Duration: Four years.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in illustration from OCAD University, Toronto, Canada.
Career path: I consider myself to be a late bloomer compared to my peers in the industry who found success right away upon graduation. My time during art university was very confusing. I was always swayed by the conflicting advice I’d hear from my professors, and I was never certain of the “correct” thing to do. Therefore, when I graduated, I had a body of thesis work that felt very underwhelming to me, and I was reluctant to seek out clients right away. I spent the next few years reforging my portfolio by self publishing a lot of work and joining group projects curated by other artists. Eventually, I mustered enough courage to enter my work into competitions, and one year, the Society of Illustrators recognized a risograph piece I had created for a group zine. It was a turning point in my career. For the first time, I felt validated: I was of the right caliber to start working professionally. I became more assertive in finding work and networking with art directors. As I started gaining more confidence in myself, I gradually picked up more client work as the years went by. To be honest, it’s only within the last two years that my freelance career has finally gained momentum. I am excited to see where this new direction takes me.
Approach: I’ve been told that my choice in color is unconventional and vibrant compared to other artists. I do feel very daring when it comes to experimenting with color, and I often push myself to create a palette that is different from the one I used for the last project. Limited color palettes have never really been my thing, but I think it’s important to exercise restraint when needed and be tasteful with my color choices. During school, I really enjoyed painting classes and learned a lot of techniques for color mixing, rendering light and shadow, and creating depth within a piece. Although I work 100-percent digitally now, I often incorporate what I’ve learned from these classes into my work.
Cultural influences: Like many kids in my generation, I’ve always been obsessed with Japanese animation and culture. As I grow older, however, I find myself wanting to reconnect with my Chinese heritage, especially since China has now developed as a country within such a short span of time. Growing up as a second-generation Chinese person in North America, I craved more Asian representation in the media. I think that’s why I’ve always been so drawn to Asian entertainment; it was something I could easily identify with and relate to even if I couldn’t completely understand the languages right away. As a content creator myself, I can contribute back to what has been lacking my entire life by incorporating Asian influences in either a subtle or obvious manner.
Aspirations: I think the natural progression for many illustrators is to eventually strive towards grander projects outside of the usual editorial setting. Landing a book publishing or advertising job is something I have yet to experience, so I’d be very happy to receive one. I’ve had quite a few pipe dreams, like creating my own animated series or starting a creative agency, but for now, I’d like to stick with what I have and see where it takes me. Opportunities will either present themselves when the time is right or catch me completely off guard! The latter is all the more exciting, so I’d like to keep it a surprise. I am willing to try anything that’s unconventional and interesting, but the ultimate dream for me would be to gain a strong following that allows me the financial freedom to create any kind of art I please.
Philosophy: Know thyself. Finding my own identity as an artist was the most difficult thing for me when I graduated. I went through the same struggle that many artists have to find a style that doesn’t feel borrowed. As cliché as it sounds, it took me numerous tries to “find myself” in order to fashion a voice that I could call my own. I think that a large part of it came from my lack of courage to reveal more of my true self to others. Naturally being a very private and closed-off individual, I had to overcome my anxiety of connecting with my audience. Now I constantly push myself to create work that truly feels like an extension of my personality, allowing viewers to become more acquainted with it. That being said, retaining your own voice is a challenge in itself, especially when you’re working with a client whose opinions contrast from your own. It’s important to learn how to adapt to all sorts of situations. Find a way to let your artistic voice have a place and feel at home within any kind of setting.