[ June 8, 2009 ]
Jeanine Henderson is a Brooklyn-based illustrator and designer, whose work can be found on book covers, in magazines, and product advertising. Having had a love of drawing and painting ever since she can remember, Jeanine studied illustration and earned her BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. A graphic design job brought her to New York City where she has lived happily since, making pictures, packaging and hand lettering for a variety of clients. Some of these include Penguin Books, Utne Reader, Harvard Magazine, Egmont Publishing, Sacramento News and Review, and Marlin Co. Advertising Agency.
She talks here with book designer, Kristin Smith, about her process, experiences, and influences.
When did you realize you wanted to be a professional artist?
As a kid, I was pretty terrible at sports and music and just about everything else I tried! So, art didn't really feel like a choice--it just felt right. But I guess it was when I decided to go to art school that I thought seriously about pursuing it as a career. Now, I could never imagine making a living doing anything else!
You also work as a graphic designer. Do you find that influences your illustration style?
I have always felt that design and illustration go hand-in-hand, and are often best when used well together. I design children's book covers, which has exposed me to so much in the industry. I've learned how the business works from the inside, seen how visual trends change, and had the opportunity to direct other illustrators. In turn, my illustration and image-making process has heavily influenced the way I approach my design work. This has all has proven to be very beneficial in my growth as an artist overall, and has allowed me a wider variety in the jobs I get. It can be a hard juggle sometimes to focus on both, but the two worlds are really morphing into something for me that are getting more difficult to separate from one another.
What mediums do you use for your illustration work?
I mostly paint with acrylics, occasionally adding in inked line work, small bits of collage materials, or hand-carved lino-block printing. Designing has made me pretty Photoshop and Illustrator savvy, so I often use software as a time-saving tool in the sketch process or adding finishing touches to my work. But the core of my illustration work is still traditional drawing and painting. I love texture, and haven't found the same satisfaction in digital texture that I get from traditional materials.
When did you get interested in hand lettering?
Even as a kid, I played around with lettering. But I think that interest grew as I learned more formally about type and naturally evolved through merging my design and illustration work.
What would be your dream assignment?
My dream assignments are the ones that I get to create the whole package rather than just one piece--like a cover where I get to concept, design, illustrate and also hand-letter type! Books are great for that, but I would also love to do posters, product packaging or CD/album covers.
What inspires or influences you?
Living in New York City inspires and stimulates me all the time! The mixture of people, cultures, sights, sounds, and colors is so visually exciting. But I have also always been influenced by the people in my life, places I have traveled, and music of all kinds.
Which artists or illustrators most influence or inspire you?
That's hard to answer! I love seeing everything that is out there, and I love getting a sense of others' process. It's inspiring to see how each artist has a unique style and there is a place for everything. Because of that, I have a wide range of the things I look at. I have always loved the work of painters like Joe Sorren and Lori Earley who create these inviting, imaginative worlds in their work. But I also love a lot of very graphic stuff, like old art nouveau posters. And pretty much everything in between!
Do you often do personal work?
I don't find as much time as I would like for personal work, as I am sure is the case for many artists! But I try as much as possible to make new work that allows me to express personal views and/or experiment with style or medium. I think it's a very important part of staying excited about and connected to your creativity. I also take private commissions for paintings and exhibit my work, which I find allows for more personal creative freedom than some commercial assignments.
Any advice for anyone who just is beginning to pursue illustration as a career?
I think it's important to have persistence and a tough skin! It can take awhile to get people's attention, and it's a very competitive and over-saturated field. Also, the economic and technological world are changing almost everyday--so it's important to be open to new markets, new mediums, and evolving with the industry.
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