Artist Interviews: Jeannie Phan
Jeannie Phan is an up-and-coming illustrator known for her brilliant gouache and ink illustrations and handmade zines. Recently graduated from OCAD, Jeannie now lives and works in the city of Toronto, Canada.
Check out more of her work on her website, her tumblr, or her twitter.
Read her interview after the jump.
How did you decide on illustration as a career?
I’ve always bounced around with what I wanted to do when I was younger: it was hard for me to picture myself dedicating my life to only one stream as I love the act of learning and discovering new subjects. But, the one constant factor that stuck with me was my love of creating images. Illustration has a close relationship with so many other creative fields (graphic design, fashion, animation, etc) that I thought it was a flexible enough career for me while still giving me multiple avenues to explore.
What is your average routine as an illustrator?
Promotion is a huge part of my routine: it kind of becomes second nature. To actually present your work out to the world and say “Hey, this is what I do.” But essentially it’s a lot of communication between potential clients, the general public and fellow illustrator peers. Thank goodness for online social media, it totally helps.
Who or what are some of your influences right now?
Of course I spend a lot of time following the blogs of my favorite illustrators and I especially love those who have side projects. For instance: Asaf Hanuka “The Realist” (http://realistcomics.blogspot.ca/) and Jilliam Tamaki’s “SuperMutant Magic Academy” (http://mutantmagic.com/).
Wowee Zonk is a local art collective here in Toronto and they’re always have interesting projects.
What is your favorite type of illustration? (Editorial, book, children’s book, etc.)
I really do love editorial because of the type of clever solutions and concepts that are employed. It’s a huge challenge. I also love packaging because it’s really amazing to see your illustrations on a tactile surface and physically interact with people.
Do you prefer working digitally, traditionally, or both, and how has this influenced your work?
I love working traditionally. Since I have a background in graphic design, I used to work digitally quite a lot but found my work never looked as organic as I wanted it to look. It became frustrating trying to imitate traditional mark making and much easier to just do it. That being said, since I have such a love for graphic design, I really do enjoy working in Photoshop mainly to touch things up.
I notice you tend to have really good intuition when it comes to color choices for your work. What influences your color choices?
Intuition. You said it. A huge part of how I choose which colour to use next is its relationship to existing neighbouring colours. Initially I plan out a general palette or dominant color theme I want to use based on its connotation and feel in relation to my piece then from then on its just one big experiment with tweaking what looks right.
I do plan out my palette digitally before I paint. It makes it infinitely easier to experiment with drastic and just downright ugly color choices before settling down with something that works. I’ll then proceed with painted color swatches referencing my monitor directly. The colours are never a perfect match but that’s not my intention with digital color tests, they’re used to figure out harmony.
How has your online presence helped your work?
Its helped me immensely. I don’t think without the power of the Internet and social media my work would be viewed as frequently and to such an international crowd. I’ve gotten great opportunities just by being on blogs. I’ve also met some really cool people through places like Twitter and Tumblr.
Who do you think is the largest audience of your work?
I find a lot of fellow up-and-coming new artists like to view my work, maybe because my process is relatable. I am still experimenting and learning.
Do you have any personal projects you’re working on at the moment?
Right now I’ve really been into working on craftier projects just because illustration tends to be so 2D. Things such as my Mushroom necklaces. I’m also stewing away at another zine! Hopefully released for the spring.
Have you ever tried drawing sequential art, webcomics, graphic novels, etc.? What are your thoughts on the medium?
Yes I have. I find I don’t have nearly enough patience to fully fall head first into sequential art but I admire people who have it come naturally to them. Making a comic takes an incredible amount of work and takes a certain storytelling ability which I hope to nurture in the future but right now I am happy to be immersed in those who are already great at it.
I also notice you’ve made a couple of zines. What got you interested in the medium?
My brother, definitely. He brought me to my first zine fair (Canzine, Toronto) and showed me zines he accumulated from different places. To me zines are such an amazing thing. They are a completely self-curated piece of publication that is raw and uncensored. My zines tend to focus more on my love for experimenting with book design and different ways to present my illustrations (how different papers, size and textures react with the images).
What are three things you can’t do without when working?
1) Having a good podcasts on (my favourites: This American Life, Radiolab, How Stuff Works)
2) Snacks: something to keep me fueled and my hands busy inbetween work
3) Oodles of scrap paper to scribble new ideas and thumbnails as they come quite spontaneously
What’s your favorite book?
Jesse Jacob’s By This Shall You Know Him (not a novel, but a really great comic)
And your favorite movie?
Howl’s Moving Castle
“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.” - Conan O’Brien
And finally- do you have anything motivational to say to illustrators or students first starting out?
So many students get hung up with a perception of what a successful career is which ultimately will limit you. Instead of chasing someone else’s path it’s best to be honest with what you are truly good at and genuinely like. Illustration is such a huge and limitless field that there are so many niche markets waiting to be discovered.
Going to art school (and this event extends to the immediate post-grad period) is pretty much like going to career puberty. Lots of style changes, lots of self reflecting and just figuring it out. And like puberty, everyone goes through this so you artistic anguish is totally nothing to be ashamed of, instead embrace it and go forward because you will grow into a beautiful swan. That I am sure.
I don’t think anything is much more inspiring than hearing the stories of established illustrators you admire so I definitely recommend not only students but everyone listen to Sam Weber’s Your Dreams My Nightmare podcasts: http://yourdreamsmynightmares.com/
A really big thank you from NSD to Jeannie for such a great interview. Be sure to check out her website, her tumblr, or her twitter, for updates and news about her and her work.