Guest Interview n°24: Liselotte Watkins
You’ve seen her illustrations. If not in magazines like Elle or D Della Repubblica, then on the catwalk for Miu Miu or on her special-edition bottle of Absolut. With a fascination for the nude and Italian architecture, her work is captivating, crowd-pleasing and multifaceted. She could never imagine doing anything other than drawing, and is a busy bee, at the moment finalizing work for several publications and fashion clients.
Your illustrations are recognizable to the masses, yet your actual identity is quite enigmatic. You even have your own Absolut Vodka! So, who exactly is the real Liselott Watkins?
Haha! I didn’t know I was that mysterious! I’m an illustrator and the most important thing is that my drawings are visible. I have never felt the need to be seen personally. The fact that I have my own Vodka is a little crazy and very fun! However, it feels like the Vodka is for my drawings more than for me.
How did your success get its start?
Success is such a vague conception. I feel that every project I get and every drawing that I do is a success. I rarely feel nostalgic and I’m terrified of the day when I’ll feel content. What is most important is now, and what you do. To just sit and look at your work and feel satisfied is too counterproductive. Upward forward!
What does your creative process look like?
I have just started to photograph a lot as a basis for my images. Every occasion is a challenge. I usually work a lot with models and that collaboration is quite inspiring. What I’m trying to do is to convey a feeling to the models and explain a process. I’m not the greatest behind a camera but the models are extremely talented and make my job so much easier. Afterwards I draw by hand and if I need colour I use the computer. To tint, I always use Photoshop which is not too practical since it is designed for photographers. However, I do like that you can see my lines instead of the computer’s re-made ones.
You’re Swedish, but work from Italy. Are there noticeable differences between the Swedish and Italian creative industries?
I still work a lot with Sweden and other countries, but it has been great fun beginning to work here as well. It’s nice to have collaborations where you are based. It gets much more personal in a way. The fashion here has a much greater history and the craftsmanship is amazing. That’s very inspiring. It’s such a big part of Milan and the present, since you run into co-workers on your free time. The fashion in Sweden has become much stronger in recent years but is still small in comparison with Italy.
How much inspiration can one find in Milan?
A lot! I love the aesthetics in this city. I’ve started to draw plenty more architectural and surroundings since I arrived here. I share my office with two architectural firms, which might be one source of inspiration. Everyday I see things which leaves me speechless. Say, when opening the gates to a palazzo and being struck by these amazing, secret gardens. It’s just incredible how much beauty that lays hidden here in Milan. On the other hand, the fashion isn’t very eccentric or exciting. It’s very much “same old.” A bit more playfulness couldn’t hurt!
And about your collaboration with Miu Miu… how on Earth did your illustrations end up on the catwalk? What was it like to work with one of the world most influential Maisons?
Well, I wouldn’t call it a collaboration, that’s a bit exaggerated. They saw my drawings in a book I was in and chose some illustrations which they wanted to use in the collection. I sent them the drawings and they turned them all into magic! I’m not taking any cred for that. Then the relationship continued with some other things, and they have an incredible professional team.
Where do you go for your everyday escape?
I have never understood the idea of everyday. Is an everyday even necessary? And why would I have the need to escaping? Maybe I’m just lucky, having the most amazing husband and friends who make every day feel like a weekday. My job is also something that surrounds me almost constantly. It’s not like you leave the studio at six and feel pleased for the day.
What is the project of your dream?
The nicest feeling I know is starting a new project. When it’s all about the ideas in your mind and you’ve barely touched the pen. When I photograph a model and I see the image in my mind. I have a lot of freedom when working with my clients and that is a very nice thing. I hardly ever feel the need to compromise. My hope for the future is that it remains the same and that I keep improving at what I do!
What do you prefer to draw when you’re not working?
I mean, I draw whatever I want when working, so I guess it’s all the same thing. But when I do it all my way, I draw more nudity!
It’s a Monday morning, 2021. What does your day look like?
Oh, well my son will be 11 by then, which means that I won’t have to wake up at 06.00 a.m anymore, hopefully. That would be nice. Other than that, I hope everything is as fun as it is today and that I have an amazing office with millions of projects.
I guess that you receive tons of requests of all different kinds, but how do you choose which ones to do?
My agencies and I choose together among all the requests. I tend to say yes to a little too much and they know my schedule better than I do, so they can stop me when I already have a lot of things going on. It’s extremely nice to have agencies.
Could you tell us a little bit more about your collaboration with Valextra for Salone in April?
They had seen my images in D and wanted do have a meeting. I’m very impressed by the company and the quality of their products is just amazing. The craftsmanship is like a dream and I truly love a solid piece of work! So we met and talked about what we could do together. I recently made a couple of images for the window displays, which will be shown at their shop here in Milan, as well as a few images for their interior. They will be seen from the beginning of the week of Salone!
Where in Milan will we see you in the near future?
You will see my work in D of course. Then I hope for more fun collaborations to pop up!
You are extremely productive and I get the feeling that you always have a ton of projects at the same time. Do you never get tired of drawing?