my website is http://www.yaoxiaoart.com/ and my sketch blog is http://www.yaoxiaoart.com/sketch --just in case you need them.
How did you decide to pursue art as a career?
A: I’ve always wanted to be an artist since I was a child. So I guess I didn’t quite consider other careers as options since I was 7. I found that I was good at drawing and people liked me for it, so wanted it to always be this way when I grew up.
What medium do you feel most comfortable using and why?
A: I have been working digitally for illustrations for about a year now. The benefits I got from working digitally is that it takes very little physical space and it saves time while still turning out satisfying visuals. Given my living situation in New York I find it not very efficient to make large paintings for commercial work. I am trying out other mediums so I don’t stay in my comfort zone for long. I am learning silkscreening in fall and I am pretty excited for it.
What is your typical work process? Could you explain it step by step?
A: I normally would start with brainstorming and laying out a lot of sketches in thumbnails—maybe twenty or so. Then I’ll pick a few to show the professor/client to let them choose one. When I have an image I start with transferring the composition onto a piece of Bristol board. I used to use tracing paper but now it is a lot easier with a light box. I ink with a dipping pen. After I finish inking I scan the image and color it on the computer.
Were you ever nervous to work for any of you clients? Were you ever intimidated starting out?
A: I normally don’t get too nervous when I get work if I know I’m the only one doing this job—I’d always to try to do my best work but I can just focus on the work if I know they won’t reject me entirely if I did something a little wrong. I get the most nervous when I enter competitions and contests, or there is a selection process involved. I’m still working out ways to not get stressed about what is considered “good work” by the others and just do my best job.
Could you describe the difference in your work process for your personal work against your work process for your professional work?
A: I’ve been thinking about the difference a lot lately—I sketch from observation a lot when I’m not making illustrations. I work in graphite or pen with ink directly on paper. Or sometimes I paint with oil without sketching or thumb-nailing. When I do professional work I tend to make lots of sketches and make the finished piece very polished and elaborated. Lately I am looking for places that I can do sketching as a profession as well.
How do you typically keep a sketchbook? Do some of your ideas from sketches come out in your final product?
A: Sketching is a big part of my life. I keep a sketchbook with me at all times so I can draw from life wherever I am. For me the sketching itself is a type of art I do, instead of it being the preparatory stage for “finished work.” This is me talking about sketchbooks when I consider myself a sketch artist aside from being an illustrator. I keep a sketchbook on the side for illustration thumbnails. My sketches from observation sometimes would help me while drawing from memory, especially when I draw an elaborated scene with multiple characters in an environment. What I have observed when I sketch also affect my themes and subjects when I do illustrations. For example, I sketched at burlesque shows and circus performances a lot before I came to the idea of a circus freak show for my illustrated book “Monday’s Child.”
When starting off a project that has a dull prompt, how do you keep your interested? What ways do you keep you art continuously interesting?
A: I would try my best to make them something I like to draw—say, try every way to put some nakeness or eyeballs into it, if allowed. But when it really has so many restriction to the point that I can’t play with it—I just keep myself interested by thinking it would be a new thing I can do that I didn’t think I would put myself through. It is like going on a trip with someone I didn’t like to a place I didn’t want to go but interesting things might happen along the way.
What have you learned from you experiences in art school that you use continuously in your art today? What are you currently learning in art school now that you try to incorporate into your art?
A: The illustration program at SVA has a pretty practical set-up. The teachers act as clients and the assignments are mock-ups of the real jobs that illustrators might get. It is useful in the way that it prepares me for what real clients expect. I learned from my one year at MCA more about the fine arts world and the good morals and responsibilities as an artist. I get less of the fine arts side in a more commercial-based program now.
What is the biggest mistake that you have made for a client that you have learned from?
A: One of my biggest mistakes is that one time I made a dozen of finished work before the head of the client approved the style in the first place. I got approval from the person contacting me but it turned out that they had a higher-level director. Now I have to be careful about not to move too fast in a project before figuring out whether the contact I have is the “ultimate client” or a spokesperson of a group.
What are some of your future goals, and how do you hope to achieve them?
A: I plan to get more work published in the U.S., and possibly publish my own book. I am looking to submit my work to magazines and websites that I am interested in. I am also planning to start a web comic soon—I have already drawn a few pages and just waiting to find a cozy place to host it.
Ultimately, in the far future, I’m ambitious of making myself known as a good artist and illustrator, in the industry and in the public domain. For now I’m doing that by doing more work and trying out new things so I know what I am capable of.