Jessica Warrick's HAMMER AND NAILS

I perked up when HAMMER AND NAILS hit my radar. First, what a clever take on the words. Second, I adore the dad in this story! He embraces his little girl and all the feminine she loves to be, and he's man enough to be part of that! It's published by Flashlight Press, written by Josh Bledsoe, and illustrated by Jessica Warrick, who is here today...
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
My process has evolved over the years and has become something very satisfying for me. It is semi digital; part traditional watercolor and part Photoshop color.
      I begin with a digital sketch. I used to do this with a Wacom tablet on my laptop, but have recently made the move to an ipad and ipencil combo. I like sketching digitally because there are so many fantastic tools available that allow me to resize, reshape, erase with ease...and I love using a perspective grid too.
      So I draw up a super light sketch, and print that out onto thin watercolor paper using my epson printer so the ink is waterproof. I then go over my lines with a drawing pencil. I add in more details at this stage. I then apply a black wash of watercolor to the drawing. I use only black because I'm just going for texture and a little bit of tone. Anything that needs to be super dark in the painting will be added in later, digitally.
      I scan the drawing and go nuts in Photoshop. I modify my base texture layer quite a bit to really make the darks stand out more. I add opaque color to the above layers but also make use of layer properties to retain a nice warm, golden undertone.
      I like this process because there's just enough variety to keep me interested...I can always work on something in the traditional drawing stage if I'm burnt out on computer stuff, and visa versa. And no matter how many digital tools I've played around with, nothing can compare with the perfect errors you get with traditional pencil and watercolor. It really gives me the vintagey look I'm going for.
e: I especially adore the dad in Hammer and Nails. What was your inspiration for him?
Thanks! I like him too. I really wanted to emphasize the clunkiness of a big manly dude...
There was a hilarious character from the old Ren and Stimpy show that has always lodged itself in my psyche. He was a prison inmate who ate only meat sandwiches (with meat bread), was super tough and didn't know his own strength, but had a really soft side that just wanted to be loved. I adored the juxtaposition of this concept, and think he might have been a subconscious source of inspiration for the Dad:)
e: How do you advertise yourself?
At the beginning of my career I sent out postcards to publishers and regularly emailed art directors. But now, to be honest, I don't do much. For the most part, I adhere to a build it and they will come mentality. I like to post images of projects I am most passionate about on Instagram and Facebook. I was surprised to find that a large publisher had been stalking me on Instagram for awhile, waiting to give me a project because they liked my style and sense of humor. I do enjoy sharing my work on social media because it keeps me going...I need the positive feedback, and it helps me feel I am staying consistent. And the bringing in the business part is a bonus.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Heart art is something you feel connected to when creating it. You bring authenticity to it. Anytime you are authentic, you will connect with others. Viewers sense the authentic energy when they look at it, and will naturally relate to it. They don't even have to like it, but they will feel something real. That's what we all yearn for.
      I feel good when I make art I am passionate about. I love people. So drawing characters based on people I have observed really makes me feel connected to human beings, and that gets me excited. I know that my viewers have observed those same details in themselves or others, and knowing that inspires me so much.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Hammer and Nails?
Well, you will likely have to ask the author about that!
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Being a fulltime creator is extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. For me its personal development. When I feel aligned, my art comes together. If I'm stressed out, not focused, haven't rested enough, worrying about something, I will battle with my art and the end result will look uninspired. I also strive to improve constantly, so there are periods of uncomfortable change with no clear vision of what's to come, just trust that following my intuition will lead to a breakthrough. And it always does. And then things get really really fun. And then eventually uncomfortable again. And on and on:)
e: Is there something in particular about Hammer and Nails you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I hope people will embrace the message of challenging one's own identity from this book. I don't think people realize just how malleable and dynamic they are by nature. Too often we become fixed in how we view ourselves; what we like, what we think we are capable of, what's possible for us...I love that both characters in this story challenge themselves by stepping into each others worlds. I feel when we open ourselves up to that kind of uncertainty, we open ourselves up to so many more possibilities, and a whole hell of a lot more fun.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I'm working on a variety of projects right now. One is a picture book for adults. It's something I've always wanted to do. The story line is completely child inappropriate but still incorporates the fantasy and playful elements that kids books have. Think drunk alien.

e: Ha! Thanks for dropping by, Jessica!

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