Meet Christina Hess | Chair of Illustration

. . .

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Meet Christina Hess, Chair of our Illustration department. Hess joined PCA&D in 2006 and has been teaching while running her freelance practice for over 20 years! Her work can be found on book covers, children’s books, magazines, products, and advertisements. She also has a running personal project called “Animals From History” that has been featured on ABCnews.com,Jezebel.com, MentalFloss.com, Juxtapose Magazine, ModernMet.com, etc.

Tell us about your department?

CH: The entire Illustration department is comprised of working professionals who give their time to enhance the student experience with their diverse set of skills and business practice expertise. We often invite guest artists and professional reviewers for the students that reflect diverse groups as well as diverse visual voices.

There have been a few notable projects but the most recent one that the illustration seniors ran with was a magazine cover for Garden Spot Village which is a nearby over 55+ community. The class took a difficult conceptual lead and created 20 very different and unique images that not only solved the client’s problem but also added to their professional portfolios for post graduation.


What are the characteristics of students who are most successful in your department?

CH: Students who are most successful in the Illustration department are those who LOVE to narrate visually and are excellent time managers. We have a variety of student and alumni who are creating stellar projects ranging from watercolor portrait diptychs to completed comic books. Our students are self-starters and who can visualize how to take their education and use it to run in their own unique direction creating a professional and successful portfolio.

“Hand of a Gardener,” Illustration for GreenPrints Magazine article.


What type of career paths do students in your department take after graduation?

CH: There are a variety of career paths students have taken including visual development jobs at animation/film studios, freelance illustration careers focusing on obtaining their own clients for the publishing and advertising field, self-employed comic/graphic arts novelists, full-time layout designers, and children’s book illustrators.


Have you stayed in touch with any of your students after graduation? 

CH: Some of the students I have kept in contact with have gone onto graduate school, teaching, writing, and illustrating for high-profile and local clients. I always find it interesting to see what path graduates take. Some use their education in careers that are unexpected and end up becoming experts in their fields due to their hard work and focused goals.

Two in particular come to mind. Austin Lord, ‘18 and Abigail Bonett Lowe, ’17. Both were extremely hard workers who were always looking to improve their skills. Now Austin runs his own freelance career with both local and national, high-profile clients. He has taken his unique visual storytelling ability and applied it to the industry in a style that is specific to him and diverse enough for numerous clients. Abi has taken a job at a visual development company where she uses her skills in illustration to create assets for production. Her senior thesis not only consisted of illustration but also video, composing, singing, and sculpting. These are only a two of the amazing individuals who have graduated from the Illustration department!


Six of Wands tarot card featuring Amanda Palmer created for an Amanda Palmer tarot card deck

Can you share a favorite memory from your experience teaching at PCA&D?

CH: There really are too many to pinpoint. I have to say, overall, that the Illustration faculty and student relationship is the best experience I have to brag about. There is a very strong and positive vibe within our department that I have not seen at other institutions and my goal is to continue to foster that.


If there was one thing you wanted students considering PCA&D, and your department, to know about our College, what would it be?

CH: We focus on your uniqueness. Our goal is to give each student the skills they need to excel once they graduate and part of that is identifying each student’s own diverse and unique voice and nourish that. Our interest lies in creating successful individuals who will embrace their own unique skills sets and give them the best advice for the direction they choose to embark upon. There is a place for all chosen directions and we not only embrace that, we celebrate it.


You can see some more of Hess’s personal work on her website, at Animals From HistoryInstagram, and Facebook.

Portrait of David Bowie as a white whippet. Created for Hess’s “Animals From History” project.