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Interview with Jesse Hora Dot Com

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Jesse Hora Dot Com is an illustrator and art director living in Chicago, IL. He has a true love for typography and lettering, a playful comedic voice, and a stark, stripped down vector style, which has caught the eye of Kanye West, and helped numerous high end clients. Jesse puts just as much passion, and careful crafting, into his commercial work as he does his constant creative explorations. Fans of Vectortuts+ will know Jesse's artwork on first glance. He's written quite a few tutorials for us. Get to know him better in this interview.

Q Hello Jesse, please tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from and how you got started in the creative industry? How long have you been illustrating and designing? What training did you get and is this a path you would recommend to others?

Hello. My name is Jesse Hora, most folks know me as Jesse Hora Dot Com. I am an art director, specializing in design, illustration and lettering. Born and raised in the Midwest, I am currently located in the beautiful Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago, IL. I started doing freelance design and illustration about five years ago and now am running a one-man studio. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working for some incredible clients, including Adidas Originals, Mt. Dew, Miller Brewing Co., Sims Snowboards, WarnerBros+Reprise Records, The Onion and Chicago Magazine, just to name a few.

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I actually started my career path during college, at Grand Valley State University, from which I received my BFA with an emphasis in Graphic Design. The college experience allowed me the opportunity to experiment, explore, and experience things that I otherwise would not have been able to. I would recommend college, though if you asked me shortly after graduation I would've given you a far different answer. Over time, and with experience, I have realized just how much I learned in school, though most of it not in the classroom. Honestly, having life experience and being an interesting person is all the training you need.

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Q What's a typical workday like for you? How much of your work is client directed versus self-initiated? How does your personal work influence your client work and vice versa?

A normal day starts with an espresso and taking my English bulldog, Hogan aka The Hoag Monster, for a very short walk so he can do his deed. Then kissing my girlfriend goodbye as she runs out the door on her way to work, after which I go on a run myself. By ten I'm showered, up, and shuffling through a metric ton of email. Depending on what needs to be done that day, I chat on the phone, scribble down concepts and ideas in my sketchbook, meet with clients, eat lunch, draw and bury my head in AI, PS and ID. By seven I'll either meet my girlfriend and friends out for a drink or help cook a nice vegetarian meal at home.

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Self-initiated projects have always been my backbone. Making and making and making for making's sake has not only kept my art parts satisfied, but also has played a major role in bringing commercial work my way. As of right now, I am a one man studio; so handling all of the client/account duties has started to cut back on time for my personal work. My head will always be flooded with ideas, which is a gift or a curse depending, so the biggest obstacle is finding the time to do them. My answer is to bridge the gap between the two: client and personal. Instead of keeping a list of ideas to myself and letting them sit around, collecting dust, waiting for me to have free-time to execute them, I keep them close and find ways to integrate them into my client work. This way I'm satisfying my clients and myself. There's no reason to keep all the good ideas to myself. ;)

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Q What role does sketching and craft play in your work? How does attitude and random happenstance come out in your work? How would you define your approach to illustration and design?

Sketching is super important in my daily workflow. It helps me to get my ideas down quickly so that they aren't lost when I have to leave the project and come back to it later. Being able to render a fairly thorough sketch by hand is a good asset to have as well; it helps convey ideas to clients quickly.

Craft is so important and too often is overlooked. I was fortunate enough (depending on how you look at it), to go through a foundations boot-camp in college that drilled the importance of craft into my head. It has become second nature. Taking the time to do something right from the start, and seeing it through completion, is the basis of craft and is fundamental in my work process.

My attitude, personality and general out look on life are definitely a main characteristic in my work. Often a funny little idea will pop into my head, and others might think it stupid or just plain silly, but that's fine with me, because it made me smile. Laughter and general having of a good time is something that a lot of people don't have in their daily lives. Which is a tragedy in my eyes. So with my work, I look to evoke a smirk, smile or even full-blown laughing out loud!

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Q What influences your work from the past? Are there any particular eras, movements, ephemera, cultures, or artists that really stand out and have made an impact on you?

There are so many ways to approach this question; I elect to give you a laundry list of things that I have drawn inspiration from, weather that is aesthetically or otherwise: 1920's fashion, 1950's fashion illustration, hippie culture, Alphonse Mucha, Americana, funny haircuts, late 80's & early 90's NBA, 'sk8' culture, pin-up girls, vintage tattoo lettering, gang graffiti, hip-hop music, trading cards, high-top sneakers, mid-western ephemera, the internet...

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Q We see your love for all kinds of letters in much of your work. What do you find fascinating about typography, illustrative lettering, and combining type with image?

I love letters. Typography to me is just so beautiful, in ways that images without type cannot be. Since letters, in most cases, are intended to be read, there are aspects of interaction with the viewer. One of my favorite things to do, for example at a gallery opening, is to watch people look at my typographic work for the first time. I get to see their ah ha or I get it moment happen - beautiful.

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Q How did your character illustration approach develop? Could you tell us a bit about your Athlete Objects project?

Cartoons have always been a big part of my life because my grandpa and I used to read the funnies together when I was a kid. So I grew up loving all kinds of cartoon characters. Roger Rabbit and The Simpsons are some namely influences, not so much for their visual aesthetic, but for the comedic voice.

These influences helped me to develop a sarcastic, satirical, tongue-n-cheek, ironic, playful sense of humor and approach to characters. With the Athlete Objects project this sense of humor is applied to another childhood love, late 80's and early 90's NBA basketball. So Larry Bird becomes a middle finger (The Bird), Clyde 'The Glide' Drexler become a paper airplane and Bill Laimbeer becomes Bill 'Lamb Beer'. Hilarity ensues.

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Q What are the highlights of your career so far? What clients or individuals have been key in influencing your creative and career growth? What illustration job would you love to get (your dream job)?

There are two highlights that come to mind. First, being internet friends with Josh Spear. If you don't know who he is, you should. He probably doesn't know this, but he really inspired me to be awesome when I was still in college. Having his support, via the short lived Spear Collective and his site, helped me to gain some recognition and land dream jobs like the Adidas Originals in-store campaign, even though I was fairly new to the industry.

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Secondly, which completely came out of left field and still is crazy to me to this day, was being posted about on Kanye West's blog. He may not have posted it personally, but it's on his blog so he has seen my work and didn't hate it. Which is good enough for me. I might sound fanboy-ish about Kanye, I know people either love or hate him, but I am a big fan. Needless to say a dream job would be to work with Mr. West or anybody in the G.O.O.D music family.

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Q To what extent does illustrating and designing feel like play, and when does it feel like work? What do you do to keep things fun?

I love my job. I get to come up with ideas and make pretty pictures for people; and they pay me for it! It's all of the other stuff that becomes work, the client management, meetings, pitches, presentations, accounting, etc... At the end of the day I'm running a business, and as long as I don't let the business come before the art, then it should be smooth sailing.

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Q Could you tell us about your involvement with the Illustration Corporation? How has being a part of this illustration collective helped you land projects, collaborate, or what other benefits has it brought?

A few folks that work together at an awesome advertising agency here in Chicago started the Ill. Corp.. It was noticed that collectively they had some illustration skills, and formed the Ill. Corp. I was fortunate enough to be one of the few people that were invited to join the group. It's been really nice to have an illustration rep. because when any business related issues/questions come about, the lovely Susan is a pro. We are a fairly newly formed group so it will take some time to become established, but thus far we have been part of The Directory of Illustration as well as a small gallery show. Being connected to such a talented group of people has provided a great deal of motivation.

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Q What excites you about vector art, design, and illustration? What are you working on now? What are your plans for the future?

One of my favorite aspects of creating vector art is the flexibility. I can go from working on a small web icon, to a screen-printed poster, to someone's shirt, to a billboard the size of a building, flawlessly. It's truly awesome. And I don't mean 'like, dude its awesome man'. I mean, awe inspiring.

After a slow second half of last year I have come back like gangbusters. I am busier now than I ever have been. At the moment on my 'to-do' list of client project are apparel graphics, advertising collateral, identity & branding, album artwork, web design and of course tuts! A main factor for my insane workload is that I am in the midst of some big upgrades to the company structure. I can't really blow the lid of it at the moment, but lets just stay big things in 2010!

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Q Thanks for the interview Jesse! It's awesome to work with you here on Vectortuts+. Is there any advice that you'd like to give aspiring illustrators and designers who are working hard to grow professionally?

Thank you!!! The single best bit of advice I could offer for an aspiring illustrator, designer is to do, do, do. Make shit all day. You need to find your own way in the creative industry, there is no set blueprint (that I have discovered, yet), and so the only option is to plow full speed ahead. Be better, faster, more awesome, more often! Be brilliant!

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Jesse Hora Dot Com on Web