Interview with Jess Bircham, Children's Book Illustrator

I decided to contact one of the illustrators I've been following on Youtube. Jess Bircham. She has some really fantastic tutorials for digital illustration. She was kind enough to answer my questions regarding her career as an illustrator.

NSM: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Jess:  Sure! My name is Jess Bircham and I am a professional Illustrator. I work full time as an Illustrator for a charming company called Bunnies by the Bay. I illustrate children’s books, create art for fabric, apparel, art for catalogs, website and social media. I also do commissions and some personal art. I am originally from England but now live in Washington state in a log cabin on 11 acres in the mountains. I am a Mum of two boys, wife of a loving hubby, and farm girl of 4 horses, 3 dogs, 3 cats and 18 chickens! My home is very inspiring to my work!

NSM: Describe the first time you remember making art?

Jess:  That’s a tough question! I don’t remember ever not creating art - it’s just always been my happy place.

NSM: What is your favorite type of art to create?

Jess:  Drawing is my favorite art - just good old pencil and paper. I can and do draw for hours every day.

NSM: Who are some artists that inspire you?

Jess:  I love the art of Quentin Blake, Beatrix Potter, Holly Hobbie, Nick Butterworth, Jill Barklem and Tony O’Connor.

NSM: Those are some of my favorite artists as well. What inspired you to become a visual artist?

Jess:  It was always my dream to become a professional artist- it is my passion and something I find very natural and enjoyable to do, so it was an easy leap for me to make, although it took a great deal of work to get here!

NSM: What is a day in your life like?

Jess: Up around 5am to take care of all the animals and then it’s off to work in my home studio with a cup of tea in my hands. I spend the majority of my day sketching or creating art on my Mac computer. My dogs surround my feet while I work at my desk. At the end of the day it’s more farm chores, dinner and sometimes a movie and off to bed! 

NSM: How do you stay motivated to keep working as an artist?

Jess: My motivation for my full time job comes from the challenges I am given by my company - there’s often new things to learn and I am always wanting to improve my skills as an artist. I don’t think I’ve quite tapped my potential so there is a personal desire to always improve and make my next piece of art the best I’ve created so far.

NSM: What are you currently working on?

Jess: I am about to start a new book about a sheep called Kiddo! I am also planning on creating some personal pieces of art too - I’d love to try to create my own line of special characters!

NSM: What has been some of your success at marketing yourself as an illustrator?

Jess: I have found social media to be the biggest help, specifically Facebook has been my most successful avenue for commissioned pieces. I also get quite a lot of attention from my YouTube channel which has reached over 5000 subscribers now.

NSM: What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

Jess: My sketchbooks and mechanical pencils!

NSM: I've enjoyed some of your youtube videos. How are you recording your tutorials?

Jess: I am simply using my Mac to film and record my videos - I use the QuickTime app to record my screen and the microphone on the Mac to record my voice - I then edit my videos in iMovie.

NSM: What is something if you had known about starting as an Illustrator that you wished you had known when you started?

Jess: I wish I had believed in myself and taken the plunge even sooner! If you really want something you can get it - with hard work, a good attitude and perseverance you can have your dream career as an Artist. I think we are all told to be a professional artist means to be a “starving artist” which is just not true. Value yourself and your work and never let anyone make you feel you aren’t worth it. You can do what others cannot and that’s worth a great deal.

NSM: At the end of your life, you've made all the art that you've wanted, and you've lived a full life. If there could be nothing left behind of your existence, but a note you've written with three final truths. What would those truths be?

Jess:  Share your skills with others so that they might learn, improve and grow as Artists - it’s probably the most valuable gift you can leave behind.
Don’t compare your art to others, appreciate the skill and talent they have and learn from them.
Enjoy your art and create not only for others but also for yourself.

NSM: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

To learn more about Jess' illustration and tutorials visit the links below.

Jess Bircham Website


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