I cannot believe that Comicpalooza, the Texas Comic Convention in Houston, Texas, starts TOMORROW! I’ve been waiting for this event – which is one of my favorite comic cons – since it ended last year.
Why? The convention is full of comics, artists, cosplayers, celebrities, voice actors, geeky gadgets and vendors, and so much more! It’s a ton of fun and great for the entire family. Many come dressed up as their favorite comic book character (I’ll be the Joker (Friday 6/17) and Harley Quinn (Saturday 6/18) from the new Suicide Squad movie), but you definitely don’t have to dress up at all. This year the comic con will be held again at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Friday, June 17 through Sunday, June 19.
Jenny Kelley (me) as Black Cat with cosplayers at Comicpalooza in 2015
One of my very favorite things at comic cons (other than taking pictures and selfies with my super AWESOME fans and cosplayers) is meeting the artists and purchasing their artwork and comics at the show. There are SO many talented artists, but there is one that I have been a long-time fan of. Meet Jessica von Braun!
Jessica von Braun is a Mixed Media Artist, digital painter, photo-manipulation/ photo collage illustrator, and sketch artist (WOW! Amazing – right?) who was born and raised in San Diego, California and lives currently in Fort Worth, Texas – not too far from Houston.
And guess what?! Lucky ME – I had the honor of talking with Jessica on the phone about her work, life, funny stories, and learn why she is so excited about attending Comicpalooza this year.
Jen (me): What does being a “Mixed Media/Digital Artist” mean to you?
Jessica: I use a lot of different techniques. If I’m working traditionally, I prefer watercolor – but I also use pen and ink, acrylic, crayon, and color pencil all in the same drawing when I work in mixed media. But I also use mixed media when I work digitally. I use a combination of digital painting with a drawing tablet – a pressure sensitive tablet – and I also do photo manipulation and photo collage work, which is what you think of cut and paste collage in creating one image out of many images. I do a lot of that type of thing too. Most of my digital pieces use a combination of all three of those techniques – some are more of one and less than the other. It depends on what I want a piece to look like – whether I want it to look like a collage or I want it just to be digital painting – so every piece is going to be different.
I just love the look of Jessica’s pieces – don’t you? They are eye-catching, whimsical and have a style of their own. So I had to ask…
Jen: How did you develop the “Jessica style” of drawing or creating art? Have you always been creative and an artist or did you do certain things like take classes to find your “look”?
Jessica: It kind of just happened over time. I’ve always been a creative person. I’ve always drawn. I used to be shy about sharing my work – like in 5th grade I actually got in a bit of trouble at school selling bookmarks that I was drawing. So even then I was like “Hey, if people want me to do these all day long give me a dollar for each bookmark and you can all have one!” The money wasn’t important though.
As far as my own style, I used to work really realistically. I wanted to strive to be really good at creating something really realistic. When I was working in photo manipulation, I wanted it to look “photo real” and the more I did that, the more stylized things became over the years. I started making eyes smaller and heads bigger… and sometimes eyes big. I played around with a whole lot of things until now I just draw what feels right.
It has happened over time. There’s a collector of mine from Houston and he got one of my very first sketch commissions I ever did at a show. He gets one from me every year at Comicpalooza. You can actually almost watch the evolution of my style over the past five years. My figures are getting taller, narrower – if you look at something from 5 years ago and look at something today.
If we’re talking about how I got into what I’m doing digitally, there’s a website that’s kind of a photo manipulation website that holds daily contests and I used to do that for fun at work. I used to paint and the two eventually just merged together.
I will say it took me a long time to realize – once I started selling my artwork – I had to be really vigilant in photo manipulation or collage work. I’m using things that in are in the public domain, things that are purchased stock images, or I’m taking my own photographs. So a lot of people use Google search and use those photos and you can’t – that’s a big no-no! Sometimes when you’re just starting out – like 17 – and learning Photoshop in high school, I think it’s important for teachers to tell their students that so the students don’t make a mistake.
It’s also really fun for me especially when I’m doing a collage piece if I’m searching through Wikipedia for that one photo that the author has released into the public domain and that’s going to be the one corner of a room I’m building in digitally – that can take all day and I enjoy tedious stuff like that.
Jen: What inspires you to do a new project? Is it someone that gives you an idea through a commission or project – or is it something that just sparks in your imagination?
Jessica: A lot of both. I’ve been doing this for about 8 years now and a lot of my earlier pieces were all commission based so it was people’s children that I was painting and I was working with their faces. The kids kind of drive that portrait and they would come up with things that I would never think of myself like “I want to be a pirate, but I also have a hamster and he’s my first mate… and we are surrounded by sharks” and you’re like “Ok, I can do that.” They don’t have any limits of what they want. They ask you to create something that’s really fanciful and you sort of go from there. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and you’re like “how about we do this instead of that” – and the kids LOVE the process. Or sometimes it’s something I think of – it’s kind of a 50/50. I’m doing fairytale stuff, something just pops into my head and I feel like I can put it down, or I’m doing a commission someone asked me to do.
Jen: What do you think differs you from other artists – whether it’s mixed media, traditional, or whatnot? What makes you stand apart and unique from other artists that you see at cons, online, or in general?
Jessica: There’s a lot of people that work in the style that I work in. We are kind of spread out across the country so I run into other people who land in the same “world” as I do artistically. I think that a lot of artists think that you have to draw a certain way to be “a good artist” and are worried if they’re not drawing like their idols they’re not good enough or they’re not where they want to be. I think a lot of artists – which is something I had to learn – is to be happy where I am artistically in this point in my life.
I think if a lot of artists could just draw every single day the style will happen – it’ll come out. You can’t contain it. It’s awesome to have idols but it’s great to have your own voice too.
A GREAT response and so inspirational to artists – both young, old, and myself! I love to draw (as you can see on both my ILoveFlavor and MissJennyKelley Instagram accounts) and started daydreaming of what it would be a full-time artist… (sigh) SO before I got too caught up in my own Dreamland I had to dig deeper.
Jen: What you would say to an inspiring artist?
Jessica: I would say draw every single day – even if it’s something little. Lots of times we think we know what we want our art to look like and it’s easy to get disappointed if it doesn’t come out that way. We get frustrated.
Even in my work every day I always have this idea that I’m going to create really soft pastel-y type dreamlike portraits, but they never come out that way. They always come out bright and I use a lot of colors and do a lot of collage stuff – and I just say “Ok! Well that’s what that is!”
I get a lot of young artists by my table. My advice is draw every day and find other artists to draw with you. Even if it’s just you guys getting together and having headphones on and drawing together. Sometimes you can be like “Oh I like what you did there” or “I’ve never used that before” or “let me borrow your pencils” or “let me try that brush.” If you can’t do that in person there’s a lot of communities online: Deviant Art, YouTube videos – and you can talk to people, watch their tutorials, and try to earn something new every day. Watch someone do a technique you don’t know how to do. You don’t copy their painting, but you watch their technique and you say “how can I put that into what I’m doing?” “How can I use that is pleasing to me now that I learned something new?”
If you want to stay up to date and be inspired by Jessica’s latest pieces, you can follow her online on her many social media accounts. Even the other day on Facebook, I noticed that she mentioned her love for a specific Disney character.
Jen: Now it looks like Ariel might be a favorite character of yours? Do you have favorite characters or pieces that you wish you could draw more or be commissioned for?
Jessica: (Laughs) I do love Ariel. I love drawing her because I know what she looks like and I can draw her without reference – you know I don’t have to Google “Ariel.”
I have a funny story. Sometimes I get really busy at a show or my commissions take a long time – I’m kind of a slower sketch artist – so sometimes if I’m really busy I won’t be taking commissions at the shows just because they won’t get finished. But, I sort of have a rule – and I made it kind of a well known rule – that Batgirl, I know how to draw her without reference and I love drawing her, so if people ask me to draw Batgirl I’ll take that commission.
I’ve been following Jessica for a few years now and I must say that I am truly a fan of her Batgirl. You’ll see many difference variations – as well as heights and hair lengths – which I’m assuming comes from the particular client or maybe a spark of imagination based on the con she is at. She’s such a fun character and one of my favorite portrayals of Batgirl that I’ve seen.
Jessica: Yeah, I do love drawing her. She was actually the first one that I did at a show that was fan art. The first couple years I wasn’t taking commissions at shows because I was just too shy and I thought I took too long.
My fiancé and I got to do a convention in Melbourne and I didn’t know how this show was going to be. I was nervous so I wasn’t going to take commissions. I even said on my Instagram that I’m not taking commissions on the show because I would be busy. But, then I had a guy come up and ask me – and I told him that – but he knew and he was prepared.
He said “…even if it’s Batgirl?” I said “OH! You tricked me!”
So I did. I took one commission and it was a Batgirl sketch cover. He came and knew I would say yes.
…and now here comes the question and moment of truth for all Jessica von Braun fans.
Jen: Will you be taking commissions at Comicpalooza? If yes, if a fan does want something personalized what should they do?
Jessica: Just approach me on Fridays. I will be taking them. Saturdays I’m usually full. I usually only take 5 or 6 at the most all weekend just because I do prefer to finish them at the show. If it’s a really complicated one, I’ll ask the person if I can take it home and work on it with my full desk of supplies – if they don’t mind waiting a little bit. Just come ask me on a Friday so I have time to see what people want me to draw and sketch them out that day.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Jessica’s artwork and portrayal of a Lolita Anna and Elsa was chosen to be on one of this year’s Comicpalooza badges?
Jen: I know I’m looking forward to see your Elsa and Anna artwork on the badges. Is there something that you’re looking forward to – either showing off a new piece of yours or seeing a particular guest, event, or something at Comicpalooza?
Jessica: It’s funny that you mentioned Anna and Elsa because my five-year-old daughter Juneau will be there with me on Friday and she has not stopped talking about Anna and Elsa being there and “When are we going to see them?!” I usually don’t stop, walk around, and meet people – but on Friday we will be going to meet them and we are going to have them sign some stuff. She is pretty excited which makes me really excited. So I’m really excited to meet them. I think they are going to be a really good draw. I know a lot of little girls are going to be excited to see them.
I have a lot of new pieces this weekend. I have a lot of originals that I am bringing that aren’t listed online or anything. I prefer to bring them to local shows. It’s probably the best place for people to get them. This is the biggest show I do every year for me so I do have a lot of stuff ready for this one that I don’t normally have at other shows.
I’m looking forward to all my Houston people. There’s a lot of people that I only see at this show. There’s one girl – a young artist – that she’s been coming to see me every year for the past four years and we always trade artwork which is really fun for me. She’s like a teenager now and she used to be little kid – what happened in four years?! (Laughs)
I want to personally thank Jessica von Braun for taking the time out of her busy schedule so I could share the inside scoop and our conversation with you! She was absolutely delightful, super friendly, and an absolute gem. When you meet her, I know you will agree. I am looking very forward to meeting Jessica at her booth this weekend at Comicpalooza! I’m hoping to grab a few moments, purchase one of her original pieces, and take a few video clips and selfies to celebrate the occasion – and our first in-person meeting.
To learn more about Jessica von Braun and view/purchase her amazing artwork, visit http://solocosmo.etsy.com.
Be sure to also follow Jessica on:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicavonbraun
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/solocosmo
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/solocosmo/
And of course I look forward to seeing YOU this weekend at Comicpalooza! To learn more about the comic con and purchase tickets please visit Comicpalooza.com. See you soon!
Follow me for Comicpalooza announcements and updates, costume previews, live video, photos, and more at:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loveflavor
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/missjennykelley
- Instagram: https://twitter.com/iloveflavor
- Google+: https://plus.google.com/+JennyKelley
- YouTube: https://YouTube.com/ILoveFlavor
Want a sneak peak of what to expect? Watch last year’s Comicpalooza video!
Have a flavorful day!