How did you get started in illustration? I have always loved illustrations, cartoons and comics, but it only became a hobby when I combined it with my fascination for computers. I used our first family computer to create things in Microsoft Paint, and in high school, I started messing around with a copy of Macromedia Flash. In university, I graduated to using Adobe and discovered publications like Computer Arts, online art communities like DeviantArt and Depthcore, and a host of amazing independent artists and studios making incredible things. I realized that illustration was something I wanted to do and could pursue.
Your work is “a playful interpretation of minimalism,” utilizing vibrant colors and patterns. How did you develop your distinct visual style? My style came from a desire to simplify, during a period when I was struggling to focus on my work. At the time, I had all these different ideas and approaches and felt overwhelmed. Imposing restrictions on color and composition—and to some degree, even time spent—helped me cut through the noise. Working with fewer elements and a strong idea was far more rewarding and enjoyable, both in the process and the result. I became fascinated with how you could reduce details while still being able to read shapes, depth and context. It’s been an effective exercise for me, and I still tell myself today, “When in doubt, simplify.” The more new things I learn, the more my work and style continue to evolve. I think of style as a living thing that grows as you do.
What is your favorite color combination? I especially like blues and oranges. They feel like opposite colors, but there’s a strange kind of harmony you can achieve through the right hues and saturation. Visual contrast is something I explore a lot, and I try to find a balance between extremes. I like to think of colors in a hierarchy, with each serving a purpose, and with some used more sparingly for attention.
How do minimalism and patterns intersect in your work? I love the versatility of a pattern. At their simplest, my patterns are made of geometric shapes, but when applied to a scene or surface, they can change the overall tone of an illustration. I’ve found them to be delicate and nuanced—a little tweak to the main tile can have a dramatic effect on the entire pattern. I love the idea of something so simple having such a profound effect. Minimalism feels like that too, where a shape or color that’s out of place can dilute or even break an idea. Making an illustration is like solving a puzzle. There’s nowhere to hide anything, so it forces you to be more deliberate in your decisions because of how fragile the balance can be.
Your work spans print, 3-D modeling, animations and more. How do you approach these different mediums? It usually starts with a lot of time spent Googling to learn these skills. One of my favorite things about my work is that I get the chance to learn new processes all the time. Seeing my work in a different medium and approaching it in a new way helps me evolve. It leads to a lot of happy accidents, which have subsequently become part of my style. It challenges me to switch out of a routine. The leap from illustration to 3-D, animation and beyond has meant that I can push an idea a little further every time.
How have your extensive travels influenced your work? Living in Japan has had the biggest impact on my work so far. As an artist, seeing the dedication to the various crafts I was surrounded by every day had a big effect on how I approach my work. I came to admire confidence in reduction and how less can translate to more. I’m partial to forcing myself out of my comfort zones, whether geographically or learning a new medium. These situations gift you with a lot of opportunities and experiences, both good and bad, to draw from.
What have you learned from your personal projects, and how does that translate into commercial work? It’s really important to make time for creating personal work because that’s when you can reflect yourself the most in your work. Personal projects allow you to be self-indulgent and less precious. They challenge your regular art- and decision-making process, especially when you’re working in a new medium. I’ve found that I learn a lot about myself too—it’s helped me evolve and kept me in love with my work. I was told pretty early on that I should try to show the work that I want to make, and this is something that’s stuck with me and helped inform many of the personal projects I undertake.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Trust your gut more. Learning the right way to do something is important for building a strong foundation, but eventually, it’s important to challenge conventions—to bend and twist them to more accurately reflect yourself. I think of style as a culmination of visual traits, but ultimately, it is a reflection of your personal habits, experiences and preferences, which I wished I’d leaned into earlier on.