JEFF HINCHEE IN HIS BROOKLYN STUDIO, NOVEMBER 2016. PHOTOS: TESS MAYER.
“In my pre-college life, I always knew I was going to do something in the arts,” says multi-media illustrator, designer, and art director Jeff Hinchee. “I took tons of art classes from the time I was four years old. By the time I was finishing high school, I was probably in five art classes a day.” When it came time for university, Hinchee chose to study theater design at Carnegie Mellon University. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I was involved in theater as well, and it seemed like a more interesting or distinctive thing than graphic design or fine art painting,” the native-Midwesterner explains. “It’s so specific—it’s so weird for an 18-year-old to know they want to do that thing.”
After graduating, Hinchee moved to New York and began assisting Robert Perdziola, an experience he describes as “like a theater graduate school.” He spent the next 10-odd years working behind the scenes on major Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, before completing his graduate degree in illustration at Savannah College of Art and Design. “I was doing a lot of the model-building and paint elevations, which is what the scenic painters look at to know how to paint backdrops,” he recalls. “It’s great to draw and paint anything that’s in your head for a Broadway show and see it produced, versus designing a small show that doesn’t have a budget or the means, so you’re very much controlled by the limitations, but on the Broadway level, you sign away your rights,” he continues. “Sometimes the models wind up in museums, but most of the time they wind up in a storage unit. It’s a weird thing … it’s a weird place for work to go.”
In his current work, Hinchee combines traditional illustration with 3-D elements, all of which he captures in a final photograph. For Interview‘s December/January issue, for example, Hinchee created three different illustrations incorporating different gift ideas: an Art Deco-inspired film set, a classic beauty shop, and a modern holiday cabin. Each project begins with a sketch. “My work is sort of on a sliding scale in terms of how much of it is a photograph and how much of it is a drawing,” he says. “I have a pretty good sense of how to turn the thing into my brain into a drawing, and how to turn that drawing into three dimensions that I can photograph, and having it ring pretty true to what I showed initially.”
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