[Interview] Children illustrator - Hsiao-Chi Chang (Kaohsiung) form Taiwan
What’s your background and experiences
I am an illustrator who was born and raised in Taiwan. Currently I live in New York City. During undergrad I studied fine art, mainly concentrated on creating installation works. I always had a love for illustrated books so I decided to make an illustration book as part of my graduate project. After my first illustration book project, my desire of making my own books became much stronger which led me to choose to focus on children’s book illustration while I pursuing an MFA degree at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. During the time I was honored to receive “The Best in Category Award for Children’s Book” in the Spring Show of AAU and “Runner-Up” for Illustration on Creative Quarterly 35 when I was a student. When I finished school I started freelancing in illustration, which brought me to New York City. In the future I have plans to start writing and illustrating my own children’s books.
What kind of style would you describe yourself and your artwork
I would describe myself as a person who is usually observing. I usually spend 3 to 4 hours watching people on weekends. It relaxes me to focus on other people rather than myself. I can see many different types of people at the same time - happy people, aggressive people, low-key people, worried people, chilling people and more.
I would describe my artwork as “whimsical.” I usually create artwork that is playful and fun however there is always an underlying mood or emotion behind it. Interestingly, some people will read the emotion immediately while others see the cute and playful images first. I like both of the messages that people receive from my art. Collecting feedback from people is part of my observation process.
What kind of work do you most enjoy doing
The work that I enjoy to do the most is my “happy drawings” in my sketchbook. They might not be as solid as other illustrations that I do and may not have clear and readable shapes to other people, however they are very meaningful to me. All of them have a strong meaning to me. This is also the best way to release my emotions and energy. Sometimes I color them in both traditional and digital ways. One of my dreams is to have a solo show of all of my “happy drawings” one day. I also share them on my blog at www.verysillyalice.com.
Name something you love, and why.
I love the smell of pencil and crayon. The smells always remind me of life as a kid because I always smelled them when I was in kindergarten. Every time I use them I feel like I am still a kid, which is what I prefer to be compared to rather than being an adult.
I love Paul Klee. The first time I saw his work “Golden Fish” was when I was 8 years old. The teacher wanted us to pick one of the masterpieces in the box and do our own version of it. I looked through all the pictures in the box and only liked the “Golden Fish.” That is still one of my favorite masterpieces even now.
What is your dream project
There are many dream projects that I aspire to complete. One of them is to do a mural children’s story. It could be in any city in the world and might be an adapted local story. People in the neighborhood can come to participate. They can create the story with me while we are painting all together.
Another dream project is related to my undergrad background. I always wanted to combine fine art and children’s illustration, seriousness and playfulness for making an installation artwork. I am interested in finding the balance between marketable work and personal artwork.
What are the roles of artist in society
In my opinion, different fields of artists have different roles in society. As a children’s illustrator, making art and telling stories that are playful, light and funny is my goal. I want to provide different points of view to make people, especially kids, smile. To me, every tiny thing is interesting. It is my work to remind people how playful the world is. That is the reason why I want to show people all the interesting things that I see everyday through my art with my aesthetic.
What question do you want to ask the next artist
How do you define a successful artist?
What would people be surprised to learn about you
When I was young I hated to draw. It wasn’t until I was around 12 years old that I started loving art again. Once I had been punished seriously at a very young age by a nannie because I drew on the wall in her house with markers. After that I never felt like drawing and even started to hate it a bit until I went to middle school. I am not sure this confession surprised people or not but I am very surprised that I am an artist now.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others
I guess we all feel lost sometimes in life or in art. There was one time I was very lost before I finished school, something I think many young artists go through. Then I saw a video clip of the commencement speech that Neil Gaiman made for the University of Arts graduating class in 2012. He said, “Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.” These words still inspire me every time I am down. No matter how much I need to keep improving, the only thing I can do all the time is make good art.
How long you have been doing art
I started creating art again when I was in middle school. I went to an art-focused program in a public school at that time. We had a special class schedule and had a lot more art classes including drawing, watercolor painting, creative art, Chinese painting, and Chinese calligraphy. This is a very important transitional time in my life. I started to enjoy drawing and creating art again in that environment. I have continually created art since then.
How do you feel after you finished or while you are painting
I always feel like a kid when I am painting or making my art. I forget how old I am, where I am, and what I am worried about in life. I feel like making art is like playing by myself. Sometimes, I talk by myself while I am painting. This can happen everywhere as long as I am drawing or painting. While I am creating art, I don’t need to worry if I am cool enough or not. I don’t need to be an adult. I don’t have any responsibility of making mistakes. Instead, I feel free when I am drawing or painting.