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Feature Friday: Jess Slavik of Sore Eyes Design

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the work of Jess Slavik, aka Sore Eyes Design, at the Booze and Tattoos event in Philly long before I took my position at Plebeian. The event itself was incredibly underwhelming as a whole, but a small corner of incredible illustrators was the highlight. Slavik, being one of those illustrators, drew me into her work with her punk-rock, girl power, soft but still bad-ass aesthetic. Her work channels an array of illustrative styles; simple but fun imagery highlighted by bold lines, a limited and muted color palette, and a lot of halos (which I personally love and I’m glad she brought up below). Yet, even though Slavik’s usual work is hardlined and heavy, she’s shown on several occasions that she can channel her delicate side and create dynamic illustrations in a variety of styles.

I knew there was something special about Sore Eyes Design and I’m sure glad that I grabbed a business card so that I could feature her work all this time later! I got to chat with Slavik a little bit about her beginnings in art, her design work, process, and then some and she gave some awesome in depth answers. Slavik is one hell of a designer and you’re missing out if you’re not following Sore Eyes Design (links to her site and all of her social media below). Enjoy!

1. So to start off I always like to ask about an artists background. What got you started in art? Any schooling? Big Inspirations? What helped shape you into the artist that you are today?

I was always into art when I was a little kid. I always said, as a kid, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up and was always doodling on something. My grandmother was a really artsy person and ran her own business out of her basement making porcelain dolls. Highschool I took every art class that was available to me, focusing on fine arts moreso and actually planned on majoring in college for fine arts. I had no real concrete "plan", but I couldn't really think of anything else I'd rather go to school for even though my whole rest of my family went into some type of medical field. Luckily, my parents and family were super supportive of my choice b/c they knew I was passionate about it. I ended up going to Pennsylvania College of Art & Design in Lancaster, PA. I absolutely loved it. The professors were all really cool and themselves were all practicing artists, and I met a lot of great fellow classmates. I was super inspired by Van Gogh, Diego Rivera, and Robert Rauchenberg at the time and was into experimenting with thick oils, symbolism, and 3D art.

Sophomore year is when it finally sank in and I began thinking "OK, how am I going to actually turn this into a career?" and I ended up switching my major from Fine Arts to Illustration b/c I thought it was a good happy medium between creating imagery that I wanted and also commercializing it and learning typography and computer skills where I could do more freelance/contract gigs. And I love designing for other people and helping them communicate their story or their product or whatever it is they're trying to do. Design is everywhere and such an integral part of the human culture and community. I wanted to be apart of it.

2. I'd love to know the origins of Sore Eyes Studios, how did this entity come to be? What are the origins of the name? Is it a solo operation or are you multiple people? Plans to expand?

Sore Eyes Design is a solo operation. It's just me. I originally went by my full name (Jess Slavik Illustration-so bland and uninteresting), but I wanted something more anonymous and cool sounding and (haha) something also easier to spell/pronounce. Then my friend came up with this great idea "A sight for sore eyes" and that's where Sore Eyes came from.

3. On to the print process! What goes into the creation of a piece for you? You've got some recurring imagery but you also cover a lot of creative bases, so what goes into the imagery? How much is hand done vs. digital (or is it all digital)? And what merits color vs. black and white?

A lot goes into the creation process. I get crazy restless anxiety if I'm ever sitting around NOT working on SOMETHING even between client projects. So I'm always doing one thing or another. Most of the inspo for imagery I tend to do alot for myself revolves around my punk rock background (I used to play in a Philly crust punk band way back in the day and I don't think it ever really left me haha), and my love for art history - medieval, baroque, renaissance, realism, etc and how art history has transitioned and shaped different movements in civilization. Like I grew up in a very religious background. And it really resonated with me when art originally painters were only allowed to paint religious themed imagery. Like they literally could be killed or hands chopped off if they deviated from what they were allowed by the church to create. Then you have Carravagio's "Incredulity of Saint Thomas" and Millet's "The Gleaners" when realism starts popping through, which today's standards if you look at it, they're not anything "crazyyy" image-wise, but back then as an artist, they were actually pushing the envelope from what was previously socially acceptable, and thus actually super punk rock. I LOVE it. So, you'll notice a lot of halos and such around these punk type figures, which is my subtle nod to all that.

Most of my illustrations are digital-based. I use a mix of Procreate, and all the Adobe programs depending on what the project calls for. I started out drawing everything by hand with pencil, then I would ink everything, then I would scan in everything, and finish up w/ color and type on the computer. And honestly, being able to do everything on the Ipad and desktop just saves soooo much on production time.

As far as color goes, I just love the classic coolness of black & white aesthetically. I'm really trying to branch out and not get stuck in that, though, and I will mess with color here and there for client projects and random sketches. I'm always in awe whenever I come across artists who are really good at pushing the envelope with color and find it super inspiring.

4. Your work is far more than just print, so does this process differ when creating a pin or shirt or sticker as opposed to just a print? If so, how?

For the longest time after college, I focused largely on freelance projects and designing for other people. I still do, and I absolutely love it. However a few years ago, I started listening to this podcast, Adventures in Design (I highlyyyy recommend this podcast, I've learned SOOOO much from it), and that's what inspired me to get into screen printing and making my own merch. That way I'm not solely relying on client projects and I have another avenue when I'm in between projects. There's always something to work on. It's helped me think a lot more about what I'm designing b/c you have to have the files in a certain way and you gotta think about size and how it's going to print on different materials. It's definitely made me more "thoughtful" in the creation process and in turn I feel like it's helped me in the design process when I'm working with clients as well prepping the artwork for the final output they're going to need.

5. You also have done a variety of work for brands and events so how does this process differ? Are the clients heavily involved or do they just give you what they need and you run with it? Or does it vary? Which do you prefer?

Working on client projects, the process doesn't really differ too too much. I've gotten a nice healthy mix of projects where the client knows exactly what they want which saves time on coming up with concepts, and clients that are very open to letting me do whatever I want. I love working with clients and with other creative teams working towards some cool projects. Haha it's always fun being able to be like "Oh hey I helped with that!" especially when you see it "out in the wild."

6. Finally, PLUGS! Where can people find you? Any shows or events coming up? Wherever people can find you or your work let them know!

Plugs! haha You can find me on Instagram @soreeyesdesign; Facebook Sore Eyes Design Studio; or my website where I have a bunch of prints and merch for sale

Currently, I'm prepping for the Holiday Punk Rock Flea Market at Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company on Sat Dec.7th noon-7pm.

You can also find me at Oddity Bar in Wilmington for the Oddball Art Halls usually every 3rd Friday of the month.


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