Jody Hewgill has been a full-time illustrator for more than fifteen years, compiling an impressive portfolio filled with clients like Arena Stage, Entertainment Weekly, the Grammy Awards, Random House, Rolling Stone, and Simon and Schuster. But her artistic journey began long before that. Here Hewgill talks about her creative beginnings, the art of portraits, and her first time working with Texas Monthly. Did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator? Once you made that decision, how did you go about making it a reality?

Jody Hewgill: I remember wanting to be an illustrator from the age of five. Turning my dream into reality involved studying at a good art school, pounding the pavement in New York, making endless cold calls, and having passion. Who is your greatest artistic inspiration?

JH: There are so many, but if I had to choose just one, I’d have to say Pablo Picasso. Your husband is an illustrator too. Do you ever work together? Is there a level of competition in your home?

JH: Actually my husband, Balvis Rubess, has now combined his illustration skills with his design skills and computer savvy into a multimedia career, creating motion graphics. We really enjoy discussing our projects with each other, exchanging ideas and suggestions. It’s a very creative environment. You’ve created everything from portraits of Jennifer Aniston and P. Diddy for Entertainment Weekly to the cover art for Time’s story “The God Gene.” Is there a specific genre of illustration that is your favorite?

JH: I enjoy the diversity of my assignments, from book covers and theater posters to portraits and murals. I try to challenge myself with each new assignment. How would you define your illustrations of people—as portraits or caricatures?

JH: Portraits. I try to express the essence of a person. Have you worked with Texas Monthly before? How familiar are you with Texas?

JH: This is my first assignment with Texas Monthly. Although I am Canadian, I’m connected to a very famous Texan—former president Lyndon Baines Johnson. His granddaughter Rebekah Nugent McIntosh is married to my stepbrother, Jeremy. I heard you are the first woman to illustrate a Texas Monthly Talks piece. Are there any other gender barriers you have overcome in your career?

JH: No, but I am very aware there are more male illustrators. I think my work transcends gender—I’m just as comfortable illustrating a portrait of Michael Jordan for ESPN as I am creating an emotional painting dealing with women’s issues. Did creative director Scott Dadich give you any guidelines for your John Mackey assignment?

JH: No. It’s wonderful that he gives the artist creative freedom. That’s when we all do our best work. What kind of research did you do before creating the illustration of Mackey? Is this typical?

JH: I like to have a lot of references of my subject, so I can really get an understanding of his face, and perhaps even his mannerisms. Unfortunately, there were very few photos of Mr. Mackey to work from within our short deadline. This was the most difficult portrait I’ve done yet. I shop often at Whole Foods and love the store, but I suppose that sort of indulging research doesn’t count.