Deanna First’s artwork is driven by her fascination with the female form. She loves drawing women and does so in an instinctive way, with a light touch and a real sense of spirit.
From the latest models to the impeccably dressed women on Fifth Avenue, Deanna takes huge inspiration from their clothes and hair, and constantly gathers ideas for her sketchbooks. She goes into the city to people-watch, and also flicks through old fashion mags, taking the eye of one model and the lips of another to keep on hand and use in a future illustration.
Nighttime is when Deanna is at her most creative. When the rest of the world has gone to sleep and her phone has stopped ringing she can really focus on making images. “It’s like a switch flips in my head and I get a huge adrenaline rush when it’s dark,” she says.
Originally from Ohio, Deanna is now based in New York. She had a serious obsession with Elvis Presley when she was a child and recently found all her old memorabilia and fell in love all over again.
It was always Deanna’s dream to become an artist – she even used to write, “When I grow up I want to be an artist” in her schoolbooks. But when the time came to go to college, she studied fashion design. With a bachelor Degree from Kent State University, and experience working in the fashion industry with Elie Tahari, J.Crew and Ralph Lauren, she’s now combining the two passions and loves the freedom of being an illustrator.
Images nearly always begin with sketches done in pencil or using a Micron pen. Then Deanna adds minimal pop colours in marker, pastel, paint or watercolour, depending on what she thinks will work best for the brief. The image will be scanned and edited in Photoshop, with shading, further details and colours added. Each piece is unique – sometimes she’ll just use one medium with very little digital manipulation, while other images employ a vast mix.
Deanna works in two styles – one is loose and sketchy, the other more vivid and detailed. Both are full of fluidity and movement – smudges, splashes and flowing hair give the work a light feel. She likes using a palette of soft pastels with black and white, and you’ll often find this in her personal work. But if a client wants a bright colour scheme, she’ll never shy away from it.