Hip-Hop Illustrations By Tessa

Introduce yourself

Hey, whats up I’m Tessa and I love art and hip-hop. I’m a 20-year-old graphic designer currently studying at Michigan State University.

How was life growing up?

I grew up in Aurora – about 45 minutes outside Chicago. I was always into art, creating and what not but never really took it seriously, just kind of a hobby. My family has always been supportive of me and I grew up around a lot of creatives and art loving friends.

When did you begin to witness you had creative talents?

I think I’ve always known I’ve been good. Haha, self-appreciation and acknowledgment are important. But in all seriousness, I think high school was when I became fully aware of my talents, specifically senior year.

What were those talents you began to witness?

Senior year of high school I got put into a graphic design class because nothing else was open. The teacher didn’t really know anything about graphic design and we really didn’t need to even use the computers if we didn’t want to. I decided to just try it and our first project was to create a vector portrait and I did one of Childish Gambino. Turns out I was really good at it and teaching myself the program. About a week later I downloaded Adobe Illustrator, bought a digital drawing tablet and decided it would be my new hobby.

What was your first big design opportunity?

To be completely honest I don’t know if I’ve had my first huge “design opportunity” but as an artist, my first major opportunity was a professional showcase I was in this past March in Chicago. Lucy Ford – huge shout out to her – invited me to show my work alongside her and other artists. It was an amazing and inspiring opportunity. Lucy bought a poster of my Future drawing and I guess that was a huge moment in realizing that graphic design could be so much more than just a hobby to me.

You have a few series you have been working on. First, talk about hip-hop portrait series

I guess it all started with that Gambino portrait. I love hip-hop and art and choose to combine the two. The next portrait I did was of Chance the Rapper and I got a lot of support from it and decided to make it a series that’s still ongoing. I tend to draw artist that I really like – I’m currently in the middle of a little side series of portraits of popular hip-hop 90s – early 2000s artists.

Now, talk about your digital collage series

I was getting kind of tired of just drawing one day and just decided to teach myself how Photoshop worked. Kinda started with collages from images I came across on Tumblr and liked and then got the idea to reconstruct images from album covers into new cover art. Once again stuck to hip-hop artists and it was a lot of fun. Ever since then I’ve really enjoyed doing cover art and have done numerous commissions for local Chicago-area upcoming artists.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Almost all my inspiration comes from music and images from magazine spreads in XXL and Fader. I usually only listen to music from the artist who I’m drawing to really capture them. I have a lot of respect for photography and I wish I was good at it so I guess when I see an image I really like I just want to draw it.


Over the past couple of years, how much have you seen you and your artwork mature?

Oh my god, I can’t even begin to talk about how much my art and I have matured. I tried a lot of different styles which has eventually lead me to my style right now. I’m almost ashamed to look back on some of my old stuff but it’s really inspiring to see where I started and where I’m at currently. I’m still in the process of perfecting my technique but I’ve learned so much in the past few years.

Who are three people you would love to design for?

Kanye West. He is by far my biggest inspiration and to be able to work with him would be life changing. I’d love to design for Chance and Fat Tiger – I don’t know if that counts but someone tell Joe to hmu haha.

When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?

I just want to inspire other artists, specifically other female creatives out there. Even if my art was completely forgotten about but someone out there remembers me as inspiration to them, I’d be happy.

Written by: Nico Rud