Megan Hess tells Kavita Jaswal how illustrating the cover of One Fifth Avenue for Candace Bushnell really kick-started her career.
How did you get your start?
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 I realized that I had a burning desire to be an artist. At this time I’d became the art director for Liberty department Store. Whilst 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. 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 Candace Bushnell’s publisher asked me if I would illustrate Candace’s next novel One Fifth Avenue. This was when things took off at rapid speed for me. Her book became a New York Times best seller and I was then asked to illustrate all her previous books including the cover of Sex and The City. Once Sex and the City was released I found myself working for some of the world’s most prestigious brands, such as Chanel, Dior, Tiffany & Co, Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Time magazine, Disney, Italian Vogue and Vanity Fair.
What covers have you done and how did you get into illustrating?
I’ve worked on many covers. Mainly for female authors. I am most known for the Candace Bushnell covers but I’ve worked on many others. (Please see my website for the other covers.)
Have you always been into art/design?
Yes, even as a child I loved art. It was always my favourite thing. It was the one thing I felt I was good at, so I’ve just stuck with it!
When did you realize this is what you wanted to do?
I think I always knew it was what I wanted to do but it took a long to feel I could actually make a career from it.
How did you get your first cover?
A publisher saw my work in a fashion magazine and asked if I was interested in illustrating a wedding book cover. I was so thrilled. I had all these dreams of walking into a book shop and one day seeing a cover that I had illustrated. It was a special moment for me when the book came out and I was every bit thrilled seeing it on the shelf as I imagined.
How does the cover process work?
The process normally starts with a brief and a very detailed outline of the book. These days I’m often given the manuscript so I have a great understanding of the story and characters. I’ll usually describe what I’m going to draw first so the publisher can discuss with the author. It’s important everyone is on the same page when I start drawing. An initial sketch is draw first and a second final illustration is created.
Based off your illustrations, I can see you have a passion for fashion. Have you always had that passion?
Yes, I do love fashion. I love the history of fashion and the creativity that surrounds it. The funny thing is that most covers that I draw have an element of fashion to them and I always say ‘ No one is ever going to ask me to illustrate a crime novel cover!’ and then just the other day a publisher called me asking to illustrate a crime novel! So just never know.
Is it something that easily translates into art pieces for you?
Yes, fashion is art to me. It’s something that can create a mood or drama in an image.
Who was your inspiration to follow your passion for art and illustration?
My biggest inspiration has been Erte. He created many of the famous magazine covers of the 1900s. What I love about him is that he completely ignored all fashion trends and created his own world of fashion images. Most of his work was quite simple in black and white but every image created drama and a sense of escapism. He will be forever my greatest inspiration.
What are some future projects you plan to work on?
I just finished a beautiful book about Michelle Obama with Penguin US. It was such an honor to be asked to create portraits of the First Lady. It was also one of the most challenging jobs because creating a portrait is much more difficult than creating a fictional person. Overall it was a very satisfying experience though.
I noticed on your website that you offer prints and collections to be privately sold. Do you prefer to create pieces for a well-known client as opposed to a private buyer?
I honestly enjoy both. What I love about the print collections that I create is that I get to let my imagination run wild and just create a beautiful collection. Creating Private pieces is a much more personal experience working one on one with a client. Both outcomes bring me a lot of joy. I will always be that person who can’t believe they get paid to do what they love for a living!
Kavita Jaswal lives in Naperville, IL. A marketing consultant by day and Sassy Chick at night, follow Sassy Chick’s blog at: sassychick1.blogspot.com.