A Philadelphia-born, Brooklyn transplant with pit stops in San Francisco and Baltimore, illustrator Jen Mussari says it like it is – through art. Fascinated with drawing words since childhood, the lettering mastermind turns calligraphy on its edge, giving life, meaning, and fresh imagination to the art of the written word. A true talent, Jen always draws by hand, and now her one-of-a-kind work is available for purchase through her Artist Shop – including brand new, exclusive pieces! Read on to learn more about Jen and her work, and check out her Artist Shop here!
Hi, Jen! Welcome to Artist Shops! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for the warm welcome, Threadless! I’m an illustrator lady with an affinity for drawing letters. I’m originally from outside of Philadelphia but lived in Baltimore for awhile and spent some time in San Francisco. Now I’m causing trouble in Brooklyn! I love classic cars and motorcycles, and find lots of inspiration from looking at their emblems.
It looks like lettering is your main artistic endeavor. How did this become “your thing”?
I’ve always loved drawing words! In middle school I was the type of kid who would figure out how to draw band logos and then draw them on everyone else’s math textbooks. Later on that lead to me drawing actual album covers, flyers, and posters for my friends’ crummy high school bands. I didn’t realize that I could actually get a job doing these things until much later, though! The industry of lettering is having a really wonderful resurgence right now, and I am ecstatic to be able to do what I love for a living.
How do you manage to translate a concept or feeling so precisely into
There is a strong element of research that goes into each piece, and I pride myself on pulling visual reference from relevant places. All visual medium have context, and I keep this in mind when studying style for use within my work. On top of keeping context in mind, I try to inject my own personality into the way that I actually draw things, resulting in artwork that is totally custom and unique.
In fact, you collaborated in the creation of our Artist Shops logo! What inspired the final concept?
Sure did! I loved collaborating with Jake on this. We wanted something that really read as being handmade and lively. I worked in a variety of styles during the sketch phase, and played with several different scripts until we found just the right composition. We even experimented with a version that played as a parody of the Threadless logo, which was definitely fun for me to explore. I’m really excited about the final logo; I absolutely love how it has been integrated into the Artist Shops website!
What’s your usual process for creating your work?
All of my work is entirely drawn by hand using an assortment of traditional calligraphy techniques, an illustration process, and many different drafting tools (depending on the lettering). I compose things roughly in pencil, and then move to either tracing paper or bristol for the final. I draw the final artwork as perfectly as possible by hand so that any digital edits that must be made will be minor. The final artwork gets scanned and digitally edited with Photoshop. In all of my work, I try to maintain the energy and personality of that first sketch through to the end.
What lettering artists do you find particularly influential?
Lettering is having a bit of a renaissance currently, so there are many incredible artists making awesome work right now! I’m constantly humbled by the work of my peers, and lettering inspiration is absolutely not hard to come by. I really look up to current lettering artists like Martina Flor, Erik Marinovich, and Ken Barber, for instance. I find lots of value in studying art history for relevant points of reference for lettering, and have really enjoyed looking at the paintings of John Balddessari and Ed Ruscha lately. Unrelated to lettering, I adore the work of Kathe Kollwitz, Euan Uglow, Ellsworth Kelly…I could go on just talking about painters all day. On a graphic design note, I really admire the lettering that came out of the Herb Lubalin Studio in the 60s and 70s and well as the work that continues to come from Louise Fili Ltd.
Why do you think your Threadless Artist Shop will benefit your work?
Threadless Artist Shops are super cool because they link the artist and customer directly. I love that anyone can come by and grab a tee that I designed at any time! I created custom designs for my Artist Shop. These are exclusive, new pieces of artwork meant just for the Threadless community. I’m so excited about sharing my work this way.
How does your current hometown of Brooklyn inspire you?
Brooklyn has always had a strong creative community, and I feel really lucky to be able to live within a part of that. I share office space in a townhouse in Gowanus with around 20 other awesome
creative folks who make all sorts of amazing work. My community is tight-knit, loving, and supportive and I feel really lucky to have these people by my side.
Most important, why do you prefer cats over dogs?
What! Who is spreading these lies?! I would never imply that I prefer cats over dogs. In fact, I prefer all animals equally, yes, even rats. Even snakes. Especially snakes. But it is true that Cats Rule Everything Around Me; that’s just a fact. I’ve completely given into the reality that cat hair just follows me everywhere that I go.