Artist Rhonda Corley’s connection to fashion began in childhood.
“I was always thinking about what I was going to wear,” she says.
It’s a passion she credits to the fact that New Orleanians love to dress up and to her late mother. After high school at McDonogh 35, Corley took art classes at Delgado and moved to New York to study fashion illustration and advertising design at FIT. There, she fleshed out her favorite subject — women modeling clothing and also clothing and shoes themselves — and developed her technique.
“I saw how the models moved and I loved the fashion illustration part of it,” says Corley, who likes the rapid-fire pace of doing gesture drawings of models. “I love movement,” she says. “My lines dance across the page.”
Post New York, Corley lived in Richmond, Virginia and Atlanta, where she exhibited her fashion-centric works at art shows. Customers responded to the work and took it a step further, asking whether she sketched people in their wedding gowns. Recognizing the bridal category as a natural extension of her métier, Corley began doing commissions for brides wearing their dresses as well as depictions of wedding dresses on their own.
“I think of them as a story,” she says of her bridal pieces. “I try to find something unique to convey.”
Other themes in her work include friendship, ballet and emotions like “letting go,” and many of her sketches and paintings include circles, a favorite motif. When working, Corley listens to music and doodles as a way of warming up, then begins to sketch.
“It may take over 20 sketches before I say ‘this is it,’” she says.
When teaching kindergarten and first grade students in the aftercare program at the International School of Louisiana on the West Bank, she encourages spontaneity and discourages erasing. The approach is designed to help students tap into their unique style.
Corley’s style, which ranges from fluid, almost abstract sketches to brightly colored, more defined paintings, is in demand. Ten years ago, she began licensing fashion sketches for use on items such as notecards. Locally, goods with Corley’s images are sold at Zele, Ariodante Gallery, The Ogden Museum gift shop, Feet First and La Rouge Nail Warehouse. Licensing agreements have allowed a wide market to enjoy her artistry and generate income that enables her to pursue other applications for her work. She is currently considering a book of her shoe illustrations.