Coffee and Conversation with Joyce Hesselberth

It’s another terrific Tuesday! Illustrator’s Month will be winding down soon, but not until we bring you some more talented artists. Next up is Joyce Hesselberth.

Joyce’s illustrations have been used in national ad campaigns, theater productions, and numerous major newspapers and magazines. Her first illustrated children’s book, A Child’s Book of Animal Poems, published by Skinner House, was released this year:

Joyce co-founded Spur Design in 1995, with her husband David Plunkert. Spur Design is located in a renovated factory building in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore.

While Joyce is making herself comfortable in the Cyber Cafe, let’s take a moment to enjoy some examples of her whimsical work:

Now that you’re settled in, let’s get started! First off, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

Black coffee. How unimaginative, right?

When did you decide to be an illustrator?

I’ve always loved art, and studied graphic design in college. On one particular job, it occurred to me that the best part of the job was really the illustration and I didn’t get to do that part. I decided I would do the illustrations myself and never looked back.

How long did your path to your first sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

It was actually pretty fast. Once I had a handful of pieces I liked, I made promotional cards and sent them to every magazine I could find. Magazine art directors seem pretty willing to give a new person a try. My first children’s book, however, came much, much later. What I have found is that just because you have established yourself as an editorial illustrator, it doesn’t immediately translate into a different field. I am very happy at this point to have toes in both worlds.

What’s your favorite medium?

Digital, but I like to mix in hand-painted textures and hand-drawn lines.

Where’s your favorite place to work?

We have a renovated factory building in Baltimore. It gives us plenty of space to make messes, and it’s like a second home to my kids.

Which illustrators inspire you?

So many! But a few are Charley Harper, Mary Blair, Maira Kalman, and Jim Flora.

What were your favorite books as a child?

I was such a big fan of Miss Suzy, writen by Miriam Young and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, that I had a moss green carpet in my room, just like hers. I also loved Favorite Poems by Eugene Field, which was illustrated by Malthe Hasselriis. Some of the poems in it, like The Duel, with the gingham dog and the calico cat were irresistible, but I think the pictures were my favorite part.

How do you describe your style and has it changed throughout your career?

It has definitely become a little less serious, a little more childish, which isn’t a bad thing.

Not a bad thing at all! How were you inspired to illustrate your current or upcoming release?

I’ve been working on a series for McGraw-Hill. The most recent book is a classic — The Country Mouse and City Mouse. My inspiration for the illustrations came when I realized I could make the city mouse and country mouse have two very different worlds. The city mouse’s world was very cool color-wise, with lots of blues and purples and had lots of sharp angles. The country mouse’s world became warmer oranges and yellows, with curvy lines. Green was a crossover color, because it can be both warm and cool. The mouses’ worlds extended to their characters as well. The city mouse’s tail was crooked and angular. The county mouse’s tail was a graceful curve. Once I established the worlds visually, the rest of the process became a game. What would flowers look like in the city? What would trees look like in the country?

Time for the lightning round!

Do you . . .

Work from photos or imagination? Photos, but then I ignore them.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? Zipped, the client gets to show it first.

Prefer sketching or final art? Sketching. That’s where the ideas happen.

Dread marketing/blogging or love it? Well, let’s just say I would rather be drawing.

Enjoy brainstorming more or researching? Brainstorming. The idea is everything.

So true! Thanks for taking time to visit and share your talent with us, Joyce. Good luck with your current and future releases!

About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Interviews: Illustrators. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Coffee and Conversation with Joyce Hesselberth

  1. What magical illustrations! Thanks for sharing Joyce’s beautiful work.

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