Suzanne Simmons talks about advertising comps and fashion illustration


As far back as Suzanne can remember, she wanted to be an artist, drawing on anything available including paper bags from the grocery store supplied by her very supportive mother. Fashion design and illustration was always in the back of her mind. She worked in Hartford then Denver and on to Los Angeles as a fashion illustrator. Los Angeles, because there weren’t many people who could draw men, she got her first job doing men’s art for Bullock’s and continued freelancing there for 8 years adding women’s and children’s fashion and several more stores to her background. As a comp storyboard and animatic illustrator, she has worked for well know advertising agencies on a wide range of accounts. Currently, in addition to commercial, art Suzanne has added painting, pastels and portraits to her repertoire.

Has it always been your inclination to lean towards beauty and fashion in your work?

Suzanne Simmons: When still in high school, I began drawing newspaper ads for a local children’s store. Fashion just seemed be a natural career for me to pursue.

If you aren’t given a layout and have to work from a verbal or written description, how do you handle it?

SS: I do a series of pencil comps for the creative to choose from. I enjoy seeing if I can read the creative’s mind and give him or her what they are imagining. Honestly, I feel I’m more a part of things when I can create more.

Who models for you?

SS: I am the Norman Rockwell of my neighborhood. I know all my neighbors in a kind of cul-de-sac neighborhood in Madison, Connecticut and they have all been kind enough to model for me. Old, young, short and tall … I don’t know where I’d be without them.

Are there any specific tools or materials that you can’t work without?

SS: I always begin by using a pencil and paper for my original drawings. I nearly always use my digital camera and sometimes watercolor before scanning into my computer for more color.

Describe your process from start to finish.

SS: Really listen to Creative and go over boards. Photograph. Do Pencils and get approval. Scan finished pencil drawings with some watercolor into computer. Color art on computer in variety of mediums. If an animatic do layering, E-mail finish

How has the computer changed your art?

SS: Initially, using a computer was something I fought. Don’t know why. I love it now. The more I learn and the more I try, the more it is indispensable. It is plainly another medium or mediums because I can turn my art into watercolor or oil or a myriad of techniques. Honestly, the computer has opened up worlds to me.

With beauty and fashion too much line or an overworked drawing can be its ruin. How do you decide when to stop?

SS: Mistakes are the way we learn. You don’t know overworked or ruined till you have been there a few times. I think fashion art is learning what to leave out, to simplify so it was part of my early training. But, it is something I think all of us do from time to time as artists are always learning and reevaluating. Oh, and there is always the Apple z button.

What is your funniest or most embarrassing moment on a job?

SS: I had to draw an ATM machine for a commercial, so I walked into a local bank in Fairfield, Ct. and asked if I could take a picture of theirs. The manager came out and told me no and recorded my license number. I went down the street to another bank where they said yes and even volunteered to pose for the commercial. When I got home, the police called my house saying that the manager of the bank thought I could be planning a robbery.