I think I probably learned how to walk wearing plaid. Growing up in the ’50s meant Peter Pan collars and puffed sleeves and plaid (oh my!)
Years later, around the millennium, I would be immersed in Burberry plaid, participating in the company’s makeover from dependable, upper crust yet slightly dowdy British icon to its incarnation of everything hip. Kate Moss modeled and young Japanese fashionistas made a B-line to the NYC 57th Street store. That shopping bag was wallpapering the whole town. Meanwhile, I still couldn’t afford it, didn’t particularly like it, but it was sure fun to draw!
I was hired by the VP of visual display to create a series of iconic British scenes for the flagship store on Regent Street, London, with the loose line and sense of whimsy that had become my trademark. Painted on Arches watercolor paper, my palette was black and white with the traditional beige and red. I lay the line down first, then added the plaid in gouache. Over several years I ended up completing over a hundred paintings for store launches in cities all over the world. After London came New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, and Barcelona. I had plaid Eiffel Towers, and King Kong with a plaid scarf wrapped around his neck as he climbed the (matching) Empire State Building. Barcelona’s Gaudi mosaics were maddeningly plaid, and the Hollywood sign was no longer white, but…Yep. You get the idea.
Campaigns come and go. My paintings that used to adorn all these stores (I even played Vegas) are who knows where, now? The original art was never returned to me, as it should have been. I tried to reclaim it, or at least locate the persons responsible for the accountability, but September 11th had happened and I was distracted and exhausted. To Burberry I was just a vendor. I pushed away all my plaid-painting memories, with nothing left but the aftertaste as a bitter reminder of how so many things in my life had suddenly turned sour.
Last week I got an email out of the blue. A young man in London had been given a piece of framed art from someone’s office in the Regent Street store, after it relocated. A tiny name at the bottom led him to me through some google detective work. Was I the artist, he asked?
Yes, I am.
This one was a self-promotional mailer:
And below is a tiny fraction of the Burberry art that I did between 1999-2002. Back then, I had no scanner and the discs that I obtained were incomplete.
Click on image to enlarge.
So, I “Heart” New York and I love L.A.! Thanks for the memories of dressing you up in plaid.
And one more parting shot, from last year. The scarf was a gift. It is warm.
I still can’t afford Burberry.
all art copyrights belong to Sharon Watts
As always, I love your illustrations, Sharon, and this is a great set of your work — I’m so happy they were returned to you. I think “Coney Island” and “Take the B Train” are my favourites. You have such a distinct style, and “loose line and sense of whimsy” is a good start in describing it. Actually, I like Burberry — my Burberry specs are sitting right next to me as I type — but I’m coming from a Brit background, so perhaps it’s in my blood.
V.A. ~ Actually, none of these were returned to me. The framed one of the bikini remains in the possession of the young Brit who traced its origins (he’s welcome to it at this point) and the rest are from a disk that I have of lo-rez scans. So–lost or destroyed is my guess, for the rest. I love having you as a “fan” 🙂 Thank you!
You were adorable in plaid.
Wow, I continue to amazed by the quality of your artwork. I feel like I’ve seen some of these advertisements in magazines over the years.
Thank you, Sheryl. I was used for advertising a few times (mostly for the sales) but typically they employ photography for the big campaigns. Emma Watson of Harry Potter is a recent celebrity-model.
Loved this Sharon and thanks to VA for putting it up on Facebook. What a talent..
Love your illustrations! But there is something about your 1950’s plaid photo – a little rattle from the past – do you think there were many such photos? Young ladies in plaid – I just feel it is classic.