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Jessica Fortner creates unique one of a kind sculpted illustrations. She combines her knowledge of design, sculpture, photography and digital post-production in her illustration process.

Jessica is one of the few illustrators whose process involves hand-sculpting key elements in the illustration. Her sense of visual and conceptual problem-solving creates a one of a kind aesthetic, sense of humor and approach to storytelling.

Jessica’s illustrations are memorable in that they combine the textures and palette of the real world with the surreal possibilities of painterly illustration. She is known for her interesting characters and distinctive style.



When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

It wasn't until after I graduated from The Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCADU) that I discovered my passion for sculpting, and in turn, my interest in sculpted illustration. I always knew that I wanted to make art in one form or another. While I was at OCAD I experimented with a lot of different techniques, but focused more on printmaking.

I have always been fascinated by stop-motion, the work and craftsmanship that goes into making an animation. After I graduated I discovered the work of illustrator Chris Sickels. His work introduced me to the world of sculpted illustration. It was so unique and different, and yet reminded me of sets from some of my favourite animations. It sparked an uncontrollable need to try this strange, yet beautiful technique.

Who or what inspires you?

My family, friends and peers are a constant source of inspiration. However, sometimes when I find myself stuck in a rut, I look for inspiration in how-to videos and special features of my favourite stop-motion films. I just love how real they can make things look on screen and how ingenious they are at figuring out what works best on the set and for the animation.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

I attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, where I studied printmaking. I took very few sculpting classes and no illustration courses. After I graduated and realized that sculpted illustrations were what I wanted to do, I had to learn some basic sculpting techniques, and started to develop my sculpting style. I watched a lot of how-to videos on YouTube, and learned a lot form various books and artist sites.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

I don't often think about what is fresh in the industry. My technique is already quite different and it definitely creates a unique aesthetic. I just focus on making my work the best it can be, and let the style emerge naturally. That being said, I do think that it is important for artist/illustrators to constantly be trying new things, and evolving, (even if it's personal work that you wouldn't necessarily show a client). I often like to experiment with new materials, which forces me to approach the illustration/concept differently.

What are some of your current projects?

I just finished my latest addition to the series "My Woodland, My Nightmare" called Deadly Sins: Sloth Meets Greed. I'm in the middle of preparing for an upcoming show, all the while, sketching ideas for an illustration on transgenic foods. I'm also working on illustrating a short book.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

I really love the project that I just finished with Brighter Books Publishing. I illustrated a book cover for their "Tales From The Amazon" book, due to be released in February. The book written by the editor, Angela Jurgensen, is an anthology of Amazonian folktales. It was great working with Angela, and I'm really pleased with the end product.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

Books, books and more books. I would love to do more book covers as well as illustrating a children's book. Though illustrating a full book can be demanding, I think I'm up to the challenge. I've also wanted to do some gig posters and cover art for CDs. I would also like to try my hand at animation, in particular a short stop-motion animation. The furthest I've gotten so far is an animated illustration, which I did in Flash. Still, there are tons of areas that I'd like to branch out to, but time is always limited.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?

Practice, persistence and patience. Maybe that's not very helpful, but I'm still in the process of figuring things out myself.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

I would think that a combination of composition, concept and execution is important, but then again, somethings just resonate better on an emotional level. If I ever figure it out, I'll be sure to pass it on.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

It's important to know when to stop working. Sometimes, especially if you work from home, it can be hard to turn off. To avoid burnout, it's good to let yourself take a step back, and enjoy some of the other great things that life has to offer. Allowing yourself to be put in a different frame of mind. Putting yourself in a different environment, is sometimes all you need. Going for a walk, or going out with friends, are always a help to me.

Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."

… Marine Biologist

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

Honestly, I couldn't say. I don't have television, and I haven't for the last 2 years. Although, I did watched Star Portraits online the other day with David Suzuki…that was pretty good.

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Jessica Fortner said...

Looks great! Thanks again Jeff.

DanaM said...

I am really amazed with your work.
Great job

Vikash Kumar said...

Nice post and great work.

Brill Pappin said...

Excellent work.
I particularly like the dimension the sculture give the illustration.

I was thinking it can be quite an expensive illustration though. Do you attempt to build your sculptured parts so they are reusable?
If its doable, I thinking that would bring down your turnover time, which might bring the cost down and put you in range of a lot of the smaller budgets (and of course allow you to do more of them).

Anyway, I've passed your interview on to my wife, who runs an agency, in case she has any need of that kind of illustration.

Nobu said...

awesome collections you've got there!

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