The Magic of Erik Jessen and His Art

By Danny Allain

JAM: Tell me a little about what you do.
EJ: My name is Erik Jessen, born and raised in Lake Charles. I currently run the Graphic Arts program at SOWELA. My primary focus is design and art and I’m a big advocate of the arts here in Lake Charles.

JAM: Your artwork is amazing. It seems like magic was involved. Where did you learn your craft? At Hogwarts or under the tutelage of an Arch-Mage?
EJ: HAHA – I am a graduate of the school of graphic wizardry, but you wouldn’t have to travel through Diagon Alley to find this place. Take 2-10 E, exit Legion St. and head towards a college known as SOWELA. There is a program there called Graphic Arts. This is the same program I graduated from in 2000. The main difference between now and 2000 is the amount of technology and tools we have. These are the same tools that are used in the industry of advertising, sign-shops, and design agencies.

JAM: What different mediums do you use to make your pieces?
EJ: Let me think. This is a tough question, is a computer a medium? If anything is done within my notebook or on canvas I use mechanical pencils, pencil colors, markers, ink-liners, and now I’m playing with paint markers. With technology ever increasing and becoming better for the artist, it’s been a long road of trial and error. Today, I mainly use an iPad pro and the Apple Pencil. They really got it right with this device duo! The pencil is a stylus that captures my strokes with precision. There’s no lagging and records even the slightest pressure. After trying many things out there, this has become the staple and the reason that my art production has increased.

JAM: You use so many different skills to produce one piece. What is your favorite medium? Digital or traditional stuff, like plucking the feather from a Phoenix and dipping it in an inkwell?
EJ: I do love a good ink drawing with Phoenix quill! There is a certain preservation to a digital process that I like. I’ve done art for a while to notice hard work deteriorate over time, and scalability and repeatability can be a challenge with pieces. Nowadays, people are accustomed to seeing something they like and requesting the medium they want it on – so I have to be aware of that need. If I showed a painting and someone said, “Hey, I’d like that on a shirt!” I have to accommodate that need. This is a main reason why the digital workflow is so efficient for an artist. I don’t have to find a large scanner or piece it together, the pieces I generally work on are on a drawing tablet which is originally digital.

JAM: Besides magical, how would you describe your work?
EJ: Detailed, original, and unique. Thoughtful and thorough. I’m always considering the end-user or customer. I don’t want them to have a poor quality piece; the paper is considered with prints.

JAM: You mentioned graphic design. Are there any logos you have done that we may be familiar with?
EJ: Ah, logos (hmmmm). SOWELA’s newest logo with the torch. I’ve helped Pops and Rockets with their logo and graphics–they have the best gourmet pops! Louisiana Winter Beer Fest, love that one! There’s one that’s gaining great growth and notoriety throughout the south – Waitr. A great logo, simple and memorable. Every logo I do is based in traditional techniques where I start with a pencil and sketchbook and draw lots of ideas. I take those ideas to the computer and finish out the final concepts.

JAM: Your subject matter offers something for everyone. What is your favorite thing to create?
EJ: Any subject that pulls from a childhood emotion or evokes a “wow” feeling. As a graphic designer and artist, I use both disciplines to achieve a unique piece. I like line work and great use of color. (See buffalo and mural)

JAM: Do you have any favorite artists that inspire you? Besides Gandalf and Dumbledore, that is.
EJ: Yes! Sign-painters. Many great local artists had to make a commercial living and their understanding of type, fonts, spacing, and composition shows in their work, such as Fred Stark, a great Lake Area artist and sign-painter. The late great Elton Louviere was a sign painter before crossing the line as a full-time artist. These artists know the importance of both design and art as it relates to one another and comes together. I’m not good on national names but I do look at magazines and websites. I know that there’s no use in getting discouraged over what other artists can do, but to just start is the biggest step you’ll take.

JAM: What do you do when you aren’t creating?
EJ: I’m teaching someone how to create. I love the saying “Teach a man to fish.” That’s important to me: to give everyone the gift to create. To be fair, in my off time I do like woodworking (but that’s still considered creating). Recreationally, I love to sail and enjoy bringing my family with me. I love my wife Kaela, my two boys Gram and Palmer, and my little daughter Elliot. They honestly keep me moving, I want them to have an adventurous life!

Lightning Round!

JAM: Favorite dragon. Puff or Pete?
EJ: Pete, but really, it’s Daenerys’ dragons!

JAM: Ramen noodle or Taco Bell?
EJ: Taco Bell – they have Churros!

JAM: Warm colors or cool colors?
EJ: I’m color blind! Just kidding! Really depends on the weather, and my mood.

JAM: Terminator or Aliens?
EJ: Aliens mythos is way more fascinating. Terminator is a glimpse into the future; it’s inevitable. Have you seen what DARPA has created? I’ll stick with Aliens.

JAM: Super power: Super healing or telekinesis?
EJ: Nobody plans on getting seriously roughed up unless you’re fighting so I’ll go with telekinesis. I’d be like Jedi force-pulling my cup of coffee to my hand. I’d be careful not to spill.

JAM: Day or night?
EJ: I get most done at night, so call me nocturnal. But with teaching and having three kids, you find yourself in bed at 8 p.m. exhausted.

JAM: What places can we get your work, and what is your contact info (Facebook, Etsy, yadda yadda)?
EJ: You can find me on Facebook. Search: Erik Jessen Art & Design. I do have an Etsy page and a website – erikjessen.com. I’m currently trying to get all my pages updated with current work. The most current feed is Facebook.

JAM: Is there anything else that we should know about you?
EJ: Well, I plan on writing some articles to help guide some area artists. I’ve heard from many that they want to know more about the business side of things. So I’m going to do my best to write something that’s engaging as well as informing. There’s really a big need to understand copyright law among artists and what they can and cannot do. It will not only protect them but also inform others who may prey upon their work for copying, which is basically theft. So I want to advocate that area of the arts that so many artists aren’t being taught. In many cases, they are thrown out in the pond and expected to swim and survive with very little business guidance. This is a great way to destroy an artist’s hopes and dreams, which would lead to less successful artists. I plan on trying to change that.