Cecilia Carlstedt

About a year ago, I ran across the work of Cecilia Carlstedt.

These two pieces stopped me in my tracks / stopped my mouse from scrolling further:

But this piece won my heart, and a place on my computer desktop background:

The illustration technique Cecilia Carlstedt employs is flawless. There is total control over the ink/paint/water/pencil, and the evidence of this control is the restraint in over-using the mediums.

The piece with the 3 women really exercises one of Jackson Pollock’s famous idioms: “I don’t use the accident. I deny the accident.” In the piece above, the detail on the girls’ hair and eyelashes, which are gradient ripples of watercolor, best exemplifies Carlstedt’s control. It’s as if she knows what watercolor will do, and will let its natural gravitation be, but only to serve her overall vision.


I love artists who use “blank” space or negative space liberally and without fear. Sometimes, a heavy hand implies that the artist is quickly hiding her flaws behind layers of medium, which can be distracting. There needs to be a balance: the positive space begins the narrative of what is present, but the “blanks” invite a viewer’s imagination to discover. What are the materials of the garments? What emotional expression could a woman have on her face, wearing this outfit?What does the body’s pose imply?


The combination of known elements and negative space bids the viewers to look deeper, imagine more and think more. This cerebral interaction isn’t always garnered from “traditional” fashion illustration. Usually, fashion illustration is pedantic in directions and form, as it serves as a design tool. Carlstedt elevates her work by balancing design and art.


Not to discount Carlstedt’s trained hand for detail – there are many pieces where objects, people and materials are detailed to the neo-realistic hilt, fully dimensional and identifiable. Her work is indeed inherently connected to fashion, where attention-to-detail reigns. However, it’s still common to see Carlstedt to combine the neo-realism with abstract space and color, charging her images with kinetic energy and freshness.


Not much on Cecilia Carlstedt’s personal biography is online, but I believe she is a native of Stockholm, and was trained in Stockholm and London art and design schools. Her work has been commissioned by many notable majors: Bloomingdales, Swarovski, Absolut Vodka, La Perla, Paul Smith, Saab, H&M, MTV, NY Times, VH1, Glamour, etc.

See her portfolios here and here. Her personal work, I think, is the strongest and most captivating.

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