Ingrid Tan works as a part-time game artist and freelance illustrator. She is also the illustrator of several children’s books, including What’s in Jochebed’s Basket (2013, written by Beng Alba-Jones, published by Hiyas Publishing), Mayumi the Forest Pig (2015, written by Rachel L. Shaw, published by The Bookmark Inc.), and The World, My World, In My Eyes (2016, written by Carl Matthew Rodriguez, published by The Bookmark Inc.). When she’s not working on her art, she likes to listen to art channels, watch cooking shows and factual channels on YouTube, as well as play music rhythm games and seek out inspiration from Pinterest. You can find more of her work on: Behance, Instagram, DeviantArt, ArtStation, Tumblr, and Pinterest.
Q: Everyone has an origin story. Could you share with us the exact moment (or moments) wherein you realized that you wanted to become an artist?
I’m not really sure, but I tend to draw make believe stories, and draw paper dolls based on shows I’ve watched. The ones that really stuck to me were Sailor Moon and Fantasia. I guess there was never a moment, but more like collective events that led me to decide to take up an art and design related course in college.
Initially I planned to take fine arts, but my father was worried that there was no money in art, so he convinced me to take up Multimedia Arts instead, since graphic designers had more stable jobs. I chose multimedia mostly because of the animation courses though (LOL). And my only graphic design work was my first job. I worked as a game artist after that. (LOL LOL)
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
My shyness/awkwardness around new people. I think most artists struggle with this. The desire to become a social butterfly, and talk to people you admire and strike up a conversation, or maybe even just have small talk without mumbling indistinct words.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
I’m still struggling (LOL), but one thing I’m trying now is to imagine myself talking with one of my closest friends. This helps me relax. It’s still new practice so I can’t say yet if this is effective. It’s funny because the impression my close friends have of me is that I’m fairly outgoing and extroverted.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
One thing that REALLY helped me was surrounding myself with friends who were more experienced and skilled than me, and then asking them for advice and wisdom. I was lucky enough to have met good friends in my previous work. I would ask them what books they’d recommend, and ask them to critique my work.
And since we’re on the subject. That’s another thing you need to have: the ability to accept criticism. Build up the layers on that onion skin and be ready to take both positive and negative comments. It’s part of becoming a better artist. Being able to show our hearts in our sleeves, to be vulnerable, and letting others see it and pick on it. But you don’t need to take every comment to heart. Take what you think is valuable and ignore the irrelevant ones. It’ll take time, but better to start earlier than later. Look up “How to accept criticism positively”.
I guess this makes it two things LOL.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
Draw everything. Because everything is just a bunch of shapes put together. So draw everything and build your artistic mental library. And understand how to beautifully construct things. Don’t be picky. You can be picky when you’re good at drawing everything.
I suggest picking a random subject (say a flower, architecture, anatomy, etc.), looking it up on Pinterest, and then copying the images. Why Pinterest? Because the photos there look prettier than on Google Images.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making art?
One of the forces that drives me is seeing how people would react when they see my work. If they react, whether it was positive or negative, then I was successful. Having no reaction from them meant I failed, because art needs to stir our emotions.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
My days are mostly composed of work in the mornings through the afternoons and early evenings. Or, if I wake up late, then I work in the afternoons through the nights. I fit the time to create art after work and on Saturdays.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
If my distraction is a game, then I put my console as far away from me as I can. The important thing is it’s not easily accessible to me.
If I’m struggling with my art, I take a break from it and do other things needed for the day. Then I come back to it. If I’m still not satisfied, I tend to redo the whole work, or search for photo references. When in doubt, Google for references.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
If I feel completely unmotivated to work, I take a break. Then watch an anime or re-watch my favorite movies or series, or read manga and fanfic. Other times, I play rhythm games.
I also have a playlist on YouTube that I watch or listen to when I work. It’s composed of videos from artists that I admire and their words of wisdom, or tutorials of techniques I want to try out. Having a playlist makes it convenient for me to look up videos that I liked before.
And browsing on Pinterest also helps. I usually have several boards for different subject matters. I sometimes browse them if I feel a slump. Sometimes I find works I’ve forgotten about and then it creates a spark of motivation in me to continue working again.
When I feel burnt out, I got out with friends, or have a lazy day with my significant other. Having at least one day in a week where you don’t have to think of art can help you feel motivated and refreshed for the following week.
Experiencing something new can also help. Checking out new local attractions, eating something new, or watching a new movie in a mall you hardly go to, or haven’t gone to.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
I would say it was when my short comic, Hold Close went viral on almost every social media platform I knew. And that people liked it, and reacted, and felt how I thought they would feel.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
My biggest failure is not having a new comic ever since Hold Close, which is close to 8 years.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
One is being a member of Ang InK. The other is posting my art on social media. Another thing, which I’m still working on, is having my own portfolio website.
One thing to remember in social media is you need to be consistent. Post at least once a week. It’s hard, and I struggle with this myself.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
The ultimate dream is to have my own art brand, like TokiDoki or Sanrio.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
Combining the different experiences and knowledge I’ve learnt in my life.
Q: What is your big “WHY”?
Why? WHY NOT? (LOL) On a more serious note. I want my art to be a source of inspiration to future artists, much like how Sailormoon and Fantasia were to me.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Sailor Moon, Spirited Away, Fullmetal Alchemist
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills? (Feel free to plug in as many as you’d like)
Color and Light by James Gurney – (This book shows you how to effectively apply lighting in your work. Highly recommended.)
Figure Drawing : Design and Invention by Michael Hampton – (He simplifies the anatomy into basic shapes so you can easily construct the human body.)
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud – (An eye opener.)
The Skillful Huntsman by Khang Le, Mike Yamada, Felix Yoon, Scott Robertson (A gist on the process of concept art.)
The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams (If you want to start in animation, I suggest starting with this book first.)
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animations by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson (Words of wisdom from the Disney masters.)
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards (For people who are just figuring out how drawing works.)
Muddy Colors (muddycolors.blogspot.com)
YouTube channels of:
- Jake Parker
- Will Terry
- Bobby Chiu
- Mark Crilley (his tutorials about comic creation is a well of information)
- Coffee Table Comics
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
I think it’s already obvious, but Japan. I wanna live in a quiet rural area with a reasonable wifi signal. Experience the four seasons, and eat farm grown vegetables, and cook and eat Japanese food. Then travel once in a while to Tokyo or Osaka to experience the limited-time cafes.
Q: Name ONE artist/writer that, if you could, you would pick their brain and find out all the hidden secrets behind their amazing work?
Hayao Miyazaki. I want to know how he comes up with such powerful stories.
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills?
(Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art really inspires you to get better.)
I have a lot whom I look up to. But if I were to choose one, it would be May Ann Licudine. I’ve loved her works for years, and she has made a name for herself using her own style. That is something I aspire for my own work.