We love featuring artists on Kewelworld, there is something rather special about folks who make their living from creating amazing things for the rest of to gaze upon and Erica Hesse definitely ranks up very high on work we love to gaze upon so when she happily agreed to an interview we wasted no time in getting down to grilling her…..
So, we started at the beginning, its a very good place to start, asking Erica about herself, where she grew up and any formal training she may have had?
"Well, I was born in New Jersey and do illustration work in the form of pinup and comic book art. Currently some of my pinup work is published in anew book called the "Contemporary Illustrated Pinup" alongside 14 other amazing artists. Other things I'm working on a regular basis is the Retro Humor Toons I do quarterly for PinUp America magazine, sketch cards for 5finity Productions, and working on various commercial art/spot illustration work for independent writers and companies.
In between those projects I squeeze in some of my own personal illustration work, pinup girls or my own comic book based projects. Occasionally I like to dabble in doing custom paint/fabrication on designer vinyl toys. I guess you can say I like to keep my artistic endeavors a bit varied.
I asked Erica about the creation of her characters, they are so 'alive' with expression! Does she prefer to draw a super hero or a villain?
"It all depends on the mood I'm in. I really don't have a preference, I enjoy creating either. Both types of characters have appealing attributes, but I will say at times illustrating a villain does tend to be a bit more fun."
A little it of the technical stuff now – can you give our readers the method of how you work taking one of your Zombie creations as an example?
"When I work on an illustration, it always starts out with a rough sketch. I begin with a basic "frame" for the figure, loose shapes or lines (usually very rough and messy) to start to getting the overall "feeling" of the pose. From there I sketch in the head and work my way down. I'm usually jumping all over the place when I'm sketching, focusing on the whole composition of the piece as opposed to being focused on one little area. It helps me keep my sketch flowing and ideas continually pop into my head as I'm working in the loose details. The rough sketches are a souped up large thumbnail, (around 4 x 8 inches, sometimes smaller) I do in my sketchbook. Once I'm happy with the overall feel of the art, I will scan it in on my computer, and enlarge it to the size I need. In the interim, I may make some small changes here and there if something seems off to me. When I 'm done, I'll print it out and start with working on a more finalized sketch. A more tightly detailed piece that I will end up inking with a brush or brush pen. It's rare anymore for me to do a piece of art directly (unless I'm doing commissions at shows) on the final paper/illustration board. (I find it ties me up creatively and I end up with a stiff looking piece of art) It gives me time to look back and reflect on the sketch instead of being married to the illustration.
When I'm finished with the final sketch, I'll ink it by hand with a brush or my brush pen. I'll also use a micron ink pen to clean up any details or anything that's too small for me to do with a brush. I'm a firm believer when it comes to doing art, I use everything and the kitchen sink. If it works for you, use it. There's no set rules when it comes to doing art. I've seen people use regular ol' stick pens and do some amazing work. Anyhow once I'm done inking, which is a little while (I work slow) I put the illustration aside until I'm absolutely sure the ink is dry before I go ahead and erase all my existing pencil lines. I can't tell you how many times I went to erase too soon on a piece of art and only to have the lines smear/smudge everywhere. It drives me crazy. So let this be your only warning, let the thing dry, dry, dry!
Fast forward to it being dry and erased, I then either illustrate it traditionally with watercolor, acrylics or markers. But in this case, this Zombie Hot Rod piece is digitally rendered. I would scan it in at a high resolution (300 dpi) and digitally color it using my wacom tablet. For this piece, some of the work was done in Illustrator then exported to Photoshop to be digitally coloured."
So where do you draw your inspirations and ideas from?
"Most of my inspirations come from life. Music, art, film, you name it. A lot of my ideas come when I'm listening to music,when I'm driving, and especially drinking my coffee in the morning. I keep a sketchbook and scribble little ideas down for new illustrations when they pop up in my head. I have all these notes, rough sketches that are waiting to be developed but never get a chance to. It's good for me to write them down, cause god knows I'll forget them! Sometimes when I revisit the ideas or rough sketches, I'm confused because I have no recollection of how I got some of these ideas at times! I blame the coffee when that happens."
More of the technical stuff crept in!! – which medium do you prefer to work with oils, water colours, inks etc?
"Hands down I love doing art traditionally, but I love the digital medium too. Recently I've been getting back into doing more traditional pieces that don't involve my usual mediums of ink, markers and colored pencil renderings. I've been experimenting more with ink, watercolors, gouache, and acrylics. I'm hoping eventually that I'll build up enough of a collection so I can eventually have my own showing at an art gallery, it's one of my goals artistically.
But I also love working in the digital medium too. Most of my pinup work is done digitally, rendered in Illustrator and/or Photoshop. I feel it's good to experiment with different mediums, traditional and digital. It gives me a chance to experiment and see what works for me."
Growing up, I can remember a UK comic called 'Action' that was banned after a few issues due to its violent nature, the artwork and story lines were great and pushed the boundaries, do you think that day is gone in that there is much more acceptance of violence and sex in comics today?
"I don't know if there's an overall acceptance of violence and sex in comics today. It seems there is an acceptance, but there isn't. It's really hard to explain because to me this is subject that's not black and white. There are so many shades of grey when it comes to this subject. A lot of times it all depends on how the content comes across and who the reader is. It's all a matter of the person's preference."
Whose work do you most admire today?
"Off the top of my head, some artists I admire: George Petty, Vargas, Alphonse Mucha, Dan Decarlo, Jim Phillips, Robert Williams, Coop, R.Black, Brian Ewing, Tara McPherson, Joseph Linser, Adam Hughes, Bruce Timm, Tyson McAdoo, Brom, honestly the list goes on and on. That's not even including photography, pinup models, or life in general."
Finally, taking the opportunity I asked Erica what advice would she could give to anyone starting out as an artist?
"Stay true to yourself and find "your" art. Surround yourself with inspiration whether it be music, art, friends, what ever works for you. Don't compare yourself to other artists, it's a deadly road to travel on. Be the best that you can do. Oh and draw, draw, and draw. And when you're done? Draw some more."
….and of course once we have the more serious questions out of the way – we had to ask a few – just for fun!
What’s your favourite colour?
"I don't have a favorite colour per say, I have favorite colour combinations, if that counts? I love black paired up with teal. Hot Pink, Green, and black seems to be a favorite of mine too. But if I have to say one, it would be black."
Where in the world would you like most to go visit?
"I would love to go to Prague and see the Alphonse Mucha Museum. His work is timeless and relevant to today in use of design, color, and illustration. To see his work in person would be absolutely mind blowing to me. I would love to visit London too."
What type of music do you like to listen too?
"I like all kinds of music, heavy metal, alternative, punk, rock, rockabilly, fifties music, big band, and even pop music."
Do you sing while taking a bath shower?
"Not that I can recall. But I do sing in my car a lot."
If you were a cartoon character what or who would you is?
"If I were a cartoon character, I would say a cross between Barbara Gordon Batgirl and Betty from Archie comics."