Introduce yourself and tell us what initially sparked your interest in illustration…
My name is Erica Hesse, I’m an illustrator from South New Jersey that specializes in pinup and comic book art. Other kinds of art I have created are posters, logos and other various forms of girl related art involving burlesque, roller derby, hot rod, and the horror genre. Some of my pinup work is published in a new book called the “Contemporary Illustrated Pinup” by Schiffer Publishing. My work is showcased along side other modern pinup artists that have contributed to the book. Currently, I illustrate comic style Retro Toons for PinUp America magazine and work on various commercial art/spot illustration work for independent writers and companies. In between those projects I try to squeeze in some of my own personal projects.
What got me started in illustration was reading comic books and watching cartoons as a kid. I was (and still am) a big fan of Archie comics and all of its “spin-off” titles. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, That Wilkin Boy, Josie and the Pussycats and anything else I could get my hands on. I remember being a big fan of the Millie the Model and Katy Keene comics too. As I got older my tastes changed a bit and I eventually got more into superhero mainstream comics that featured heroic women. Watching cartoons was also a huge influence in me becoming an illustrator. I loved Looney Tunes, Mighty Mouse, the Smurfs, Jem and the Holograms, She-Ra, He Man, Battle of the Planets; honestly the list goes on and on. I think the simplicity and graphic style of the art really got my attention and somehow that was the beginning of my love affair for art. Even today I still collect and read comics and watch cartoons when I have the time.
From pinups, to burlesque, to rockabilly, to hot rods and more, it’s clear to see that the female form is high up on your priorities list when it comes to drawing! What is it about the female form that inspires you to use it as your main focal point?
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly drew me to the female form per se. It probably was a combination of things. I know growing up I considered myself to be a very awkward, introverted, and unattractive kid. While reading comics and watching cartoons I remember the women portrayed were always beautiful, mysterious, confident, and strong. I think drawing them I somehow felt “I was” like them. Kind of how when you’re a kid and you play make pretend as a doctor, princess, or a superhero.
Eventually I discovered pinup in the form of comics, magazines, and art. The female form started to be more of an empowering subject matter to me, even when I discovered that it was frowned upon while I was growing up. I can’t tell you the countless times a guy or woman would try to degrade or assume why I liked to draw women. It was absurd, being made to feel bad for the things that make you feel and look as a woman. It just felt natural to illustrate what I knew or felt. The combination of playfulness and slight naughtiness has always fascinated me when it comes to illustrating women. One thing I’ve learned from these experiences is to always be true to yourself despite what others think or say about you. Especially when it comes to creativity and expressing your individuality! In the end it’s what makes you happy; forget what the others think.
Read the rest of our interview with Erica Hesse in the Feb/March issue of Rebelicious!