Designer & Illustrator
Solstice: Tell us about your background and your transition from Mongolia to New York City?
Bella: I was born and raised in Mongolia. I had a very normal life there, and I’m lucky to have a supportive and loving family. I attended public school until eighth grade but then transferred to an art-focused high school. Moving away to study in the USA was a dream of mine and thankfully my family took this desire very seriously and helped me to achieve my dream. My family is pretty small, it’s just my dad, mum, me and my brother (who is 8 years younger than me). I left home when I was nineteen and he was only eleven years old so it made me really sad to leave him alone. After a while living in Blacksburg, Virginia, I was accepted at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. However, I spent the first two semesters of my course at FIT at Polimoda in Florence, Italy through FIT’s study abroad program. It was an amazing experience! That was my first time visiting Europe and everything was so fascinating. I finally got to NYC after my stint in Italy. New York was just so amazing and full of surprises. I loved the skyscrapers and the beautiful night view of the city from Brooklyn bridge. I was so surprised by how busy and packed the city was. As for now I think I’ve adapted to living in NYC pretty well. But there is still so much to explore in New York City.
Solstice: How did you get into fashion illustration? Did you study illustration or any other art subject?
Bella: Growing up I loved doodling and drawing. I remember one of my favourite gifts I received as a child was my gouache paint set from my mother. I think I was eight or nine years old at the time. Then I was enrolled in a small fashion design club when I was in middle school back home. That was my first understanding of fashion illustration and design. After that, I transferred to high school which was art concentrated where I learned about drawing, painting, and sketching. I loved all of my art classes but I realised that I enjoyed drawing people and designing fashion more than anything else. That’s when I decided to study fashion design after high school. I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with an Associates in Fashion design and Bachelors in Technical design.
Solstice: Do you feel that getting an illustration/art degree or some kind of educational certificate is helpful/ essential to getting work in the industry?
Bella: Yes, I think it is helpful getting an illustration/art degree or some kind of educational certificate. The more you know the more you have to offer and which will make it that much easier getting a job in the industry. But of course some artists who never went to college but they are crushing it with their work. But I believe they’ve invested years and years of hard work and effort into their craft to get to where they are now.
Solstice: What have been your main influences? Do you have one or more artists that you particularly admire?
Bella: I like looking at other artist’s work, it’s inspiring to me. Every artist has a different method and process. My favourite fashion illustrator at the moment is Jessica Durrant. Her work is amazing and I love how positive and full of vision she is. She is very philanthropic and encouraging. Also I admire her consistency and work ethic. Also I like this artist called Likrot from Norway. Her art is so unique and very inspiring.
Solstice: What is the main medium you use when illustrating? Do you prefer doing it the traditional way or are you keener on using computer software.
Bella: I like experimenting with different mediums. I like watercolour, gouache and markers. Lately I’ve been using a lot of markers for my fashion illustrations. I find it a fast application, rich colours and easy to use. My favourite marker is copic. It’s an alcohol based marker from Japan and it blends amazing. I prefer doing it the traditional way. There is something I love about having a sketchbook, pencil and pen. But it’s also fun to edit or touch up your work digitally after it’s been done traditionally.
Solstice: What do you find most difficult in the process of illustrating? Do you ever suffer from creative block?
Bella: The most difficult process of illustrating is get started. I’m still trying to find a good routine and system that I can follow as starting something is oddly difficult for me. I definitely do sometimes suffer from creative block. But I think it’s normal to have creative blocks. I try to think of it as a normal phase or emotion that everybody experiences. I just try not to let it get me down for too long.
Solstice: What do you do to get inspired when you’re suffering from a lack of creativity?
Bella: I don’t really push myself to get inspired. I just let myself be and do the things that I love watching comedy movies, listening to music, sleeping or cooking. I find it helpful to look and observe outside of my industry. Lately, I’m obsessed about fitness moms. They are moms of two or three young children and their body is so amazing. I’m like how are they balancing taking care of young kids yet getting so much done, cooking, taking care of their kids, cleaning, working out hardcore and looking bomb! Also sometimes I like reading self help books or watching encouraging motivational videos.
Solstice: What is your favourite illustration that you’ve created?
Bella: My favourite of my own work so far is these draped couture dresses I designed last year called Ce Soir (pictured left). I like the design, overall look, silhouette and colour combinations. They consist of black, dark grey, grey and yellow shades. They are very conceptual and not ready to wear dresses. I love designing asymmetrical dresses with interesting cutouts and shapes. I think I translated my thoughts on this design pretty well.
Solstice: On average, how long does it take you to illustrate a full artwork? What is your work process?
Bella: It depends on the type of illustration. For my dress designs I like working with a smaller canvas. So it doesn’t take that long. I usually spend about three to four hours on each fashion illustration. My work process is first I have a theme, colour or an idea for a dress. Then I sketch thumbnails to see how my ideas look. I usually sketch five to ten thumbnails. Then I choose my favourite one or two and add the details and make changes if necessary. Then I choose the thumbnail and transfer it to my sketchbook. I sketch my design, polish it and outline it. Then I add the face, hair, shoes, and render the dress to complete my illustration.
Saikhantsetseg (or “Bella”, as she likes to go by) Tserendorj, is a designer and illustrator currently based in New York City. She is originally from Mongolia and grew up with her family there. Bella has an Associate’s degree in Fashion Design and a Bachelor’s in Technical Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has always been a creative individual, transferring her mind’s creations onto paper via illustration. Bella is extreme when it comes to colour (or even the lack of it), creating either wonderfully vivid pieces, just sticking to simple black and white. After a brief stint in Florence, Italy, she is now living in NYC, and adapting to life in one of the world’s busiest cities. We had a chance to interview her about her illustration work, opinions and life experiences so far, here’s what Bella had to say...
Solstice: Do you find that you are still learning about fashion illustration or do you feel you have a firm grasp on it?
Bella: I would say half and half. I still want to learn and grow professionally. Also I want to try and experiment with new mediums, sizes, concepts and techniques. So it’s an ever evolving process. I design different, one of a kind dresses every time to make it exciting. So that I won’t get bored or repeat illustrating the same dress. But if I compare myself to my just starting out self I think I have a pretty good grasp on it.
Solstice: Is there any particular brand, artist or person that you would like to work with and why?
Bella: I would love to work with YSL, David Koma, Lady Gaga and Vogue. Lady Gaga is one of my favourite artists. I love her brand and her unique self expression. YSL is an all time classic. Vogue is the number one fashion magazine in the world. So it must be amazing to be commissioned by them. And I love David Koma’s beautiful body contouring dresses. It’s so elegant yet seductive
Solstice: In what ways would you like to see your career evolve?
Bella: I would like to keep designing, illustrating and developing my skill. I would love to increase my dress design collection and have my clothing brand. And I would love to see my fashion illustration book published in the future. I would love to launch an online fashion illustration workshop and also an online course where I can connect and teach to students around the world. Also I want to travel around the world with my family.
You can see more of Bella's work on the following: