1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
I was born in China and moved to the Silicon Valley area of California when I was seven. Like a lot of other artists, I developed an interest in drawing at a young age. It always seemed like a hobby, until I had to make a decision of where to go for college. In retrospect, it seems crazy to have to make a choice like that when you’re 18, but I’m really glad I took the plunge and went to art school. It opened up such a world for me, and now I couldn’t imagine going down a path that wasn’t creative.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I tend to draw this very specific, rotund character over and over again. And I’ll extend the world a bit with each new illustration. I like working with limited color palettes and clean graphic shapes. Conceptually, I gravitate toward quiet situations, often infused with some weird moments to make you look twice.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Oddly, there’s a difference between my favorite medium and the one I use most. For practicality, I do most of my work in Photoshop and Illustrator. But I love and have always loved ink and cut paper. Collaging and printmaking feels really natural to me, and I always wish I made more time to work in those mediums.
4. What is your artistic process like?
Most of my work is client-driven, so I have a pretty rigid process from concept to finish. I usually take a prompt and read it over a few times, writing down the words and phrases that stick with me. I think the translation process is important for me, because it keeps me from being too literal with the text. Then I’ll take those general themes and come up with a mess of thumbnails, funnel those ideas into a few tight sketches, and go to finish from there. I think I spend the most time in the concept phase. Once I have the drawing down, the rest is pretty smooth sailing.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I find it almost impossible to be inspired when you’re trying to find inspiration. For me, inspiration always comes out of nowhere, like witnessing a moment while people watching or reading an unexpected line from a book. When I was younger, I was inspired by graphic novels, movies and storytelling. I think I probably gravitated toward this because I’m terrible at telling stories. And I’m endlessly impressed when people can create a detailed, moving world within a limited space or format. I hope to be able to attempt something like that someday.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling these past few years, so I tend to use art, design and architecture as a way to find similarities and differences between varying parts of the world. In my day to day life, it has forced me to have extreme attention to detail, for better or for worse.
7. Where did you study?
I studied illustration at RISD. It was a pretty rigorous program, but I think it established a great foundation for the kind of work that I’m doing now. I still refer back to things I learned in school. I feel like some of those core design principles can stay with you throughout your entire career.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?
Five years ago, I could not have predicted the place I’m at now so that’s a tough question to answer. I’m pretty sure I will not be working at an agency. I love freelance too much to ever give it up.
9. What about in ten?
In ten years I will hopefully grow soft and move to a place with more green and less stress.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I hope I can get to a point where I’m making things that go beyond satisfying my own ego and creative goals. We all hope that our art can serve a greater purpose, but in order to get there you have to solve a few basic problems first, like finance and stability. It would be amazing to collaborate with more companies that are trying to change the world for the better, or make work that can be a source of support and empowerment for people.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
Every food is my favorite food.
12. Favourite book?
White Noise by Don DeLillo
13. Favourite genre of music?
14. What are your hobbies?
Baking and swimming. One begets the other.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
A panda nanny.