Today, New York–based artist Richard Haines is one of the most sought-after fashion illustrators around, renowned for off-the-cuff drawings that display a keen sensitivity to form and figure. But it was just ten years ago that Haines, now in his sixties, began working as an illustrator, stepping away from a long career as a fashion designer for brands like J.Crew and Calvin Klein, and building an audience through What I Saw Today, a sort of street-style blog with quick and candid sketches that convey the bold personalities of their subjects, as well as the textures of what they were wearing. The portraitist thus was a natural choice when it came time to commission a cover image for our release of Tony Richardson’s bawdy Oscar winner Tom Jones, a restlessly inventive film full of larger-than-life characters and meticulous period details. Haines’s improvisational, “messy” style and playfully insouciant spirit made him the ideal artist to convey the modern sensibility that Richardson brought to his 1963 adaptation of Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel.
Recently, we took the subway out to the Bushwick section of Brooklyn to drop in on Haines for the second installment of our Studio Visits series. While we were soaking up all the work on display in his sun-filled space, he recounted for us the unorthodox path his career has taken, giving an intimate account of some of the personal and professional difficulties that led him to take the plunge and pursue his long-held dream of becoming an illustrator. He went on to call to our attention to gorgeous renderings he made of scenes from Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise and Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game—“cinema has been a really huge influence for me,” he says—before giving us a window into how he created the Tom Jones cover.