The Illustrator's Practice: Jennifer Heuer
Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo


Jennifer Heuer is a graphic designer and illustrator working out of the Pencil Factory in Brooklyn NY.  She has been featured in 50 Books/50 Covers and various other publications including Print Magazine. Here she tells us about her work process.

For the past 7 years I’ve been working out of the Pencil Factory in Greenpoint Brooklyn. It’s been such an inspiring space to work out of. Having a crew of creative and talented friends up and down the halls has helped shape how I work over the years. Before I moved in here I wasn’t quite as confident in my illustration chops, but when you’re surrounded by some of the best in the biz, you get to have fresh eyes and opinions on projects.

I share a studio with 4 others, and my little corner, at this point, is by far the messiest. I like to surround myself with inspiration tacked up to the walls. And while in the thick of a project, I tend to have stacks of random drawings, hand lettering, random ephemera, collage bits—right now, a box lid filled with fake ash I made out of flour and all the black eye shadow in Greenpoint— all surrounding me. And very likely some part of my lunch, various cans/cups/bottles of soda/coffee/water.


When it comes to tools, I’d say my lightbox is what gets the most use. I tend to work in layers if I’m doing a painted illustration. This way if I mess up, I haven’t ruined hours of work. And I prefer to work by hand rather than digitally. I end up with more happy accidents that way. And I feel like more of my hand ends up in the work, rather than a digital Photoshop brush. This more likely the fact that I’ve never quite mastered the Wacom.


I did teach myself how to digitally paint for the cover of Here Comes the Sun. But in the end, I would have painted that much faster by hand.


I also do a lot of small photoshoots. I have a little light tent and lighting kit and will mock up cut paper collages, or shoot small objects if I can’t find a suitable image in stock photography.


Overall each project seems to dictate a slightly different tool when it comes to execution. And I like working that way. I enjoy learning how to attempt a look I haven’t really tried before. A lot of that comes from digging into visual research for reference. If I’m trying to create 3D vintage neon typography, I’m going to dig into some photos from the Neon Museum in Vegas. Or I’ll spend time at Pratt’s library looking at woodcut art from the West Indies for another project. If I don’t know how to make it, I’ll likely try and figure it out, not always successfully, but still learning something new.


Some of my favorite tools are honestly mostly broken. I love this cheap-o black and white printer that’s been almost out of ink for years now. It makes the best textures. Same goes with markers that are just about to die or the cheapest set of children’s paintbrushes. For me it’s about landing on a happy accident so there’s a level of uniqueness to an idea.

Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.