I first met Jessica Roux sitting outside PNCA this past summer on the first night of ICON8. My friend Tuesday (who I interviewed here last week) introduced me to Jessica as we stood around waiting to go to dinner. Tuesday raved about Jessica’s talent, and so when I got back to where I was staying that night, I Googled Jessica’s name and found her website. I was instantly blown away by her work, and have since become a super-fan. I am over and over again amazed by her technical drawing skill and attention to detail. I sat down with Jessica to ask her about how she got started, her inspiration and her process. Without further ado, illustrator Jessica Roux!
Lisa: Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up and what was it like? When did you start drawing and painting?
Jessica: My childhood has so much influence on my work today! I grew up in North Carolina surrounded by nature – there’s the beach on one side and the mountains on the other, and lots of pine trees in between, so it’s a beautiful place to explore. I have lots of great memories of picking cicada shells of off trees with my sister and gardening with my mom and dad. My parents set up an easel in the backyard for my sister and I to paint when we were really young. Ever since then, I’ve loved drawing outside and drawing the things I find outside!
Lisa: Your drawings and paintings are incredibly detailed and meticulous. Did you study art? If so, where? Have you always drawn in the style you are now known for? If not, how did that style evolve?
Jessica: Thank you! I studied illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where I graduated from in 2013. The development of my style was really difficult for me when I first arrived in college because it was my first opportunity to explore so many different mediums. I remember calling my parents crying because I couldn’t figure out my style, and it seemed to be coming really easily to my peers. When I started working in watercolors, I found a color palette that really resonated with me, but I didn’t like the lack of control. I always thought my pencil drawings would look so much better than the final product, so I started layering pencil on top of watercolors. That still didn’t really give me a lot of details or control, so I eventually abandoned watercolors for making a detailed graphite drawing and coloring it digitally. I don’t think I was really working in my current style until late in my senior year, but I produced a lot of work during that time period to make up for it. My work has gotten more detailed and stylized since then, too!
Lisa: Your work has a timelessness about it, and so I imagine that you are influenced by history and historical imagery. Say more about your influences and where you go for inspiration for your work.
Jessica: One of my favorite parts of starting an illustration is doing (an insane amount of) research. I can’t get enough of history – old lithographs and studies by early naturalists are some of my favorite things. I love medieval bestiaries and the early Northern Renaissance. I’m also really inspired by nature. There are just so many strange plants and animals out there that I want to know more about! Sitting down to draw, it’s kind of like I’m trying to pack everything I researched into my work – maybe that’s why my work is so meticulously detailed!
Lisa: What materials do you use primarily in your work and what is your process (in a few steps) from start to finish of a piece? How long do your pieces take (I know this depends, but I am sure people will be curious since your work is so detailed so any insight on this would be great).
Jessica: I make a detailed graphite drawing using a really sharp pencil on a cotton rag printmaking paper. Then I scan that in and color it in Photoshop, and a new illustration is born! The graphite drawing is what takes the longest – I can spend anywhere from five to twenty hours on that part. By the end of it I’m pretty much covered in pencil dust. Coloring goes by really quickly, but I enjoy it a lot more; it usually takes about two to five hours. So, a finished illustration is anywhere from five to twenty-five hours, but I usually take a lot of email-answering, dog walking, eating and sleeping breaks.
Lisa: What do you like most about being an illustrator and do you have a favorite project that you have done for a client?
Jessica: I think the best part about being an illustrator is all the other amazing illustrators and art directors I’ve gotten to meet, or at least talk to online. It’s a really welcoming community of people lifting each other up, and I think that’s such a special thing. And, at the end of the day, I draw pretty things I like, so that is a pretty amazing job! Earlier this year I got to do a full page illustration for Smithsonian Magazine’s Collectors Edition of the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. As a history fan, I was thrilled to illustrate for them, and I’m so happy with how the illustration came out.
Lisa: What are you working on right now?
Jessica: I’m working on some food illustrations, custom wedding invitations for a really sweet couple, and an illustration for a friend’s zine. I’m also working on more stationery cards and a few personal projects that I’m excited to share soon.
Lisa: You live in Brooklyn, yes? What other hobbies do you have besides drawing and painting? How do you spend some of your time outside of work?
Jessica: I currently live in Brooklyn, but I’m looking to move in the near future – hopefully somewhere really naturey! I like going hiking and exploring upstate, taking my dog for walks in the park, and watching lots of tv with my husband.
Lisa: Where can people buy your work or find your work out in the world?
Jessica: I sell prints and illustrated goodies here.
Lisa: Where can people find you on the internets & social media?
Lisa: Thank you, Jessica!
Have a great Monday, friends!