The Courier-Mail - QWeekend
Honing the art of joy
Brisbane fashion illustrator Kerrie Hess is determined to spread happiness, one watercolour at a time
Does a soak in a bubble bath bring you joy? Or, perhaps, staying in your pyjamas all day? Brisbane fashion illustrator Kerrie Hess has turned her attention to capturing the little things in our lives that spark joy and make our hearts sing.
Her new book, Joy in the Little Things, features 250 of her signature original watercolour illustrations and descriptions of life’s simple pleasures. It is her “love letter and guide to what makes us truly happy’’. In describing joy, Hess writes: “It’s a gorgeous word. Short but sweet, little but loud. It pops like champagne, and it sparkles with a sense of celebration and elation. Joy is being completely in the moment. It’s when happiness is so overpowering that it tunes everything else out. You know you’re exactly where you need to be.’’
Hess, 41, who grew up in Brisbane, has carved out an international career creating artwork for clients, including Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Laduree, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Lancome, Harrods and Printemps in Paris, to name but a few.
She has painted commissioned portraits for actress Emma Watson and singer Ariana Grande, and has held five solo exhibitions in Paris and Australia.
In recent times, Hess has focused on creating original artworks and teaching online masterclasses in painting. She spent two years working on her book, beginning before the global pandemic, and believes it is now more relevant than ever.
“Originally, it started out more with the emphasis on fashion and style, but it merged into more intangible things, like rituals, slowing down, gratitude and mindfulness,’’ Hess says.
“I just started sketching all my favourite things. I realised it was more about the little things, rather than fancy, expensive items. It’s just those daily rituals: a daily walk, a bubble bath or reading a good book. Those things became the big things. I feel lucky the subject matter still feels relevant.’’
Hess grew up in Brisbane’s southeast suburbs, the youngest child of Bill, 72, a retired pharmacist, and Jan, 71, who worked in the pharmacy and later curated the Commissariat Store Museum in Brisbane. Hess’s Melbourne-based sister,
Megan, 46, is also an internationally recognised fashion illustrator. Their brother, Thomas, 47, is a radiologist in Brisbane. From about age 10, Hess was enamoured with Hollywood classic films, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Rear Window, and by style icons Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
She attended Lourdes Hill College and, after school, studied two years of a graphic design degree at Griffith University, before moving to London to find design work.
Hess landed a job as a junior graphic designer – “It was a really big learning curve’’ – at The Independent newspaper, and one day offered to do her own fashion sketch after an image fell through with a looming deadline.
From there she was offered work for fashion retailer Topshop and Vogue Australia, and her “vintage aesthetic’’ has since become famous internationally.
For about seven years, Hess was a single parent to her son Marcel, 12, and for the past four years she has been married to Peter Collins, 39, a dietitian at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital. They have a toy cavoodle named Audrey.
But it was those years when it was just her and Marcel that Hess first learnt to appreciate the little things. “Overall, I’m happiest at home – I’m a homebody,’’ she says. “During the time in my life when it was just my son and I, we created lots of little rituals at home that were quite silly but brought us a lot of joy.
“Whether it was a whole Sunday in pyjamas or having a pizza party in our bathrobes – we did a lot of little rituals. Being a solo parent was definitely not an easy time in my life but it was probably when I learnt most about finding joy in the small things.’’