Megan Hess – Illustrating the Big Apple
Illustration – arguably the most traditional art form is also particularly relevant in contemporary culture
Melbourne-based illustrator, Megan Hess, is bringing the art of illustration to the forefront of fiction – literally. Her unique combination or art deco and contemporary style has been picked up by none other than Sex and the City author, Candace Bushnell (full story in Habitus 05, out now). Megan also collaborated with Habitus’ 1st Birthday, providing a custom illustration for the printed invitations (pictured above).
Text by Stephen Crafti
Portrait Photography by Craig Yelland
Candace Bushnell is hot property. With a string of best selling novels and a film based on her book Sex and the City, Bushnell is synonymous with the racy pace of New York, parties, openings and celebrities. On the other side of the world, working alone from her studio in St. Kilda is Megan Hess. Megan is the illustrator of choice for Bushnell’s book covers, including her latest, One Fifth Avenue.
If Bushnell’s covers weren’t enough, Hess is now the official illustrator for Bloomingdale’s, THE department store in New York. In between these gigs, Hess illustrates for Time magazine. “I was asked by Chrissy Dunleavy (Art Director for Time) if I could also draw older overweight unattractive men, which the magazine regularly feature,” says Hess, who emailed two illustrations to Dunleavy, one of Woody Allen, the other of Alfred Hitchcock (both which she drew from photographs).
Ninety percent of Hess’s illustrations head overseas, mostly to New York and London. In August, Hess went to New York for the launch of Bushnell’s One Fifth Avenue. Hess now makes at least two trips to New York each year, arriving with ideas and leaving with a stack of briefs. “It was extraordinary seeing my illustrations on billboards and on cab doors,” says Hess.
Like many success stories, Hess started her career from an even smaller place, on the outskirts of Brisbane. As a child she loved drawing, but later, in high school, she never thought of it as a possible career. “I was always told by school friends that I needed to find a real job,” says Hess. The closest thing to drawing was graphic design, which Hess studied at the Queensland College of Art, part of Griffith University.
Upon graduation from college, with no experience, Hess landed her first job with Mojo in Brisbane, one of Australia’s high-profile advertising companies. Employed as an art director, it was either ‘sink or swim’. “I never really wanted to work in advertising. In the back of my mind I wanted to be an artist,” says Hess, who after two years was given large corporate accounts to oversee. “Friends used to envy my position, reminding me of how lucky I was at my age (then 21) to be doing what I’m doing”.
Hess’s real luck lay ahead of her, not in Brisbane, but in London…