Monday, November 12, 2012

Jennifer Hom

The day I made my Tumblr page was the day I discovered this fresh, new artist, Jennifer Hom.  I was scrolling through the list of, what I assumed were illustrator blogs since I really had no idea what I was doing, and I stopped on the image called "Armor."  The link led me to Jennifer's blog, which was full of her illustrations, designs, paintings, sketches, preparatory work, research, ideas, etc.  I was amazed at her skill, both traditionally and digitally.  So when my illustration class was given the Interview an Illustrator assignment, she was the first person I contacted.  She was very eager to share her experiences and advice, and I appreciate it immensely.  Our interview went as follows:

1. Growing up, what was the biggest influence in your life that inspired you to become an artist? What subjects, experiences, themes, etc. have you carried with you and brought into your artwork?

My biggest influence was my parents. My dad is a commercial artist (he worked on story boards for commercials) so I probably inherited the artistic inclination from him. My mom, however, was a huge driving force in that she was extremely supportive and actually funded my schooling (for which I am forever in debt). Regarding themes, the only thing I find myself still drawing are women (kind of a typical subject though). There is a joke around my office that I love to draw unicorns-- but the last one I drew was back in 2010. I'm not sure if that one is making a strong comeback. The work in my adult life (post-graduation) is typically about relationships...namely their negative or ambiguous qualities. Other people's relationships are also fun (King Henry VIII).
Something that I don't like to admit is that I was pushed back into art (at age 13) by an addiction to anime (Gundam Wing). I'm not proud to have drawn my fair share of fan art, but I will stand by it as something that inspired me for years.

2. I've read and viewed the processes you went through for some of your work, which are very helpful and entertaining. What, in your opinion, is your favorite part of the process? The research phase, the creation phase, the final product, or the process as a whole? Which part do you like the least? And why?

There is a famous quote from an artist that I love. The interviewer asked if the artist enjoys drawing, the artist replied, "I don't enjoy drawing, I enjoy having drawn." Forgive me for not remembering the artist's name, but I often feel similarly. I tend to love the research phase-- b/c that is when the magic of inspiration hits you and feel invincible. You only start to realize your limits when you start drawing-- despite this, I love and hate all phases of drawing. Planning phases (sketches, color keys) are the most liberating and most frustrating. Sometime you hit it out of the park right away, and sometimes you forget everything you've learned about color and composition. The rendering stage can be either meditative or extremely tedious.
3. How have your childhood experiences influenced the art that you create now? How have they influenced your methodology?

Perhaps the biggest influence that my childhood had on my art is that I create art at all. I grew up on suburban Long Island and, as the only Chinese girl within a 4 town radius, I had few friends. With lots of time on my hands, I had little else to do but draw. Other than that, I'd hope I don't let any other childhood experiences influence my methods, I would not have learned much in art school if I did.
4. As an undergraduate, which classes/teachers were the most beneficial and why?

Foundations drawing/sculpture/painting classes are always staples of an art education of course, but there were a lot of "other" classes that were very valuable. Art history and the history of apparel are things I still refer to when creating and understanding art. Another course called "the portfolio" was crucial in helping me understand the professionalism required to be a successful artist. In it, the students had to learn how to promote her/himself with business cards, post cards, portfolios, websites, etc. My most influential professor, however, was Shanth Enjeti, who taught a character design course. He guided me through the creation of my portfolio and actually help me decide on where to work after graduation. His influence was critical in pushing me to work tirelessly for a solid portfolio.
5. As an artist, what was the best advice you've ever been given?

Perhaps not advice, but something my drawing professor, Lenny Long, told me definitely stuck. On our first day of class he said, "Ten percent of you will have a career in the arts. The rest of you will fail." This was a good fear tactic in that it scared me into working my butt off. Maybe I've always felt that I have something to prove-- b/c I wanted to show him that I was in the 10%.
6. What was life like as an illustrator after graduating? What obstacles/opportunities were you faced with when you no longer lived in that school environment? And what advice/suggestions do you have for current undergraduates seeking a career in illustration?

I get maybe 100% more sleep now that I've graduated. Rhode Island School of Design bombards you with the worst possible working hours/assignments so the real world is actually a lot easier. The biggest challenge I encountered post-graduation was not having studio mates or simply not living in a creative haven. Working at Google, I'm surrounded by a lot of technical people, but not many artists. Having someone just a few feet away for creative advice/camaraderie was the best part of school.

My advice for those seeking a career in illustration is never stop. Never stop drawing, posting work online, applying for jobs, talking to other artists, etc. As an artist, your work needs to be seen. Rejection is tough and inevitable, but good for you, so don't let it get in the way. It will guide you. Professionalism is also critical. I've always believed that success is the combination of talent, preparation, and luck. You can account for two of the three, so make business cards, write a great resume, design a clean online portfolio, and apply everywhere.

Moreover, experience says a lot when you're looking for a job. I don't believe in working for free, but internships are important and speak loudly to potential employers.
7. What type of clients do you usually work for, and who have you worked for? What was/is that experience like?

My experience lies in full-time jobs for companies (rather than freelance). I had an internship with DreamWorks SKG as a design intern in consumer products, and now work full-time as a doodler for Google. My job at Google is something I never anticipated. I work with a lot of engineers and sometimes executives to launch projects like the birthday of Freddie Mercury and Little Nemo in Slumberland. Much of the challenge is in project management and collaboration. Figuring out how to communicate with non-creatives and adapting to their timelines was difficult (I learned the hard way on my first interactive doodle) but the skills paid off for more ambitious projects.
8. I noticed that you work both digitally and traditionally. What training did you undergo for both methods of creating art? Did you start off traditionally first, or digital, and what was the transition from one to the other like?

All of my training has been in traditional media (often times classical-- Venetian painting, gilding, egg tempera, etc). I picked up digital by chance when I was a teenager who loved the internet. My digital work took a back seat to traditional media for three and half years while I was in school. It was only in the last few months of RISD that I decided to go back to digital (considering I wanted to be a visual development artist). What I found was that it is MUCH easier to learn everything traditionally first-- color, composition, value, line, form. Digital is limiting, it puts you in a grid and forces you to select colors from a swatch. Traditional media lets you build your work from scratch so that you understand how to mix a color, how to design a composition. You also can't "undo," so you learn from your mistakes. This makes me sounds like a hater of digital media, but I'm just a strong believer of traditional training. The bottom line is that you can't do anything in art if you don't learn how to see-- and seeing has nothing to do with "digital frills." Learn on paper/canvas so there's nothing else to distract from the basics.  
To learn more about Jennifer Hom and her work, visit

The Stouthearted Swinger

(Here is my rough draft for the second story and thumbnails)

Addam and his friends were bored.  It was a hot and humid summer afternoon in Louisiana and there was nothing to do but catch frogs in the ditches and chase stray cats.  The small creek hidden in the woods behind their houses was an enticing yet deceptive trap full of sharp branches sticking out of the water like spikes.  No boy in his right mind would attempt to swim in there unless he had a death wish.  Yet Addam and his friends were bored, and anyone who knows children knows that boredom is the best motivation to get a child to do reckless things. So he and his friends decided to loiter by the edge of the creek.  Addam picked up a large rock and tossed it into the murky water.  He smiled crookedly at the satisfying splash.  Soon the other boys joined in and rocks started flying.  Eventually they got bored of that too and started throwing rocks at each other instead.  It didn’t last long.  While the boys were recovering from the attacks, Addam went in search of a rock to surprise his brother with.  What he found instead was a long sturdy rope hidden in the mud.  Addam wrapped his treasure across his shoulders and searched the creek bank for a tree with sturdy branches hanging out across the water.  Once he found one, he climbed as far as he could across the water and tied one end of the rope securely to the branch.  Then he tied a knot at the other end of the rope so that one’s feet wouldn’t slip off.  The boys stopped displaying their battle scars and watched Addam with growing excitement.
As soon as he was finished, the boys started pushing and shoving to get to the rope, but Addam wanted the first turn.  He stepped up onto a large rock and held the rope with both hands.  Addam wasn’t afraid of falling in the water.  After being tied to milk jugs and tossed into the river by his older brother, Addam knew how to swim.  However, he was afraid of the spikes and knew that if he slipped, he’d be coming home with water dripping out of the holes in his body.  So with that in mind, he pushed off from the rock as hard as he could at an angle.  The world spun out around him as he arced across the water and over the deadly spikes.  The strong wind pushed his hair back from his forehead and plastered the large grin to his face.  He was filled with pure adrenaline and courage.  If he survived this, he’d be dubbed Addam the Brave by all who hear of his heroic feat.  He reached the bank in no time and the boys rushed over to congratulate him.  For the rest of that summer, children swung on the swing of death to prove their bravery.  Yet no one could ever top Addam the Brave.

The Tremendous Tree

(This is a very rough draft of the first short story and a thumbnail)

Addam loved to climb trees.  He was an adventurous little boy with eyes the color of a clear blue sky in June and smile as crooked as a putter.  He was known far and wide as The Tree Climber, for his abilities attracted the attention of all the neighborhood kids.  Whenever Addam finished his daily chores, he’d venture out into his dad’s vast farmlands in search of a great climbing tree.  Once he was satisfied, he’d start ascending the tree until the branches could no longer support his weight.  There, perched comfortably on a branch, he’d survey the land stretched out before him.  It was during these moments when his child’s imagination would carry him into worlds full of flying beasts with wings the color of blue flame, elaborate castles growing out of the tops of trees and sprouting turret-shaped blossoms, giants the size of mountains sitting with large spoons and eating the clouds as if they were mashed potatoes, and a city of his own creation made up of tree houses that exist only in dreams. 
One day, as Addam went searching for a new tree, he turned down an unfamiliar path.  After a few minutes of crushing leaves and branches under his boots, he made it to the base of a tree.  He leaned his head back to look up at the massive structure and his heart started racing.  The tree was gigantic!  It must be two thousand feet tall, he thought.  Without a second thought, he started to climb.  The ascent was easy.  It was as though the tree were designed specifically for him; for the branches were spaced close enough for his little boy arms and legs to reach.  When he could climb no farther, he straddled a branch and looked down.  The distance made his head swim and he clung onto the base of the tree to prevent himself from falling.  He was too high up!  He tried to climb down to the branch below him, but his body was shaking too much.  He stayed in that tree all afternoon.  He was just about to doze off when he heard his dad calling his name.  He looked down to find his dad at the base of the tree, the size of an ant, holding a ladder.  His dad looked at him, then at the remarkably small ladder, then at the tree again, and then he turned and walked away.  A few minutes later he returned with a longer ladder, a look of disbelief on his face, and carried his son out of the tree and into the warmth of their modest farm house.  Addam the Tree Climber met his match that day but vowed next time to bring the ladder.
Here is an in-process painting.

Communication Arts Competition

Okay, so I'm REALLY excited about this!  My illustration class is competing in the Communication Arts competition.  That means more competition among students and better work! 

For those who don't know what Communication Arts is, it's a magazine that showcases work by some of the best and well known illustrators and designers of that year.  The competition is pretty open and the deadline is January 4, 2013.  There's an entry fee of $35 for one piece and $70 for a series.  Here's a link for more information:

The best part?  I can do whatever I want!  So where to begin?  With all this freedom comes great responsibility.  I started off by listing my favorite topics.  Such topics included the paranormal, memory, afterlife, basically all the things I blogged about recently.  Then I thought of what my Painting 3 teacher told me after I presented my work to the class.  I am a storyteller.  My work tells stories in the same way my dad told exaggerated stories about his childhood.  That's it.  Illustrate my dad's Big Fish stories! 

Long story short, I'm handmaking a book titled Dad's Tall Tales.  I will create three illustrations, acrylic of course since it's my strength, and they will be 9"x16".  I will then scan them and create a digital book with their corresponding short stories.  After that I will print and hand bind them using the pamphlet stitch.  Simple but effective since they will also serve as Christmas presents for some of my family. 

I started off my process by convincing my uncle to text me stories of him and my dad.  I wanted to compare the elaborate stories my dad told me with the true stories my uncle told me.  Excuse my language, but I laughed my ass off as he sent me text after text of hilarious stories of my dad.  The stories I chose to illustrate are:

-The time my dad got stuck in a tree all day
-The time my dad swung on a rope swing over a bed of spikes
-My dad's elaborate dream tree house

I'll keep you updated!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lettering Exercises

This was an in-class exercise we did to help us loosen up and experiment with text.  We collaged letters, wrote without looking, painted only the negative space around the letters, drew with sticks, etc.  Here are some examples of what we worked on.

Then, after drawing inspiration from Stefan Sagmeister (, I created this:

This is based off of a quote my gran says all the time, "Believe nothing you hear and half of what you see."

Super Awesome Illustrators!

These illustrators are fantastic!  Check out their work.

-Jennifer Hom (
-Sefora Pons (
-Audrey Kawasaki (
-Bente Schlick (
-Tzviatko Kinchev (
-Alberto Cerrikeno (
-Christian Asuh (
-Graham Franciose (
-Cory Godbey (
-Beatriz Martin Vidal (
-Alexander Jansson (


Spot Metaphors

For this assignment, we were given two lists.  Group A consisted of the subject.  Group B consisted of the metaphorical devices used to communicate the subject.  We started off by selecting one from A and one from B, then combining them.  We did that for eight individual illustrations. 

A                          B
The divine           a shadow
Isolation              only animals
Love                    landscape/cityscape
Revolution          an interior
Leadership          only hands
Fear                     only a still-life
Greed                   a sequence
Aging                  juxtaposition

So whaa laa!  Can you guess which one is which?


Hello!  So I haven't posted anything in months and I apologize for that.  The infamous DESIGN SYSTEMS I, among other things, has taken over my life.  Fortunately I've decided to protest and put illustration before design.  TEAM ILLUSTRATION! 

I've worked on several exercises and projects in illustration since the last time I posted; one of those being the silhouette project.  The idea was to choose any silhouette and create an image inside of that silhouette that conforms to the shape in a way that makes sense.  Here are some sketches in preparation of the final paintings:

The first sketch is about alcoholism and heart disease and how the two go hand in hand.  The second is pretty obvious; stray animals in the silhouette of a cat.  The last is a homeless person in the silhouette of a bare foot.  Memphis, as well as many large cities, has a problem with unemployment and homelessness.  With each idea I tried to touch on social issues that are happening now.  There are the final paintings:


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Still-Life Commentaries

This a continuation of the Generating Topics assignment, where we take each topic and communicate the ideas through two or three images.  Some of my topics were difficult, so I decided to take the, "I don't know what I'm doing, so I'm going to make a stupid face, "route whenever I was stuck.  Here are my images!




Not improving the heart disease situation

Brad (me dressed as my brother)

video games in general


Nice house

Only THIS many!

Livin' in a box


The year of 2012








Homosexuality (and anything in between)



Monday, August 27, 2012

Generating Topics: Heart Disease

The number one cause of death in both men and women is cardiovascular disease or heart disease.  According to the Heart Foundation, about one million people die each year from heart disease.  There are different types of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease (which is the most common), arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders), and congenital heart defects. 

My dad, Addam Scott, was born with a congenital heart defect.  Where the valves are supposed to pump in one direction, my dad's valves pumped in the opposite direction.  This led to the deterioration of some of his valves.  When I was about nine or ten, my dad had to have open heart surgery in order to replace one of his bad valves with a plastic one.  Normally surgeons would implant a pig valve, since pigs' hearts are very similar to human hearts.  Unfortunately my dad's heart was in such bad condition that his doctor decided on the new plastic valve.  The doctors warned the surgeon not to try to fix the bad valve, because it was unfixable.  All he had to do was hurry and insert the plastic one.  However, the surgeon was cocky and didn't listen to the doctors.  He was convinced he could fix my dad's valve.  After nine hours of fooling around in my dad's heart, the surgeon panicked and hastily, and poorly, inserted a pig valve.  The doctors were furious.  The hospital was furious.  Gran, my dad's mother, was blood-thirsty.  My family was in uproar.  A lawsuit was threatening the surface.  But my dad intervened.  Tulane Hospital is one of the best hospitals in Louisiana, and he didn't want to see such a great hospital suffer because of one egotistical idiot surgeon.  So instead they kept it hush, hush, and the surgeon was banned from operating in the whole state of Louisiana.
My dad died about four years later.  The crappily installed pig valve failed right before he was scheduled to have another open heart surgery.  When my dad was young, he was told that he wouldn't make it to eighteen.  He made it to thirty-nine and had two children, my brother and me.

(My drawing of the bear my dad was given.  He was told to squeeze it whenever he was in pain)
 Because of the advancement of technology and medicine, many people with congenital heart defects and other heart diseases now live longer!  Doctors make sure to identify the problem early on, using heart catheterization and other methods, and treat it immediately.  Surgical approaches have improved as well.  Since heart disease is on the rise, it's more important than ever to start taking care of your heart now!  Just because you weren't born with a heart defect, doesn't mean you're immune to heart disease.  Your heart is one of the most, if not THE most, important organs in your body!  If you log onto the American Heart Association website, you'll find a list of ways to prevent heart disease.  Here are some of them:

1. EAT HEALTHY!  That's obvious.  Take it easy on the saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars and sweeteners.

 2. EXERCISE!  Another obvious solution.  Keep your heart active!

3. GO TO THE DOCTOR!  Get examinated to make sure you're healthy.  Doctors are supposed to help you, so don't be afraid of them, but don't be afraid to interrogate them as well.  You and your doctor should be 100% open with each other.

 4. NO CIGARETTES!  Cigarettes are never good for you.  Never!

(This commercial is horrible, but it's effective)

5. MANAGE YOUR STRESS!  This is a hard one, because stress is inevitable.  Find a stress management technique that works for you.  A few techniques that work for me are breathing exercises (breathe in slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth), tensing and relaxing muscles (Start with your feet and tense your muscles for ten seconds.  Then release.  Work your way up your body until you feel like you've relaxed all your muscles), repeating a positive mantra (try my mantra, "I am smart, I am strong, I am brave, I am beautiful, I can do anything."  You can change it to better suit you), and thinking of something happy (my thoughts usually involve kittens).

Heart disease kills more people than AIDS and cancer.  So please, try to take care of yourself.  If not for yourself, then do it for the ones you love.  Your life is important to them.  Trust me.