Born in Maryland and raised in Florida and Wisconsin, Hess began making art as a seven-year-old, using drawing as an outlet after his parents’ divorce. Hess focused on printmaking and drawing as he pursued his bachelor’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, completing his degree in 1977. Feeling connected to the technical skills and psychological interpretation exhibited by Middle-European artists, Hess studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna as a student to Rudolf Hausner, famous for his psychoanalytic figural paintings and a clear influence in Hess’s style development. Hess had his first solo exhibition in 1979. Hess settled in Los Angeles in 1984 where he continues to work as an artist and Professor at the Laguna College of Art and Design.