First fashion designer, later fashion illustrator, now Richard Haines also showed his paintings at this exhibition Larger than life, at Daniel Cooney Fine Art (NYC). Richard has a unique style, that makes you recognize his work immediately. Drag and streetstyle plus fashion runways are part of his daily inspiration, always approaching them with his pencil and a special eye interested on the subject’s attitude, displaying all the results on his personal and inspiring blog What I saw today. His illustrations have been featured on numerous magazines, blogs and stores, and he received recognitions from Paper Magazine, GQ, NY Magazine, amongst others. We had a talk with Richard to understand his illustrations’ and approach to his process.
You have worked as a designer for big American fashion brands (including Calvin Klein, Bill Blass and Perry Ellis) before beginning your adventure as fashion illustrator. How did you move from design into illustration?
In 2008 the economy in the US came to a halt —I was freelancing as a designer and suddenly there was no more work. Also at the same time I was in the middle of a divorce, so it felt as though everything in my life was falling apart. I was having difficulty getting design work, and a friend suggested I start a blog. Originally the idea was to start a blog as a fashion trend report, so I could market myself as a designer. I was so excited by the power of drawing and posting that I just started drawing guys on the street and then my new career took off.
A special thing about illustration is that you don’t have to portrait the reality: you can emphasize an element you like or delete an other one to communicate what you want to. What are the details that often capture your attention and which ones are usually bothering you?
That is a very good description. I believe my job as an illustrator is to edit the information, and leave some part of the drawing unfinished, or ‘unsaid’, to engage with the viewer. The details I look for is the subject’s attitude —the way a person carries himself and puts himself together. It’s not at all about a guy wearing a lot of fashion, but more about how a person can be an individual through style and ‘swagger’. Nothing really bothers me, but I don’t really care of people who wear a lot of designer clothes that overshadow the personality —just not very interesting.
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Sussi, 2016
Your daily inspiration comes from both street style and high fashion runways. How do you approach these worlds with your pencil?
I don’t think the approach is different. I come at them both with a desire to record the moment, to connect with the viewer. Perhaps with street style there is a different emphasis on the clothes, but not usually —they are part of the same story.
With this new exhibition at Cooney’s Larger Than Life you were showing for the first time your paintings and minimalist nudes, while on the past the focus was always on your drawing and fashion illustrations. Do you see your paintings as an evolution of your illustrations?
I see the paintings as an evolution, yes. It’s the first time I’ve painted since I was a kid, and felt good to get out of my comfort zone. 
In a world everyday more and more digital, it is a relief to see hands working, still pure: paper and pencil. Do you feel like the digital world has somehow influenced your aesthetics or your way of working?
It would be impossible to say the digital world is not an influence. Look at the amount of images we come across daily —when I think of my life as a child in the 50’s and 60’s, and now, it’s remarkable. In the sense of research it’s incredible. I do feel that illustration, drawing and fine art have a larger audience now because people crave a human touch. I think people respond to my work because I keep the flaws, the smudges on the paper. It’s very unprocessed and undigital. It gives the eye a rest from the processed.
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Logan’s Mouth, 2016
You have made many collaborations with designers and brands, and the one with Prada for Il Palazzo in 2012 is one of them. Can you tell us about the making process of this project and the limited edition t-shirts you made?
The process was one that evolved throughout the season. They asked me to draw their collection Il Palazzo live at the show, so I did a series of drawings, then went back to NYC and continued to draw out the concept. They weren’t sure what the end result would be for the drawings, but eventually they decided to print a limited edition book, which was incredibly exciting. From there, they decided to use a selection of images for t-shirts, and an iPad app. A truly amazing experience!
I love your paintings. I immediately have a feeling that reminds me to Egon Schiele’s work when I look at them. Is his work a source of inspiration for you? How do you deal with your models while painting?
Thank you for the compliment! Yes, Schiele’s work is wonderful, and an influence, but the real influence for me has been Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Growing up in the pre-internet age I got my information from books and museums. One of my earliest books was of the work of Lautrec, and I was always fascinated. The vitality of his line, the intimacy of his subjects —people in everyday situations, in bars, restaurants, cafes, in bed— that fascinated me. Capturing people in moments has always been my inspiration.  
Looking at your street style illustrations I can tell you like to reproduce movement: some of them really look like street style photography. Besides the clothes and the fashion elements, how important is the human body and shapes when you are drawing?
The human body is pretty much everything. The body and the interaction with other bodies. I’m interested in the way a person looks leaning on a bar, flirting with another person, for instance. And faces; cities are filled with wonderful faces —so many different types. At times there’s so much beauty it’s overwhelming! I do gravitate to long, lean people, maybe because it reminds me of myself as a kid, and also some people almost look like drawings coming to life —maybe that’s the similarity that I share with Schiele.
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And God Created Victoire, 2016
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@orograph, 2016
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Boys in Blue Hats, 2016
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Back of Logan, 2016
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Edith Sitwell Sits Well, 2016
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Elsa Smoking, 2016
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Edward, 2016
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Schiap, 2016