Today we hear a little from our wonderful new artist Jana Heidersdorf as she gives us a sneak peak into her wonderful world of illustration. From what inspires her to her favourite things to draw! A very interesting interview indeed!
Where do you live/work?
I’m currently living in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. While the city itself is not particularly inspiring, my flat is a perfect safe harbor to create in and snuggle up with my three rats.
What do you love about working there?
I’m a naturally inclined hermit, so having a comfortable place to work and relax in with convenient access to everything I need to keep myself alive is necessary for me. I can reach the forest in 30 minutes on foot, the post office in 10 and even the customs office is only a few train stops away (I never thought that would be important to me, but here I am.)
What are your dislikes?
All my artist friends live somewhere else, so I need to travel a bit to see them. My current solution is to combine visits with my vacations. Next year a trip to London is on my schedule to re-connect with some folks from art school.
What do you love most about being an illustrator?
Well, it’s a bit like doing magic, isn’t it? Of course you have to study hard to master the spells, but it doesn’t change feeling of creating something from nothing. When starting with an idea I never know exactly how the artwork will turn out, even as I plan all my preliminary work. There’s always an element of surprise to the process and a very childlike part of me is simply excited about seeing the finished piece appear!
How do you work — what are your techniques?
I work in a blend of traditional and digital media. For the majority of my process I draw and paint and everything in between, using pencils, acrylic paint and charcoal. Getting my hands dirty and messing around with textures is something I can’t go without. This is the part where I need to let go of my inner perfectionist and go wild. Once the artwork is scanned and on the screen in front of me I put on my critical-editor-hat to push pixels and add colours until I’m satisfied with the result.
What is your favorite thing to draw?
They are tricky, but I really enjoy drawing hands! When I was younger I used to avoid them at all costs until I did the right thing and started to study them. Nowadays they are still always a little bit of a challenge, however it is extremely satisfying to see once they’re finally on paper.
Are there any tricky parts to being an illustrator?
Are there any that are not tricky, at least to an extend? When I first realized I wanted to become an illustrator, I was not especially worried about being good, since I knew I just had to practice to develop my skills and I knew that was something within my control. What did worry me was me being an incredibly introverted, shy person with a dash of social anxiety. My environment constantly gave me the feeling all skill didn’t matter as long as I wouldn’t be able promote myself and I wouldn’t be as long as I was, well, me basically. As it turns out putting artwork online and having an easy to find e-mail address is something even I can do and having strong artwork is really the important part. Still, sometimes I can’t help wondering whether my skills might be wasted on my personality. (I guess there is a reason I’m with an agency now?!)
What or who are you inspired by?
Books, movies, music! Forest walks! You can blame Neil Gaiman, Del Toro and their colleagues for my work.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
Oh, I’m very boring. I mostly read, watch tv or go on walks. Lately I have started to try and find myself more hobbies because I’ve heard it’s good to lead a balanced life. For now that means I’ve started to get back into writing, so at least me fingers get a work out.
How did you get into illustration?
Besides fawning over Brian Froud’s and Alan Lee’s Faeries and Chris Riddell’s Edge World illustrations I grew up reading French fantasy and scifi comics and fell in love with the the medium, especially the beautiful artworks. Once in grammar school my friends were more into manga, so I dove into those, too. With fourteen I thought it would be a good idea to become a comic artist and is I started practicing to draw in earnest (or what I thought that meant at the time). That’s not exactly what I’m doing now, but close enough.
What are your three tips for aspiring illustrators?
What a strange question. Most of the time I still feel like one myself. I’m only in my second year after graduating art school and third year of freelancing.
So here it goes! Take deadlines seriously, even at art school. Take as long as you need to create awesome work for yourself, but if there’s a deadline then make sure you make it. If you somehow never do, try to find out why. Are your projects too ambitious? Are your time management skills non existent? Do you need to see somebody about your mental health (Not pulling all-nighters before a deadline and making sure you catch enough sleep helps with that, too! So don’t underestimate the art of time management …)?
The internet is a wondrous thing and you don’t need to live where all the cool kids are to get illustration work. Having an affordable place where you can hone your craft has its advantages to being able to schmooze at parties but worrying every month about making rent. You can always move at a later point in your career.
Last but not least some practical advice for getting work. Put your e-mail address on your website or blog where people can find it. This is very important. Nobody can hire you when they can’t reach you. Also, have a portfolio website if possible.
What’s your ultimate dream?
In my last months at art school we were assigned to write a bucket list. Mine included items such as having a book published, working on a movie, having a gallery show and so on. Yet imagining holding a book with my name on it in my hands isn’t what gets me out of bed and to my desk everyday. It took me a while to understand that. Nowadays when I imagine my endgame I see long lasting collaborative relationships with creatives in all different creative fields, people I am always excited to work with and with whom I am creating worlds with. I want to be able to look back and see where my artistic voice was able to weave through all the different realms of pop culture that made me an artist in the first place.
At times that seems awfully ambitious and even arrogant to me. Then again life can be quite long in this day and age and what a disappointment it would be to actually reach my goals and have nothing left to strive for.