In any culture industry there is a carefully mediated relationship between the people who expose work and those who create it. Artists need someone to sing their praises, and culture-peddlers need material to share. Much as these two groups rely on each other, they don’t naturally come into contact with one another, at least not at the right scale. There are too many artists, and the elite circle of taste-makers is small by necessity. To fix that problem, certain individuals become connectors. They find talented artists and help put them in contact with the bigger fish.
Marcus Kan is one of those connectors – a one-man hub in his niche. Through his blog, Draw a Dot, he curates material relating to fashion illustration, a relatively obscure and under-appreciated art form. The website, though new, has garnered a strong fan base already. Within months of its launch, it was lauded by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the organizer of New York Fashion Week. A survey of his blog gives an indication of refined taste, which isn’t surprising considering Marcus’s experience.
Starting in 2009, Marcus’s first fashion blog, A La Mode, didn’t specifically cover illustrations, though they were the posts that received most notice. Growing from a project focused on helping models with their photography, A La Mode eventually caught the attention of Dolce and Gabbana, who invited Marcus to contribute to their publication, Swide Magazine. Concurrently, Marcus became the fashion director of online retailer, Ukamaku. With his credibility rapidly established, he collaborated with legendary fashion blogger, Diane Pernet, for her A Shaded View of Fashion Film festival, curating an illustration exhibition. In late 2012, he started Draw a Dot, now fully dedicated to the art of illustration, while also beginning work for Fajo magazine.
Marcus’s personality mirrors his role. He says he likes to stay behind the scenes, preferring to watch his artists grow rather than take the stage himself. “I always feel that the artist should be in the front and I should be in the back to support them,” he says. There’s a trace of sentimentality in his voice when he recounts seeing artists whom he’s helped expose reach some level of international prestige.
In deciding which artists to support, his criteria for material worth blogging is defined by freshness. The work needs to be something he hasn’t seen before, something with an edge to it. The approach makes sense; overly derivative material is endemic in creative industries. He specifically mentions Pinterest and its penchant for endless self-recycling. Freshness is engrossing. As he puts it, “I want them to suck me in. If they cannot suck me in, I’m not going to talk about them.”
For now, Marcus continues to grow Draw a Dot. What separates it from his previous projects, he says, is the cleanliness of its design. Being sparse with words lets the work he features speak for itself. The end goals are simple. The first is to give deserving artists exposure. The second is to inspire other artists. And the third is to locate new trends in fashion illustration. If his current trajectory keeps up, he might just end up as one of the very arbitrators of taste to which he exposes his artists.