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Artist spotlight: Joyce Hesselberth

Examples of some of the illustrations created by Joyce Hesselberth.
Examples of some of the illustrations created by Joyce Hesselberth.
Joyce Hesselberth

Art and design are everywhere since mostly everything contains some aspect of visual appeal. However, it is an unfortunate fact that many creative individuals are underappreciated despite their amazing abilities. Hence, I decided to start an “Artist Spotlight” series where I will interview various artists in order to gain a deeper insight into what inspires their creativity and what they plan to do with their careers. Illustrator Joyce Hesselberth is one of the artists who was kind enough to agree to be featured in this series.

Joyce's artwork is colorful and engaging to the eyes.
Joyce Hesselberth

Joyce Hesselberth has maintained a vibrant career working in the fields of advertising, theater productions, editorial illustrations and children’s books. Her colorful and lively drawings have appeared in AARP, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, McGraw-Hill Publishing, Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest and the New York Times—among other well-regarded publications. Joyce has launched two children's educational apps, PrestoBingo Shapes, which teaches kids to identify basic geometry, and PrestoBingo Colors which teaches kids about colors. Her work has been recognized by American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, the Art Directors’ Club of New York, and other venues. She and her husband, David Plunkert, co-founded Spur Design in 1995. Spur Design is located in a renovated factory building in Baltimore, Maryland. Joyce also teaches illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art. Recently, Joyce agreed to answer some questions about what it is like to be a professional illustrator:

Q: What influenced you to become an illustrator? Specifically, what draws you to the children's book medium?

I studied graphic design in school. I think I was drawn to the problem solving aspects of the profession and love that part of illustration too. Working with visual metaphors got me started in editorial illustration, which I still love in addition to children's books. The children's book format is particularly appealing because you can develop more of an arc to the work. Most books are 32 pages so you get a chance to explore the characters a bit more. Plus, you are drawing for the best audience ever – kids.

Q: In terms of subject matter, what are your illustrations about and what inspired the ideas for them?

Many times, as an illustrator, I am responding to the text, so the ideas start there, but then I think it's important to push the concept further and not be too literal. Sometimes it takes a few pages of thumbnails to come up with a different direction. I love playing with strong geometric shapes, so simplifying my compositions tends to help too.

Q: As far as working in illustration, what has been your most rewarding experience so far?

There are so many, it's hard to choose. I still get a kick out of seeing my work on newsstands. Working on my first authored and illustrated children's book would be really high on the list. I had been pitching ideas for books to publishers for a while, but wasn't finding the right fit, or maybe my manuscripts just weren't good enough yet. Then last year it all sort of fell together. I came up with a new book idea that was very different than what I had tried before. The editor loved it. Finishing the art for it was a blast. And the book will be in stores in 2016.

Q: When you work with children’s books, how do you select the writers who you work with?

Usually the art director or editor at the publishing house contacts me if they think I would be a good fit. I take a look at the manuscript at that point and we talk about creative direction.

Q: What are your ultimate goals for the future?

I'd like to work on projects where I make the content as well as the art. I'd like to be a better storyteller.

Q: Are there any up and coming projects that you would like to mention?

I've had a few really exciting projects lately. One project was a 2-minute animation for World Resources Institute. The animation is about giving land rights to local communities, so that forests are protected and ultimately our environment is improved. I storyboarded and illustrated the piece, and then worked with an animator to complete the project. I've also just launched my second educational app for kids, PrestoBIngo Colors. It's available in the iTunes app store. I love working on games because it's a great way to combine motion and art.

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To find out more about Joyce visit her official website:

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