Duration: I’ve been freelancing since I graduated in 2016.
Location: Just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Education: BFA in illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Career path: I’ve always liked to draw. Though, when I chose my major, the only thing I knew about illustrators was that drawing was in their job description! I fell in love with illustration and its challenges. I enjoyed all of my classes and my internship in school, which helped me discover what I really enjoyed making.
Artistic influences: When I was a kid, my parents had a lot of Asian art in the house as they had just moved back from living in Singapore. I loved the narrative quality of the work. I would try to create stories to go with all of the prints and wood carvings we had around. I also take a lot of influence from nature; I like to go outside as much as possible. As I got older, I became more interested in art history and began to appreciate art nouveau—it has an organic, natural quality and is a nice combination of the Asian art that I initially loved. I try to have these elements in my work.
Favorite projects: The project for an Outside magazine piece about the writer’s struggle with anxiety. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I really related to the story. The writer emailed me afterwards, thanking me for “nailing it” and conveying how he felt, which was so kind of him. It was the first time that anyone had reached out to me like that, and it reminded me of the impact that I have on both readers and writers.
Work environment: I work from home. My studio is a room in which two of the four walls are made of glass; it always provides a nice, calming view because I’m surrounded by trees. I’m very neat in general, but my desk can get a little hectic as it’s home to my computer, my tablet, sketchbooks, a few plants, multiple coffee cups, tangled headphones and random scraps of paper! I sometimes like to move my workspace. If I’m sketching, I’ll go outside, and if I’m working on my laptop, I’ll take it with me. I can work on trains, planes and buses, and in parking lots and friends’ houses—really, from anywhere and everywhere—which is one of the best parts of being a freelancer!
Approach: I work in a lot of layers, literally (I work in Photoshop) and figuratively. I try my best to completely dive into a topic and learn as much as I can about it so I can make informed decisions when I’m drawing. Accessibility is one of the most important things to me. I want someone to be able to look at my work and understand what’s going on at first glance, and I like including subtle details that are revealed over time. It’s fun when you look at an illustration and get an idea of the story it accompanies right away, but it’s even better when you go back to look at the illustration after you’ve read the story and find a few more details.
Aspirations: I would love to see where freelancing takes me. In the two years I’ve been freelancing, there have been many projects that I would have never imagined myself doing; it’s so much fun. I would like to expand my editorial and children’s work, and I would love to work on an advertising campaign. It would also be fun to try surface design or packaging. I’m up for anything!
Philosophy: If you create things that you feel good about and work on things that matter to you, your work will benefit. Also, have fun—that always shows in your work!
Fun fact: I’m just getting into children’s book illustrations with my awesome literary agent, Nicole Tugeau. My first children’s book, Under the Bodhi Tree, is out now, and I have a few young adult book covers that will be out in the fall and next spring.