Pretty Profiles: Hannah Bess Ross

Currently Listening To: Funny Girl – the original Broadway cast recording
Favorite Novel: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster


tell us about yourself and the kind of work you create.

I am a self-professed “willer of whimsy” and storyteller hailing from the not so windy city of Chicago, Illinois. I love giving life to the strange ideas in my head by putting them on paper and watching them unfold. My work tends to convey fantastical elements in and amongst everyday life and I enjoy the marriage of something simple meeting something absurd. I am often doodling plants, sweaters, and people with silly hair.


what is your typical day like? are there any challenges that you face on a consistent basis?

Being a fresh-faced, eager and recent college graduate is all about the hustle. I have two full-time jobs and a needy cat that likes to bite my ankles when I leave the room, so time often feels in short supply. My days are spent making coffees and slinging loaves of bread in a cozy, yet fast-paced little bakery in suburbia. Like Batman however, I save the nighttime for creative escapades and often end up watching midnights effortlessly slip into mornings.

I would love to someday be able to focus solely on the introspective process of art making but also appreciate juxtaposing the creative process with something a little more routine and interactive. I learn and take inspiration from looking at/listening to people, so working in customer service can be a good exercise in that.

That being said, I am exhausted a lot of the time. My willpower sometimes evaporates and drawing becomes more of a chore than a passion. When that happens I usually force myself to go to bed. I never want to fake originality. I’m sure Batman knows what I mean.


what does whimsy mean to you and how does your work end up reflecting it?

I suppose whimsy is like the single piece of tortellini you get in your spaghetti Bolognese. It’s that small hint of something off or unexpected that harmlessly makes the mundane seem slightly more remarkable. Whimsy takes you by the hand and tells you that trees grow sideways and you just go with it. I don’t think it can be forced to appear or perform, it just sort of poofs into existence when you allow it to.

Whimsy is made up words, fanciful proportions, and child-like logic. It’s also vulnerability and an allowance of silliness – which I think is hard for many people to keep hold of. I like the strangeness of my brain and my work reflects the wave of those thoughts through its peculiar subject matter and design choices. I think stylistically, my work exists somewhere within the unexpected and the unusual. That’s where whimsy lives.


you utilize a lot of textural elements in your work. do you prefer working with
texture traditionally or digitally?

Lately I have struggled with this quite a bit actually. In school I worked digitally most of the time as a means to stay cost effective and mobile. It felt like a flexible way to complete assignments and grow stylistically without fear of wasting materials. That being said, I think I loved using texture overlays in my digital work because it satisfied the part of my brain that preferred working with paint and pencils. I much prefer working traditionally overall. I do think there’s a lot of crossover in my process that I benefit from though.


how does your process differ when communicating an idea in a single image versus sequentially, like in one of your comics?

Hmm, this is a cool question. I think ideally it’s the same process. It should always be about the storytelling. Communicating story in a standalone image is much harder to do in some cases but just as important as in something sequential and with more space to develop narrative. My love of comics comes from my background in poetry and fiction writing so I do think having that experience helps in communicating story in my work. My writer brain and my illustrator brain are best friends. They work together and neither really carries the other.


do you have any cool personal projects you’re working on now?

Yes! I made a children’s book! Well, sort of. It’s still all in the initial stages but I’m very proud of it. Hopefully it ends up existing in the real world for people to see. For now it’s our little secret.

I am also building up a new and improved portfolio with a lot more post-college work so stay tuned for that!


what is the prettiest picture you’ve made recently?

Today at work I drew a monkey in someone’s latte. Does that count?