We were stoked seeing Jess's work the very first time we laid eyes on it. Strong female characters who looked like they could jump right off the page and be part of your world. They just seemed to have a story to tell, kind of like Jess. She's a skateboarder, an artist, and someone who is merging her two loves into a career that excites her daily. With six books she's illustrating for major publishing houses, and an animated series about girls skateboarding coming up, this girl is charging ahead full blast and isn't looking back. We hope this interview with Jess inspires you to do what you love.
Who's Rad? Jessika von Innerebner - but you can call me Jess
Home is? Kelowna, BC, Canada
How long have you been skating? I’ve been longboarding for three years and recently been trying out my husbands skateboard.
What got you into skateboarding?
I’ve always been attracted to skateboarding and the culture but when a group of friends picked up boards a while back, I didn’t want to miss the fun. Now I can’t see life without it!
Any favorite places to skate?
Since I live downtown longboarding is my preferred way to get around. I ride to yoga classes and even pick up my dry cleaning on my board; you get some funny looks but I don’t care, it’s fun!
For kicks, the down town boardwalk is great to cruise, especially in the summer with a set of Sunset wheels!
Your artwork is amazing - can you tell us how you got started?
Thanks!! I’ve been drawing since I can remember and can’t imagine doing anything else as a career. I went after it like a crazy person and didn’t let ‘you can’t’ or ‘no’ stop me. It’s been hard work but through practice, learning from others who are better than me and following my own path I’ve been able to do what I love successfully.
You are also combining two things you love – skateboarding and art – is that the best feeling ever?
Yeah it is!! I get a rush of excitement when drawing characters flying through the air on their boards. I especially enjoy combining characters and photography; taking my own photos at a skate park gets me inspired and pumped. I can see in my mind what I want to create as I take the picture, plus I love being around all these talented skaters! Illustrating over photos feels like reality and imagination collides to show that anything is possible. Plus inspiring others through art, gives you the best feels ever!
Do you need to go to school or take classes to be an artist?
Everyone’s journey is different, for some art school is an amazing place to grow; I didn’t go that route myself. Instead I practiced everyday, looked at artists I admired and asked them to give me feedback on my work. The illustration/animation community is awesome sauce and has helped me so much, I’m always available to pay it forward!
What made you decide to go into character design?
I’ve been in this industry for years and have worked in several different creative positions from storyboard clean up, to animation, character design, to art direction. Along the way I found what I really enjoy is illustration/character design and conjuring up visual ideas!
What is your favorite medium to work with?
I work 90% of the time digitally painting in photoshop on my cintiq tablet. It’s this amazing screen that you draw/paint on with a special pen tool. Otherwise I enjoy going old school and getting out pencil, paper, inks and paints. One day I’d love to work on a giant mural!
Your artwork of kids is super fun and “happy” – which we love. How long does it take you to create a character?
It depends on each character and what project it’s for. Some characters come easy to me and others require a bit more to create; especially when it’s a topic I don’t draw often. But it’s great practice and as an artist I want to be versatile! I’d say an hour to three hours if I had to guesstimate.
Does each one have a personality or story behind them that you think of when you are drawing him or her?
Yes, yes and yes! Looking at a character just standing in the middle of the page doing nothing is boring. When you make up a small back-story, this will come across when you draw your character and pull the viewer into the illustration.
You have also combined created female characters that are strong and can do anything. What gave you this idea to empower girls with your art?
I was such a crazy, try anything, do things differently, stubborn kind of kid and as I grew up I’ve never really lost that. Creating images of girls (and boys) in a non-stereotypical ways is something I really love. Creating strong, you can do anything girl characters is something we do need more of…I want to add to this! We need to remove the mold of ‘this is what girls do’, ‘this is what boys do’ and embrace everyone’s uniqueness. It makes us more interesting!
You always show that girls are NOT one-dimensional. For instance I have a drawing you did of two little girls in princess costumes, but one is holding a baseball bat, the other a ball and glove, band aids on their elbows, eye black under their eyes – the characters have a lot to say – which is so different than what we see most times in the world – what are people’s reactions?
So far I’ve had only positive reactions to this image and other strong female characters I’ve illustrated. To me it feels like people are hungry for images like this, we need more!!
Many young parents I’ve spoken to are seeking out images, books, toys, kids shows with strong and unique girl characters.
What advice would you give to another girl who wants to get started in illustration or character development?
Go for it!! If it’s something you really love and are willing to put in the hard work, do it! You can totally have a well paid career in the creative industry. If any of you lovely girls (or guys) have questions you would like to ask about this industry please feel free to email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
Are there any women out there doing rad things (skateboarding, business, art, etc.) that inspire & motivate you?
OMG! YES! I’m super lucky to have many amazing women in my life who inspire the hell out of me. My good friend Sonya Looney who is a pro mountain bike racer, she competes around the world regularly placing in the top 3. She’s worked hard for her sponsorships! http://www.sonyalooney.com/
Another B/F of mine runs the most successful online world for Disney right here in Kelowna. Learning about Amelia Brodka through Underexposed and what she’s done with Exposure, WOW! Finding out about you Cindy and what you’re doing on your own time to empower girls through GN4LW, AWESOME!
Any healthy eating habits that keep you energized you can share with us?
Eating as naturally as possible and using herbs, plants and tinctures to address any health hiccups. Lots of sleep and yoga keep me ready for anything! It’s so important to take care of yourself so you have the energy to take on all the exciting projects!
Favorite place you've ever skated?
So far I’ve only skated in my home town, we have this common area along the water where the pavement is smooth like butter. I love skating big laps there and trying out yoga poses on my board.
One day I’d love to come back to Venice Beach and board the length of the boardwalk!
Favorite character you have ever drawn?
The skater girl characters I’ve been playing with over the past year have been my fave so far. It brings me back to when I was younger and started my infatuation with skate/snow boarding, though I wasn’t always able to participate I would always draw it!
Three things you don't know about me?
1. I was born in Canada’s coldest climate, Yellowknife, NTW and can’t stand winter!
2. Once I rode Disney’s Haunted Mansion at at 4 am. I was in an episode of Disney’s Get Connected for Club Penguin, where I worked as an animator for three years.
3. When I was a kid our family moved across Canada…in a school bus!
I’m currently illustrating two books with Penguin Random House in NYC and four books with Capstone Publishing in London. They come out next year, watch my social media for news!
In addition, I’m creating and art directing an animated series for girls in skateboarding! YAY! We’re in the process of making it awesome for you! Again watch my site and social media for updates
Always be yourself and go after what you love. Don’t try to impress others and hide who you are…that will just make you sad and boring.
Make sure you follow Jessika at: