Off the Page: Cassandra Jean

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Here’s your chance to get behind the scenes with fanartists who bring your favorite young adult books to life.

Cassandra Jean is a freelance illustrator and comic artist who spends her days toiling with a pen in her hand and her faithful dog at her feet. The radio is always on and Gatorade is a constant source of power. Her interests include video games, tattoos and town festivals. She has had works published both in the United States and abroad. Her artwork features Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series, The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare, and Tithe by Holly Black.

  • Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden series

What is it about the authors’ writing that inspired your art?
A good book will always inspire me. A good story and interesting characters. I read. A lot. And sometimes a book will really jump out at me. If the author is talented, then it’s hard not to be inspired. Drawing is how I express myself. If I love something, I draw it. And if I’m upset over something, I’ll draw to make myself feel better. So when these author’s lure me into these worlds they’ve created, it’s difficult to resist the urge to draw the characters that I’m coming to love. I picture the characters in my head while reading and once I start doing that, I get really desperate to transfer these mental images onto paper. And in a lot of cases, I draw to show the authors how much I appreciate what they’ve done. To show them that they’ve inspired me and give them something back.

Are there any other influences you included in your art?
I am influenced by a lot of things. The books themselves might inspire me, but also music. Songs can evoke certain emotions that will effect my drawings. Happy, perky songs can influence me to draw something cheery, while very emotional songs can lead to some pretty damn sad pictures. Other artists influence me as well. When I see others doing such interesting things with composition and colors, it inspires me to try harder, or to branch out and try new techniques and color palettes.

What was your favorite reaction you’ve received?
My favorite reaction is when people scream and cry over a drawing I’ve done. I know it sounds awfully evil to say, but it’s actually a huge compliment. That I could create a work of art that captures these characters who people love so much, and the art is good enough and emotional enough to upset people, that’s pretty pleasing.

What’s your process? What type of medium/art programs do you use or prefer?
I work digitally, so I use a wacom tablet and art programs like Paint Tool Sai and Photoshop. I like to use Photoshop for layout work but I prefer to do the drawings themselves in Sai. I’m more comfortable with the brushes there and I feel like I can produce better line work with it. My process is fairly straightforward.

When I get an idea, or a commission, I sketch it out (or if I’m really lazy, I’ll mentally sketch it out in my head) then dive right into the line-art. There is a lot of erasing and redrawing going on because I’m so disorganized, but eventually it turns out all right. (The Undo button is my best friend in the whole wide world.) When I’m reading a book and see characters or scenes that I would really love to draw, I make notes so I don’t forget. My computer is covered in little digital sticky notes of character descriptions and scenes. And don’t even get me started on how marked up my books are— I tackle them with a pen and highlighter so that I don’t forget anything.

Do you have any tools you like to work with?
I work digitally. So my favorite tool is my tablet. I draw using a program called Paint Tool SAI. It’s pretty simple, but I like the kind of line work and colors I can get out of it.

Is there any special place where you like to do your work?
Alone in my house. I do a terrible job working when there are other people around. I get distracted and paranoid when people are looking over my shoulder. So my favorite place to work is at my desk all alone with my dog. Preferably with the windows open because then I feel at least slightly less like a hermit hiding in a cave with my drawings.

What is your proudest piece?
Probably none of them and all of them at once. I tend to dislike my own art about three hours after drawing it. I draw a lot, so it’s really hit or miss, sometimes they turn out, sometimes they don’t. But I guess as far as personal favorites go, I’m proud of the Jem (from the Infernal Devices) fanart I drew with the flower growing out of his chest. People keep telling me it’s horrific but I think it’s just a little sad. The flower growing out of his chest is a snowdrop, which represents hope. It’s supposed to be a melancholy picture but I’m very happy with how it all turned out! The images I draw that I am proud of tend not to be the most popular ones… why is that?!

Do you have anything fun that you’re working on or would like to do someday?
I just started working on something that should be really exciting. It’s something I’ve never done before but I’m really psyched up to work on it, but I can’t say what it is! Unfortunately, most projects that I work on are supposed to be kept secret until my publishers or employers say it’s okay. I wish I could share! As for things I would like to work on, someday soon I will hopefully be able to work on my own original comic. Something I’ve written myself (as opposed to illustrating what other people have written), and I’m looking forward to that.

What kind of advice or insight would you give to other artists?
The best advice I can come up with is that if you enjoy drawing, then keep drawing! Artistic careers (like writing, singing, acting, drawing) are really tough to get into and it can be so discouraging. But if it’s what you love, then just keep doing it. Even if you consider art a hobby, not a career, that’s cool too. Draw things that make you happy and get -you- excited, because otherwise you’re going to get tired of it.

What encouraged you to share your fanart?
Sharing is the fun part. I love drawing and illustrating my ideas, but I don’t draw just to throw the image away immediately or hide it under a rock. The great thing about fanart and being a part of a fandom, is sharing what you create with other fans so that they can get as excited about it as you are. It’s so much fun drawing things, then putting it out there to see how fellow fans react. I get excited when I see other people draw art from my favorite books and games too.

Learn more about Cassandra Jean’s art at her website and Tumblr.

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About Author

Natasha M. Heck

Natasha believes cats and words are the shiniest things in the ‘verse. She has touched Stonehenge, climbed the Glastonbury Tor, walked the Philosopher’s Path, and kissed her true love on the Eiffel Tower. She’s a fangirl, Jedi Knight, and Gryffindor whose love of unicorns led her to live in the land of geekdom and sunshine. She has an English degree emphasis in Creative Writing, and is using it to follow her dreams.

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