Dior’s Bil Donovan

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As an ambassador for Christian Dior Beauty, Bil Donovan has taken on the role of Artist-in-Residence as a consultant and illustrator for the eminent line since 2009. However, the dashing Donovan still stylishly wears the many hats that have brought him to this position. Artist, educator, author and fashion illustrator, Bil Donovan discusses with me some personal thoughts as I uncover more about this talented, world-renowned man of influence.

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Donovan’s long list of clients are the crème de la crème in the fashion industry, from Givenchy, YSL and Escada to Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s. He has been commissioned for such projects as book covers, packaging design and advertisements you will find worldwide. With the recent release of his book Advanced Fashion Drawing (Laurence King Publishing 2010), Donovan describes the execution of illustrating “with a sense of fashion, rather than one that concentrates solely on the fashion figure.” Naturally, it is rich in illustrations by Donovan as well as other colleagues such as Tina Berning and Cecilia Carlstedt.

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When I asked what is it about the body that is inspiring, Donovan transcendentally replies “The infinite possibilities in the nuance of a gesture, pose or movement of the figure. To capture the essence of those ideas through a simple line or shape, that is invigorating to me. I am at one with the figure; I feel its weight and lightness, the pulsing energy and languid sensuality through the rhythm and flow of my line or stroke. It is still magical to me.”

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Once the student, now the teacher, Donovan is also an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Illustration Department at The Fashion Institute of Technology where he teaches Illustration that reflects the contemporary market. Now that the roles are reversed, I ask this former FIT student if he sees himself in the bright eager young eyes of his students he speaks fondly of. “Yes, I totally relate to them. I see their passion mixed with anxiety, and the euphoria that accompanies perfecting your art. I was at one time riding the same roller coaster of accomplishments and frustrations. I do see myself in their reflections, but they are wiser than I was.” Donovan talks about his students in a somewhat parental way explaining, “I want to prepare them for the realities of the world. I share my experiences with them, the good and the bad, my successes my failures, my achievements and shortcomings. Anything to shed some light on their path.”

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Donovan has no wrong that he needs to make right, as his path has taken him where he wants to be. In our informal discussion, he illustrates for me, figuratively speaking, a vision of where he is seated thirty years from today. “Continuing with Dior, and creating a full length featured animation with a focus on fashion illustration for a major Hollywood studio. And lounging on a beach in the tropics with my partner Ken Nintzel, a frozen margarita, and my Oscar for that animation.”

In the more recent months to follow, we can find Donovan making personal appearances with Dior Beauty at Saks Fifth Avenue in Boston, Sarasota, Phoenix and Atlanta. Meet you in Phoenix, Bil…I owe you a Margarita!

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