where are you from?
I’m originally from Los Angeles, California - from the Valley. I moved here four years ago for school, to go to Parsons, and that was my first time visiting New York at all. I’d never been to this city before, and I just came for school, and I have been here ever since. I graduated this last year, and it seems official that I am staying, but eventually I do want to move back to LA.
did you always know that you would pursue illustration as a career?
I think I had some sort of idea, because I went to art classes when I was really young, and in high school I was taught at those art classes by people who studied illustration, and they caused me to grow into the sense of idea of it, and when I started applying for colleges, I put illustration just because - I didn’t know what else to do, and it was most comfortable for me, but I really wanted to do fashion instead. I just put illustration, but I was thinking that maybe I would transfer into fashion if I felt that I was ready to. That is also the reason why I wanted to go to Parsons. And then after the first year of school, I realized that I didn’t want to do fashion at all. It was just something that I fantasized about, but never saw myself actually enjoying, or seeing any career or happiness out of it. And whenever I thought of illustration as a career, any way for me to keep doing the work that I am doing now, I felt motivated. And that’s when I decided that I definitely wanted to study illustration, but it wasn’t until last year that I decided I wanted to be a freelance illustrator. I love it a lot, I can’t really see anything else that I want to do. When I imagine myself at a day job, a full-time job at a company, working for someone, just sitting around at a desk doing Photoshop all day.. I know I am not going to be happy, based on the internships that I’ve had. I think creatively I’m very stubborn, so I want to have a lot of freedom. I like doing my own thing, I like having my own style. I tried applying for company jobs, but they always felt very intimidated by my style - because I was stuck on it, they always assumed that it was all that I ever drew. It felt really frustrating that they wanted me to have more range instead of me sticking with what I am comfortable with, and what I liked most. But this way, I like knowing that I’m going to have a lot more opportunities to be happy with my work, while also working with other people - and it feels more like a collaboration this way.
To be more specific of why I decided not to do fashion, when I imagined my future in that profession, I felt content working for some big designer - just working for them, not having really any big plans of me doing work for myself, or anything else for that matter. And when I thought about that, it felt really sad that it was all that I saw for myself regarding that. But then when it came to illustration there were those what-ifs: what if I have so much freedom, I can do this, I can do that, if I wanted to go do animation, if I wanted to.. I don’t now, it felt a lot more broad, and it made me more excited. It’s more interesting to me. I still like fashion, but I know for a fact that it’s not something I am going to take seriously - I like drawing and stuff, but nothing high fashion or couture or whatever.
imagine you were trying to explain your work to someone who’s never seen it. Do you get that question - “what do you draw?”
Oh, you mean if they were to meet me for the first time and ask me? That’s a really hard thing - I don’t really know what to say. They ask either “what do you draw”, or “what’s your style”, or “what do you like to draw”, and I just say that I like drawing cats, really cute things, really fun and funny things. I guess style is very hard for people to understand, especially if they don’t know art at all, which is the majority of times that I talk to people - they have no idea of the illustration world at all. And when I try to explain that, they always say - “oh, so hello kitty?” or “oh, so Japanese cute stuff?” No, that’s not what I’m doing. So then I just pull out my phone, and I show them my website, and then they understand it… But I think they still see it as a hellokitty-area.
how do you start an illustration?
When it comes to my personal work, I usually draw straight in pen, and then if I really like it enough, I scan it and colour it on Photoshop and sometimes I would paint it also. Normally though, I don’t plan it that much anyway, unless I’m working for someone, and they require sketching back and forth - then that’s a lot of planning. But the majority of the time, I just go straight into it, and I don;t think about it that much.
do you like making zines?
Yeah, I actually took a zine class from school. It all started from freshman year - we took this weird lab class, and they forced us to make zines every week. When I first looked into it, I realized that you can basically do whatever you want. For that whole semester, I BS-ed my zines that I made every week. It was always based off an assignment - something that we would have to make a zine regarding that topic. Because of that whole semester, I hated zines. I didn’t like it, I thought they were stupid. And then, when I actually got into the illustration program sophomore year, I started to see other artists making zines. That really blew my mind - I didn’t know that people could make zines that cool. Just the fact that I could do whatever I wanted, and there didn’t need to be any solid story behind it - that was when I started to get interested in them.
what is the worst class you’ve ever taken?
It was probably one of my non-studio classes. I think the only one that I can remember right now was parks in New York City. I had to take an art history credit, and that class was counted as one, so I took it - people who graduated a year ahead were saying that it was an easy class. So obviously, I didn’t care much about art history, and I just wanted to take an easy class, so I took it, and I really, really did not enjoy it. It ended up being a really hard class that I barely passed.
what did you do in that class?
Every week, we would sit and listen to the teacher lecture about every park in New York City, basically. And then she taught about the history about it, or why it was set up - just really specific details of the park that I had never noticed before. It was really cool to get it, but I really hated wasting a semester on it. I think we had a quiz every week, and she took those quizzed really seriously. Sometimes I would write the answer - and it would be those one-word answers - but I can’t just turn it in, so I kept writing random stuff, even though I kept going back to that one word answer. I felt like I didn’t really know how to go about it after about two sentences. That was.. I hated that class.
what is the best class you’ve ever taken?
I think I really enjoyed my printmaking classes. I took one that was broken up for all kinds of screen printing in one semester, so I took lithography, and screen printing, and linocut - all of that was broken within the span of just one semester, so that was when I started to get into it. And then I chose to take a woodcut class - I liked that one so much. I was still making art, but it was more physical, and the class was more enjoyable to just hang around and be in. I didn’t feel any pressure to be really conceptual or something like that. I’m a really crafty person anyway, so I just like using my hands a lot.
do you think the idea of concept is important?
Yes, after taking three years of illustration concept classes, it definitely.. You have to at least have some sort of idea about it, but I mean, I don’t make my illustrations so serious and super-conceptual anyway. But usually, if I were to make, say, an editorial piece, there has to be a concept to it, and I cant just pull out whatever, and think of whatever- that’s not going to relate to anything, to any story at all. As much as I like making really random work, I understand that concept is really important to have in the body of the work.
a lot of people are now arguing about whether art school is really beneficial to an artist, Do you think art school helped you grow?
Yes. What’s funny is that my portfolio before Parsons was so realistic. I painted everything, I rendered everything. I always used photos for reference, and painted directly from photographs. Looking at my work now, I make a joke like, “was it even worth going to art school, if all I needed to do was a simple line drawing?” But yes, going to art school has helped me so much with developing conceptually, and definitely has helped me with my style. I think going through struggles of a typical art student has made me create the work.. as cheesy as it sounds, it really made me have the work that I have now, and definitely going to Parsons has helped me with design. Design is very essential to illustration - when I do any sort of drawing, there is some sort of design part to it, and I think that if I didn’t go to school for that, I probably wouldn’t understand the composition of my drawing, and it would just be all over the place. Being forced to make work every week also has helped me in a lot of my work areas where I was weak before.
what’s the best advice that you’ve ever been given?
Oh I don’t know, it was probably to do whatever you want, basically.
is there something you’re working on right now?
Not anything big. I have a few projects, jobs from people here and there, but I always like to keep myself busy with my own work, too. It’s never anything super big, like, oh, I am going to do a series - it’s whatever pops into my head when I am by myself, or just walking around - I guess within the next month I am working on a holiday card.. Yeah..
are you excited for Thanksgiving or Christmas?
Probably Christmas, which is sad, because I always go home for it, and in LA it’s still like 80-90 degree weather, so.. It makes me sad, because I’m coming from straight-up snow to the sunny part. The weather is what I like about LA, but it’s only around Christmas when I feel really sad and I wish that LA wasn’t LA, and that it would snow on Christmas day.
what makes a good day?
Lately, what I’ve been really enjoying is sitting on the couch, knitting with a candle lit, watching Avatar: Last Airbender, eating hot cheetos. Yeah, that’s my perfect day, basically.
do you have a favourite character in the show?
what is your favourite thing to do in New York?
There’s that cafe that I told you about, the one we were thinking of going to in the East Village. I used to live right there, and I used to go there like three times a week. But now I live quite far, so whenever I’m in the area, I have to stop by and that is my favourite place. I just sit there and draw and drink coffee. And I love hanging out by myself there.
what inspires you?
Uh…. Nothing? This is really hard! I don’t really catch what inspires me. Yes. i can say that other illustrators’ work inspires me, but it doesn’t really get me hardcore motivated to work right there on the spot. I think what I really learned about myself is when I went through a creative slump, and it was really hard for me to draw, or rather to be happy with anything I draw, I realized that all I needed to do was give time to myself, just to draw in my sketchbook - whatever I wanted to, whatever was going on in my mind; just to hang out by myself. After that slump, I went to that cafe - I wasn’t going there with the intention to make something, I just went in, and I started drawing something, and it hit me - I was right back to being inspired again. It comes out of nowhere. I guess it’s usually when I’m giving time to myself.
you work in a studio with other people, right?
Yes, four other girls.
are you all illustrators?
Yes. we are. I know three of the girls because they graduated a year above me, and the fourth one graduated with me in my year, and she was in illustration.
do you find that you influence each other in your work?
Oh yeah. Me and Emmy are really interested in the same stuff, and we always like each other’s work, and we always motivate each other. It’s always similar projects that we like doing, too.
any music recommendations?
I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music lately. It helps me focus a lot. I’m not really listening to anything but the music itself, and the instruments itself - and it really helps me focus on my work a lot. I turn on Pandora, and I select a composer, and play it in the background while I work.