosmetic and fashion industry.

However, it was only in the past decade that Donald Robertson made his biggest splash in both the art and fashion communities. In 2012, Robertson’s assistant took the initiative to set up an Instagram account for the artist with the alias @Drawbertson. Cleverly named, with the bio of “Be a warrior not a worrier” and the link to his website, the Instagram account includes Robertson’s works, inspirations, five children, personal moments, and more.

The Instagram profile highlights Robertson’s deep understanding of color, fashion, and the whimsicality of life. The persistent updates of impulsive drawings and inside looks into his personal life sparked an interest in the community surrounding him. Through the proliferation of his deep creativity on Instagram, Robertson won over 181K followers, celebrity call-outs, and collaboration opportunities with big names such as Bergdorf Goodman, J. Crew, and Smashbox.
Beyoncé holding up her personalized Donald Robertson clutch 
Donald Robertson x Bergdorf Goodman - Collaboration
Donald Robertson x Smashbox - Collaboration

Robertson’s most recent collaboration occurred September 2016 – launching Bloomingdale’s campaign targeted toward Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For their collaboration, Bloomingdales partnered with Robertson to create one of his signature designs to support the fight against breast cancer. His exclusive illustration is printed on Alternative Apparel sweatshirts and t-shirts, with a percent from each sale donated to BCRF (EPR Retail News, 2016).
Exclusive Donald Robertson Artwork for Bloomingdale's Breast Cancer Awareness Month Campaign

Robertson’s collaborations culminated in his international attention – “@Drawbertson” was nominated by the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) as “Instagrammer of the year” (Huffington Post – Mayer, 2014). That said, even after all the press, celebrity recognition, upscale collaborations – Robertson’s work still remains hyper self-aware, and anyone can buy his work on his website.

Today, Robertson is often referred to as the “Modern Day Andy Warhol” (NY Post – Fleming, 2014). And personally, I could not agree more. Similarly to Warhol, Roberston is inspired by modern-day culture and fashion, resulting in his construction of artwork that is cheeky, humorous, and deeply creative. 
Robertson's Sketch of Beyonce

Robertson's Jackie Oh! Piece

As a Visual and Media Studies Major, I often study cultural critiques and social commentary. Therefore, I’ve come to truly appreciate Roberston’s whimsical understanding of fashion and culture that always contains a glimpse of satire.  I particularly appreciate the immense complexity tied into the simplicity of many of Robertson’s pieces. For example – his work #trixareforkids represents colorful, calculatedly designed cereal boxes cut into dresses for overly thin figures. While this represents the beauty in child’s play, it also contains a satire of ideal body standards – highlighting the fact that these women could never actually eat those sugary cereals if they wanted to be so thin. It combines contemporary life with idealism in a way that encourages the viewer to think more deeply.

In addition, I also appreciate the fact that I have the chance to follow the thought process of such a big-name artist. Seeing Robertson’s personal life and everyday inspirations allows me to feel even more in touch with his work and their underlying meanings. Instagram is definitely an extremely new way to be keeping up with an artist; I particularly enjoy seeing where he gets his inspiration for paintings, and the opportunity to get to know Robertson as a person who invests himself in his work on a 24/7 basis. 

Overall, I have come to love Donald Roberston as an illustrator, an artist, an Instagrammer, a social critic, and as a person. Thus – I hope to save up enough to buy one of his pieces on his website - !

One of my dream Donald Robertson pieces - Priced at $3,800

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