Spend an hour with Sasha Pivovarova and you start to realize that she creates art for the same reason sharks swim: to stay alive.

A bit dramatic, perhaps, but consider that when the Russian-born, Brooklyn-based model is cough on the road without her pencils and pigments, she’ll fashion projects from whatever within reach.

She’s sewn cloth dolls out of room-services napkins, made collages out of cut-up call sheets, and painted a self-portrait using a tube of Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat. “It’s perfect for skin tone,”

Little surprise, then, to hear that when GapBody asked Sasha Pivovarova to dream up ethereal prints for a holiday collection of sleepwear and lingerie, she took to the opportunity like oils to canvas. “I’ve always wanted to do something with clothes,” Sasha Pivovarova says. “I was very excited.”

How exited? In two weeks, the former art-history student turned our more than 50 sketches of airy blossoms and wispy sleeping beauties, only five of which ended up adorning the silky slips and boy shorts.

“I was living in this project,” says Pivovarova, who took inspiration from twentieth-century Russian folkoric illustrator Ivan Bilibin, French Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, and “flowers, women, and fairy tales,” she says.

Over the years, Sasha Pivovarova has filled more than 20 leather-bound books-handmade by her equally artistic husband, Igor Vishnyakov— with painting and sketches that nod to show and shoots.

“They’re like diaries,” she says. “They tell me where I’ve been.”

One tableau chronicles a trip to Tokyo for Louis Vuitton with photo-booth pictures taped opposite an ink drawing on Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel stationery.

Another re-imagines the look she wore on the fall 2006 runways of Balenciaga and Sonia Rykiel in smudged pastels. A single page recalls her first Prada campaign with a lone makeup-test shot on which she’s pasted tiny cat ear atop her head.

“If I feel like I would have worn another hairstyle or i didn’t like the makeup, I draw myself as I would like to do it,” she explains.

sasha pivovarova artworkNot that she thinks she would have looked better as a feline in the Prada ads, but “you can take a piece of blank paper and create whatever you want.”

The irony of Sasha Pivovarova’s passion for art is that it allows her a rich fantasy life and tethers her firmly to the ground.

“It’s like meditation for me,” she says.

“When i’, working, I need to do something to relax and clean my head.”

That’s when she orders room services, hopping for an extra napkin.

© Emily Holt @ Vogue Magazine December 2011

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