Megan Hess, fashion artist and illustrator has worked with some of the most prestigious brands and names in industry. Producing elegant and stylish pieces, she often draws inspiration from Paris and its inhabitants. To find out more about Megan, follow her on Instagram at meganhess_official or check out her website at http://www.meganhess.com/
When did you know you wanted to be a fashion artist? Did you fall into this career naturally or was it a goal you set out to achieve?
I always knew that I wanted to draw for a living but when I was growing up I had no idea that a Fashion Illustrator was an actual job! It was just always the thing I loved to do. I still feel incredibly lucky to do what I love as a profession.
I studied Graphic Design because it felt like a ‘real’ job in the art world, but really always wanted to be an illustrator – I just never knew back then that it was a possible career choice! After working as an Art Director in Ad agencies for several years I packed everything up and moved to London. It was in London that I worked in a million different creative jobs and in my final job there realized that I had a burning desire to be an artist. At this time, I’d became the Art Director for Liberty Department Store. While I loved art-directing fashion, I loved illustrating it more. I started to do very small illustrations for Liberty and from this, art directors saw my work and little commissions began to follow. After about a year I found myself with non-stop work. I wasn’t earning a fortune but I’d never been happier and I knew I was going to do this forever.
As my clients got bigger and better I was able to be a little more selective and just work on briefs that I knew had a great creative opportunity. Then in 2006 I got a call in the middle of the night from Candace Bushnell’s publisher asking if I would illustrate her next novel ‘One Fifth Avenue’. This was when things took off at rapid speed for me. Her book became a New York Times bestseller and I met with Candace and she asked me to illustrate all her previous books including the cover of ‘Sex and The City’. Once ‘Sex and the City’ was released I was contacted by TIME magazine in New York to create portraits for them. Following this, I began illustrating for Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman, Laduree… Ironically, at the same time as my work finally took off I had my first baby!! Its funny, I always tell people that I haven’t really slept since 2006!!
Image Courtesy of Megan Hess
Can you tell us a little about your creative process, where do you even begin when you have to create a new illustration?
I hand draw all my line work with a custom Montblanc pen and ink, then I either leave it black and white or add colour with gouache, watercolour and digital. Some of my illustrations are very fast. I usually post a quick sketch on my instagram account each morning and I only ever give myself 10 minutes for that – because I have so many deadlines to get through! Most of my work can take anywhere from an hour to several days – just depends on the complexity of the illustration.
If it’s for a client, it starts with a brief and I always give myself a good amount of initial time to dream and get inspired about what I’m going to draw. Sometimes I’ll do initial sketches or create a moodboard of concepts and ideas. Then I’ll discuss with my clients where my direction is heading. Then it’s to the physical drawing phase and I’m usually in absolute joy creating the final image.
You’ve worked with many high profile clients, has there been a time when you’ve panicked under the pressure, weren’t sure if an illustration was going to come together the way it should? If so, how did you stay calm and get through it?
There have been times when I have probably taken on too many projects at the one time and this can lead to feeling overwhelmed. If I’ve ever felt like an illustration isn’t coming together I always do the same thing – I turn it over at the end of the day in the studio and then re look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. By doing this, I can always then see it clearly and I can assess where it needs more work or whether I need to start again!
We read that you create your illustrations with a bespoke Montblanc pen, do you ever use digital programs such as Adobe Illustrator or do you exclusively stick to pen and paper?
My secret magic tool is a custom Montblanc fountain pen – I affectionately call him “Monty”. The pen was created especially for me by Montblanc and he’s my most prized possession!
I draw everything by hand with Monty and then scan into Photoshop. Ultimately all my work has to be a high res file and be emailed to any client anywhere in the world.
What advice would you give an aspiring young illustrator?
I think if it’s what you really want to do then do it and don’t let anything put you off course. The more you do something the better you’ll get. Students often ask me how to find their style and I always say that if you just keep drawing, your style will find you. And my ultimate advice is to enjoy the journey as much as the outcome.
Image Courtesy of Megan Hess
Where’s your favorite place in Paris and why?
I have so many favorite places in Paris! If I had to choose one I would say a long lunch at Hotel Costes in their terrace restaurant in spring. I love the ambiance, the signature cheese cake and most of all the people watching!
Can you tell us your favorite and least favorite part of being a fashion artist?
My favourite part would have to be getting paid to do what I love for a living and being a Mother. I see that as a huge luxury to be able to do both and it’s something that I’m very grateful for every day. I’ve also been able to donate many pieces of my work for charities and causes all over the world and in some small way I feel proud that one of my drawings may have helped someone. As Creative Patron of Ovarian Cancer I’ve also had the privilege of working with the most inspiring team of people trying to raise awareness and funds for the development of an early detection test for Ovarian Cancer.
I don’t think I have a least favorite part of being a fashion illustrator. However, the most challenging aspect of my career would be managing it all! In the very beginning the struggle was to find great projects to work on. I had no clients and I wasn’t yet a Mother so the initial challenge was to get things moving. THEN once my work took off after Sex and The City I had the opposite problem – I had lots of great projects and brands coming to me to collaborate and I also had just had a baby so it was quite overwhelming. Today I still find the biggest challenge juggling it all. I can now only take on about 20% of the jobs that come to me each year so I have to be very careful about what projects are the best fit – I’ve learnt that it’s better to do a smaller amount of jobs at 100% then lots of jobs at 50%. At the end of the day I try to base this decision on what projects will have the best creative outcome – some projects have huge budgets and others are tiny but I always choose to work on projects that will fulfil me creatively.
Finally, have you got any exciting plans in the works? What’s next for Megan Hess?
I’m currently working on one of the most exciting collaborations I have ever worked on as it brings together all my favorite elements. It is with the fabulous Oetker Collection Hotel Group which involves sketching architectural and interiors scenes, and sprinkling them with the sorts of people you would expect to find there. I get to travel around and experience all these different hotels too, which is exciting, not least because they’re some of the most luxurious in the world.