Duration: Three years.
Location: I’m currently based in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario.
Education: Bachelor of design with a major in illustration from the Ontario College of Arts and Design University (OCAD U), Toronto, Ontario.
Career path: I’ve always been a creative child with an active imagination, but I’m lucky that I had external support from family and educators to pursue an arts education and career—my parents went to a Chinese numerologist/fortune teller, and they predicted my future in a creative career. When I was looking into high schools, one of my teachers recommended I go to a school that has a dedicated fine arts program. From there, I knew my career would be dedicated to some type of creative field. I decided to major in illustration at OCAD U, since it’s a field with a lot of flexibility.
Artistic influences: I grew up watching a ton of anime, so I’ve been drawn to Japanese art since I was a kid. Composition is the most important element in my work; I’m noticing now that ukiyo-e prints influence the way I organize my compositions—winding elements, negative spaces versus sections of concentrated detail, large areas of color.
I’m also a fan of photographers like Petra Collins, Ryan McGinley and the late Ren Hang. The portraits they capture say a lot in both atmosphere and personality, and it’s something I’m conscious about when I work subjects into a setting.
Favorite project: Mirror, an illustration for a short story about a woman who is stuck between two worlds: her current happy relationship and the prospect of returning to an ex whom she has years of history with. I enjoyed solving the challenge of presenting two sides of a story in a single illustration. I also enjoyed playing with the color temperatures of both “sides”—the dresser with photos of her happy memories with her current boyfriend are bathed in a warm pink and the reflection of the distracted couple is in blue and green.
Work environment: My living space doubles as a studio. I like to be surrounded by trinkets from the Chinese-Malaysian Canadian culture I grew up in. Hanging above my bedroom door is a set of Chinese paintbrushes my mom bought and hung for me as a kid to inspire creativity. I also have a small collection of lucky cats—I’m a little superstitious too.
Aspirations: I’ve always been curious about writing my own graphic novel—or at least publishing an art book. In five to ten years, I’d like to own my own home with land so I could have more space to dedicate to my projects. It’d have a workshop for my partner and I to do woodworking, metalworking and screen printing. I think the best I could ask for is to be content, and being self-sustainable through my illustration work is what makes me content.
Philosophy: Simplicity is best when coming up with ideas. Once you have a solid idea, time spent executing it well is time well spent.
Anything else? I go by they instead of he/she. And another passion of mine is keeping and learning about snakes. In my spare time, I run a snake-breeding business with my partner. Snake genetics are like equal parts science and art; when you’re combining pattern traits, it’s like working with a palette of paints.