Originally from Perth in western Australia, Christina Zimpel is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in New York. She has worked as artistic director for Vogue magazine (US and Australia) and collaborated with both Michael Kors and Maison Kitsuné on capsule collections and interior décor. Since embarking on a career in art four years ago, her paintings and drawings have been exhibited in New York, San Francisco, Paris and Sydney.

It was initially the world of fashion where Christina Zimpel expressed her creativity. “Following my role as artistic director, I decided to work with my husband Patric Shaw, a fashion and beauty photographer, in his studio. Kitsuné was the first brand that discovered me, I designed a little fox that you see everywhere now! It’s a collaboration that gave me a great deal of visibility and I’m grateful to them for that.”  Although her interest in art goes back a long way, it is only more recently that she has started practising. “I’ve been interested in art since my childhood. I did commissioned works for a number of years, but I hadn’t established my own artwork at that stage. It was my son, Alexander Shaw, who is a painter himself, who encouraged me to pursue more personal work. So around four years ago I started drawing self-portraits using a mirror because it was private and allowed me to experiment. Then I started producing portraits of other people and posting my creations on Instagram.”

Christina Zimpel’s work has a pictorial influence that is simultaneously eclectic, modern and pop-inspired. “I love Fauvist painters but my taste is very varied. I’m particularly drawn to the work of Philip Guston, Morandi, Peter Doig, Louise Bourgeois and Alexander Shaw.”  Portraiture occupies a central role in the work of Christina Zimpel, who has produced portraits of both unknown subjects and people in the public eye, such as Karl Lagerfeld, capturing a snapshot of each model. “What attracts me to portraits is getting into the model’s mind. I try to find out every person’s truth, whether it’s in a look or a tiny gesture.”

She likes to work at the kitchen table of the 1870s red-brick townhouse in Brooklyn that she shares with her husband. A peaceful environment where she can drink a cup of tea while she works and go for a walk around the garden when she needs a break.

But Christina Zimpel describes herself as meticulous in her way of working. “I try to start early and do something every day. I never give up after setbacks, I bounce back to create something else. Everything begins with a drawing, so with a pencil. I find black ink drawings a source of pure pleasure because I can streamline an image to try to understand its essence. I also like painting on canvas because I find it a challenge. I cover my pencil drawing with coloured ink, then I use acrylic paint to add opaqueness and richness to the colour

However, I very rarely use a computer for my work. Even my pieces that look like they’ve been created on a computer started off from a pencil drawing. For magazine and fashion commissions, though, I use a combination of the original drawing and digital colour processing to give the images a clean-cut, dynamic and graphic appearance. Fashion and art, it’s all connected. There are so many interesting ways of working nowadays. I’m very lucky to be able to move from one thing to another and back again.”

Text : Alexis Jama-Bieri