An Instagram sensation, illustrator Angelica Hicks has collaborated with The Met Store to celebrate Camp: Notes on Fashion—and her depictions of Dapper Dan, Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Alessandro Michele, Susan Sontag, and Anna Wintour epitomize the wit and exuberance of the aesthetic. We caught up with Hicks to talk art, old movies, and how her technique might just make her subjects look better than themselves.
Define your aesthetic for us.
I like black line. An outline. I draw in pencil, and regardless of if I’m doing something in watercolor or coloring it in Photoshop, the most important thing is the outline, the black outline with the same felt tip—a Fabriano pen that I’ve always used.
So you can’t draw without that pen?
I can, but I don’t love to. It’s just smoother, just feels nicer. Even if I’m painting an oil, and I’m not applying the same outline that I apply in my drawings, there are still clear boundaries. I don’t really like the blur.
So when you look at a face, you see an outline?
That’s the easiest way of saying it. If I look at face, I know where the lines go; I can just see them.
Where does the text interface with the images?
I want to say it’s very “symbiotic”…but I can’t really explain it. The image is how I physically see people—and the other way I see people is through wordplay. And humor. Sometimes it’s not the time to be silly, but I can’t help it.
You work a lot in the fashion space. Do you consider yourself a commentator, or critic, or cheerleader, or somewhere in between?
My mom was a fashion designer. My father was an interior designer. My grandfather was an interior designer. They were all so obsessed with aesthetics. I had creative people growing up. I suppose being exposed to a “passion for fashion” from an early age made me aware of the funniness of it. I mean, it’s fun—but it’s also quite funny.
What is camp to you?
I did history of art at University College London so I was already familiar with Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’”—but before camp existed to me in the academic sphere, camp was Auntie Mame, played by Doris Day—no, Rosalind Russell. (Doris Day did Calamity Jane—also quite camp. I did also love her.) Rosalind Russell’s Auntie Mame is, to me, just the epitome of camp.
After you read Sontag, how did your perception evolve?
Well, then I started overthinking it! The way in which everyone’s doing. (You know, how you look at a chair and wonder, “Is that camp? I don’t know…maybe it is.”) But I also thought, “How wonderful that a word can mean so much.”
Do you think your drawing style is camp?
I think it is quite camp. In a different way—exaggerated features and all. And [whispers] I do make everyone look a bit better, let’s be honest. Even myself—so I can say this.
Who are your favorite painters or illustrators? Is there anyone in the art history canon you’re inspired by?
Yes. I love Louise Bourgeois and I love Eva Hesse—but that’s because I studied them. And I think what I studied is very dissimilar to what I do myself. Aubrey Beardsley—he’s great, fantastic, to give an example of an illustrator. Raymond Pettibon, who I came across two years ago. Alice Neel does inspire me in a way—but that’s stuff I’m trying to do now just for fun, oil painting, because I’m lucky. If you do art commercially, then you get to have fun painting!
Do you ever meet your subjects?
Yes. On the first job I had. Literally, I don’t know how I did this. It was just after my last exam for university and I had two days—because I’d lied, obviously, and said that I had so much time to get all these done and it was 60 place cards, for a dinner—portraits! In watercolor! Of each person!
The assistant of the person organizing the dinner sent me a file that had photos of every person. And I randomly met three of them that same night, after the dinner—which I’d been invited to since I’d done the drawings but, you know what? I thought, “too weird”—and I realized I had been sent the entirely wrong images. It was…awkward. But it was funny.
Has anyone ever given you a hard time on your work, or their likeness?
Yes. But it’s more like they give me, “It’s too flattering!” And I’m like, “Well, better than the other way around, isn’t it?”
Shop Angelica Hicks’s Camp Icons at store.metmuseum.org.