Megan Hess: Drawing Inspiration

Names like Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton stand out as the most iconic in fashion history. For illustrator Megan Hess, those are just a few of her most notable clientele.

Since Hess’ big break as the chosen cover artist for Candace Bushnell’s best-seller “Sex and the City,” the Melbourne-based artist has been commissioned by luxury fashion designers, publications and businesses across the globe. Her signature pen and ink-style sketches capture the glamour and femininity behind bespoke womenswear brands — bringing the beauty of art and high-fashion to the forefront.

Set against renowned backdrops like New York and Paris, Hess’ distinct aesthetic oftentimes resembles that of photographs from the 1940s and ‘50s with inspiration stemming from old-Hollywood legends like Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn. When Hess puts her Montblanc pen to paper, she sets out to create women that are strong, sophisticated and above all, stylish.

In recent years, her talents have transcended beyond the page, including projects that range from a self-designed shoe collection to home interior accessories. The artistry behind Hess’ prints translates most prominently on social media, where she has quickly developed a cult-like following. Her hand-drawn designs have managed to captivate audiences who are appreciative of the craftsmanship aspect of her profession and are attracted to the fictional world which she dreams up. VUE caught up with Hess where she told us about her career-changing moment, inspiration and the designers she still wants to work with.

How did you begin illustrating? Was it something you were always interested in?
I’ve just always loved drawing and it’s the one and only thing I think I’ve been good at!

When did you realize this had the potential to become a full-time career?
I studied Graphic Design because it felt like a ‘real’ job in the art world, but really I always wanted to be an illustrator – I just never knew back then that it was a possible career choice! After working as an Art Director in ad agencies for several years I packed everything up and moved to London. It was in London that I worked in a million different creative jobs and in my final job there realized that I had a burning desire to be an artist. At this time I’d became the Art Director for Liberty Department Store and whilst I loved art-directing fashion, I loved illustrating it more.

I started to do very small illustrations for Liberty and from this, art directors saw my work and little commissions began to follow. After about a year I found myself with non-stop work. I wasn’t earning a fortune but I’d never been happier and I knew I was going to do this forever. As my clients got bigger and better I was able to be a little more selective and just work on briefs that I knew had a great creative opportunity. Then in 2006 I got a call in the middle of the night from Candace Bushnell’s publisher asking if I would illustrate her next novel ‘One Fifth Avenue’. This was when things took off at rapid speed for me. Her book became a New York Times bestseller and I met with Candace and she asked me to illustrate all her previous books including the cover of ‘Sex and The City’.

Once ‘Sex and the City’ was released, I was contacted by TIME magazine in New York to create portraits for them. Following this, I began illustrating for Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman, Laduree…Ironically, at the same time as my work finally took off I had my first baby! It’s funny, I always tell people that I haven’t really slept since 2006!

How did you get involved with the fashion industry? Do you see art and fashion sharing any similarities?
I became very involved with the fashion industry once I started working with the larger luxury fashion brands. I think both art and fashion completely inspire each other. I find it so interesting that different trends and movements transcend into wearable pieces of art. I’ve always considered beautiful couture pieces very similar to beautiful sculptures.

As you mentioned, you have quite the client list. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet that you’d still like to?
Vivienne Westwood or I’d love Tom Ford to call me – that would be fun! But, honestly, if I keep getting to work on the types of commissions that I’m working on now, I’ll be very happy.

Talk us through your creative process. How does it all start?
I hand draw all my line work with a custom Montblanc pen and ink, then I either leave it black and white or add color with gouache, watercolor and digital. Some of my illustrations are very fast. I usually post a quick sketch on my Instagram account each morning (@meganhess_official) and I only ever give myself 10 minutes for that – because I have so many deadlines to get through! If it’s for a client, it starts with a brief and I always give myself a good amount of initial time to dream and get inspired about what I’m going to draw. Sometimes I’ll do initial sketches or create a moodboard of concepts and ideas. Then I’ll discuss with my clients where my direction is heading. Then it’s to the physical drawing phase and I’m usually in absolute joy creating the final image.

Is your aesthetic influenced by anything/one in particular?
Everything! I love just getting out of my own little world and seeing how other people dress, live and create. I’m an observer and I love all the little details that make people interesting. I also think travel has a huge influence on me and provides endless inspiration.

Do you find that social media has served as a positive outlet for your career?
Enormously! Social media has allowed artists to really show their work to the world and I think it has really formed a community that artists can feel connected and encouraged to keep doing what they love.

You recently wrapped up your book tour for “Paris: Through a Fashion Lens” — the second in a series. What made you choose that city as your next focus?
I am so excited to share all my favorite Paris locations with everyone. It’s a city that makes my heart melt and it was so much fun to write and illustrate!

Do you have any new projects that you’re currently working on?
I’m currently working on one of the most exciting collaborations I have ever worked on as it brings together all my favorite elements. It is with the fabulous Oetker Collection Hotel Group which involves sketching architectural and interiors scenes, and sprinkling them with all the eclectic people you would expect to find there. I get to travel around the world and experience all these different amazing hotels too, which is exciting, not least because they’re some of the most luxurious in the world.