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Arts & Entertainment

How Instagram Led to This Illustrator’s Next Big Project

See Jimmie Henslee's wonderful watercolors on a coffee table near you.
By Sarah Bennett |

Interior stylist and illustrator Jimmie Henslee saw something he liked on blogger/author P. Gaye Tapp’s Pinterest page. “I saw something happening with Gaye’s boards that I didn’t see with others,” he recalls. What he didn’t know at the time was that their virtual connection would lead to a major collaboration. The two started following each other on Pinterest and Instagram, where they got a sense of each other’s artistic vision. Not long after, they began messaging back and forth—Tapp mentioned she had an interiors book in the works with Rizzoli New York and asked if he would mind doing the illustrations. Henslee jumped at the chance.


A two-year venture then began, with Henslee—who had illustrated for many a magazine but never a book—taking original images Tapp wanted to include and sketching out preliminary drafts. What resulted was a mixed-media experience, from India ink to felt-tip marker to watercolor. Though the connection began online, Henslee prefers a much more old-fashioned approach to creating his work. “There are things that happen between your eye, your hand, your paper, and the mediums you’re working with that you’ll never get with an electronic device,” he says. “People do incredible work with technology, but I can get a certain wash with a watercolor. On screen, you can’t manipulate it the same way.”how-they-decorated-jimmie-henslee-p-gaye-tapp

The final product, How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century, features five of Henslee’s illustrations, beginning with Pauline de Rothschild’s wallpaper on the title page. “For me, it was almost like a mini semester,” Henslee says. “I learned so much more about the people Gaye was writing about—she’d share with me these incredible things from archives of Hearst and Condé Nast.” Find a copy at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon.