Women to Love

Brisbane mum Kerrie Hess on taking over the illustration world one chic sketch at a time

Welcome to the whimsical wonderland of Kerrie Hess.

We can all remember occasions in our childhood where we were completely and utterly immersed in art. Whether it was looking at a painting and imagining stepping right on into it, pretending we were our favourite TV heroine, or watching illustrations in books coming to life — we discovered fascinating escapism from art. And, if we're very lucky, this is something which has endured into adulthood.
Illustrator Kerrie Hess immersed herself in a more hands-on way. Beginning to sketch at the tender age of 5, Kerrie was blissfully unaware that one day she'd be a heavyweight in her industry. If you've ever seen any of her beautiful illustrations — and we'll assume the answer to that is yes — you'll have experienced Kerrie's unique ability to transport people straight into a chic Parisian dreamland at the stroke of a brush.
The 38-year-old Brisbane native is a world-renowned artist and businesswoman extraordinaire. Having spent two years living in Paris (a huge theme in Kerrie's work), she's since relocated back to Brisbane where she shares a home with her husband Peter and 8-year-old son, Marcel.
She's worked on some extremely impressive campaigns with huge brands like Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Ladurée and Lancôme. And counts Ariana Grande and Dame Quentin Bryce among her legions of fans worldwide.
We caught up with Kerrie to pick her brains about the industry and to discuss her seriously impressive resume.

You’ve had the most incredible career — talk us through the stand-outs?

My first solo exhibition in 2012 was a dream come true. I exhibited at the famed Le Meurice Hotel in Paris. It was a huge honour — the likes of Dali and Picasso have exhibited there so I was pinching myself the whole time. There's so much history in that space and it's so beautiful and decadent.
Kerrie's exhibition at Le Meurice
Another huge highlight was my first job with Louis Vuitton, back when Marc Jacobs was the creative director. I was asked to come up with the concept and came up with 'Paperdolls' that people could download all over the world. That was wonderful to be part of.
Partnering with Ladurée to design their window displays and limited edition macaron boxes was also special. That was in 2016.
Kerrie's Louis Vuitton campaign.
The beautiful Ladurée window display.

What would you say to young women starting out in the art industry?

Know your worth. I think this is a problem for young women across all industries but I can't stress how important it is. Because knowing your worth elevates your worth. Oh, and I feel like you should also embrace what makes you different.

What would you tell your 13-year-old self?

That you can't say yes to everybody! But you should say yes to anything you want to do. I think it's just as much about saying 'no' as it is to say 'yes'. Stick to what feels right in your heart and take on things that inspire you. Then you can't go wrong.

Have you made any mistakes along the way?

I have made so many, yes! But that is all part of figuring out your industry as you go along. I think there is an idea these days of instant success, but that really isn't the case for most people. There are usually many years of hard work involved.

Who's been your best mentor throughout your career?

Without a doubt my mum, Jan. I bounce all my ideas off her. I've learnt a lot from Lisa Messenger [founder of COLLECTIVE HUB] too. And I have to shout out Carla Coulson [photographer] too. When I moved to Paris, I didn't know many people and she took me under her wing as a fellow Aussie and taught me how to balance the creative life and still have a life outside of it too.

Who's been your biggest champion?

My wonderful family, of course. My son Marcel did recently tell his classmates his mum's job is 'colouring things in' however!
I've had some surprising fans I'm very flattered about too. Ariana Grande dm'd me on Instagram to commission a portrait. I was just putting Marcel to bed at home in Brisbane when the notification popped up. She was lovely — very down-to-earth.

I also got to present a portrait to the amazing Dame Quentin Bryce as part of fundraising for the Women's Legal Service. That was wonderful — she's beautiful, smart and funny and someone I've always admired.
[We also have to mention Kerrie's portrait of Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty and the Beast which she donated to UN charity HeForShe after being selected for the project by Emma's management — it's stunning!]

We love the philanthropic sketches for women's rights. With that in mind, have you noticed any sexist microaggressions within your industry?

The thing is, I've been able to create my own culture. I don't doubt there are serious struggles within my industry with regards to sexism but working for myself means I've been able to promote an equally empowering workplace. And that's been quite empowering in itself.
[Hear, hear!]
To see more of Kerrie's beautiful work, visit her website.