Illustrator Jessica Boehman shares her whimsical portfolio, and talks business – about her art.
ABI: What is your background and how did you get started in your art business?
JB: I have an undergraduate major in Studio Art from McDaniel College. After that, I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History, and though I love looking at, studying, and teaching art, I really missed creating it. It felt like a part of me was missing. So I started drawing again at night after work and in between classes. I read an article in Inc. Magazine (an entrepreneur and business magazine) about an illustrator who had been successful on Etsy, and it gave me the impetus to open my online shop. A friend of mine got me into my first retail fair, and from there, I became a regular in the NYC craft and art market scene.
ABI: How did the ABI workshop help you in your art career?
JB: Once I opened my shop, I felt I had come to an impasse. I wasn’t sure if this was the final direction I wanted to pursue. When I won a partial scholarship to the ABI workshop in Philadelphia, my old hometown, I decided to find out for sure. The classes of the workshop helped me to become more professional in my dealings with clients (in terms of copyright, contracts, interactions, and payment), in my presentation at retail fairs, and in dealing with the few wholesale orders I have accepted.
But ironically, the workshop also made it clear that wholesaling or licensing were not the paths I wanted to take at this crossroad. I had to listen very closely to find the answer, and it didn’t come immediately, but when it did, it felt right. In fact, it felt exactly like what I had wanted to be as a child, and that’s when I knew that this was a second chance for me to find contentment in this world.
ABI: Tell us about the work you are currently doing.
JB: Though I still vend at fairs and maintain an online retail presence, the lion’s share of my effort is dedicated to becoming a picture book illustrator. Since then, I have compiled a black and white portfolio, appropriate for middle-grade illustrations found inside books.
I am working to complete my color portfolio as well. I am in the process of refining the sketches for two manuscript dummies: “There You Were,” which I wrote and will illustrate, and “Monster Ark,” a book I wrote with Joshua Boehman and will illustrate as well. I have actively avoided commissions if I can in order to focus on this ultimate goal.
ABI: What artists do you most admire?
JB: There are many historical artists that I admire as an art historian; my favorites are Gianlorenzo Bernini, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Caravaggio, and Albrecht Dürer, among so many others. But recently, I have also looked to my favorite illustrators to inspire me. Chris van Allsburg, Shaun Tan, Trina Schart Hyman, Adrienne Adams, and Angela Barrett are some of my very favorites.
What’s more, I am getting the chance to be part of the exhibition “Beyond Words: The Artistry of Illustrated Children’s Books” at the Rice Gallery at McDaniel College, in Westminster, MD. It’s my alma mater. The show runs January 27, 2014-March 14, 2014. I will be their alumni representative and will have my art side by side with that of my artistic heroes. I feel so honored to be included in their number, and I feel it is a sign that my hard work will soon pay off.