About this Q&A
I often get emails from students and aspiring illustrators seeking advices or simply interested in what I do. As much as I love to answer every one of those questions, my busy schedule prevents me from doing so. So I decided to complied this page with the most frequently asked questions. I hope this will be of some help to you, good luck with everything and keep drawing!


Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am a Los Angels based freelance illustrator from Hong Kong. I graduated from Rhode Island School of Design( RISD) with a BFA in Illustration. Before I moved to Los Angeles, I lived and worked in New York City.  "Victo" is not a boy nor a typo, but a nickname derived from Victoria - a leftover from the British colonization.
I create art for newspaper and magazines such as the New York Times and the New Yorker; make books for publishers such as the Folio Society, Abrams and Tor Forge; and work on advertisement campaigns with companies like the American Express, McDonald’s, IMAX, MTA Art for Transit, Lufthansa Airline and General Electric.   
My work has received recognition from Communication Arts, American Illustration, Spectrum, 3X3, Society of Illustrators LA. Apart from drawing I would say that food and travel are my biggest passion. 


What are the influences of growing up in Hong Kong?
Chris Buzelli once told me this “ Style is overrated. Style merely means one's habit of drawing based on one’s own experiences. Therefore everyone has a unique life.” I was exposed to oriental arts and traditional Chinese folk art like ‘nian hua’  ( New Years decorative poster) and ‘ lian huan hua’ ( Chines comics) at young age. I guess I unknowingly developed a knee taste for flat and decorative imagery, which then led to my conscious fascination with Japanese wood-block prints, Soviet and Chinese Communist propaganda posters… I think the energy of Hong Kong’s hustle-and-bustle lifestyle along with its many skyscrapers have found their way into my illustrations too.
I Grew up there until 18, my parents still live there and I will always see it as a home. It exposed me to both Eastern and Western Cultures at a very young age. These cultural experiences play a great part in my visual thinking and expressions.
The memories of Hong Kong to me has become hazy over the years. Hong Kong also has developed at a very fast phase, a lot of my childhood/teenage hang-°©‐out places are no longer there. Here are a few things I remember the most: The hustling and bustling Nathan Road covered in neon signs inKowloon. The 110 years old tram ride around Hong Kong island which would take you through the seafood street and Tin Hau temple in Sai Wan, financial glass buildings in Central, the shopping district in Causewaybay, the ancient Tong Lau in Wan Chai.etc. The traditional Cheung Chau Bun/Dajiao Festival at which visitors can see the spectacular view of people racing up a bun mountain. The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance at which 300 people sway a 76 ft dragon made out of hay and burning incenses. 

What do you think of the art scene in Hong Kong?
I’d love to comment on the art scene in Hong Kong but because I have lived abroad for so long I’m really not so familiar with it. What I can see when I do come back is how much it is changing though. There are quirkier, cooler and interesting advertisements – rather than the normal traditional ones. It seems brands are open to more creativity and incorporating graphics and illustrations as opposed to traditional imagery. When I was on the MTR I found the cautionary signs to almost have a Japanese touch to them, which I loved seeing.

How have the realities of migration impacted your work as an artist?  
Living in a foreign land forced me out of my comfort zone which allowed me grow as a person and as an artist. The disorientation of cultural shocks allowed me to examine familiar things with a fresh pair of lenses. All these helped me think out of the box and come up with visuals which combines Eastern and Western metaphors. After All, the life of an art piece comes from the artist’s own experiences. 

Why NYC?
I moved to NY for the job opportunities, as most of the big publishers and advertising agencies are in the city. I stayed in NY for the community. Freelance illustration can be a pretty lonely job, and artists are naturally talented in getting into their own heads. So it's quite important for me to have people who speak the same language around. The American Illustration, Society of Illustrators NY, ADC and other events + hang outs make this possible. There’s no place like New York. It is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, with its world class museums, restaurants, music and cultural events.etc.
What would be the difference for you being an illustrator in Hong Kong VS NYC?
It would be a lot more difficult to make a living solely on illustration in Hong Kong - most of the illustrators I know there have a second job as graphic designer or art teacher. There isn’t much of an editorial illustration market there neither. For the publications that actually use illustrations, their budgets are much lower compared to the US due to the small circulations. The concept of illustration is relatively new as well. When people ask me what I do for a living, I just tell them I draw as the word “illustrator” often invite blank stares...

What countries have you lived in? What are some books you are inspired by?
Hong Kong, Mainland China, Britain, Japan, America. I think my work reflects my love for sci-fi and fantasy books, some of my favorites include Lord of the Rings, American Gods, Snow Crash, Game of Thrones and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I am also a big fan of stories which are rich in metaphors and symbolisms, from Greek metrologies, Aesop’s Fables, Chinese Fairy Tales to books like 1984, Brave New World, The Metamorphosis and Steppenwolf.

Career Choice 

When did you first start drawing and creating artwork.
I first started drawing when I was really young ( I'm not sure those drawings can be counted as art work though). My parents were really busy and I had pretty lonely childhood being an only child, so I began drawing to keep myself company an to stay amused while i was on my own.

What is the exact moment you decided to become an illustrators artist?
I have always loved to tell stories and communicate ideas with drawings since I was a kid, but have not heard of the term “illustration” until RISD. I entered the school with much passion about art but the vaguest idea of what I will do upon graduation. During freshmen year, I actually first declared major in graphic design, but when I happened on a presentation by the illustration department, I thought to myself, that’s what I want to do. 

How did you get started in the art world?
A classmate commissioned me to do a comic stripe and paid me generously in candies in third grade. 
If we are talking about professional work, I got my first piece when I was a junior at collage- my RIDS professor Chris Buzelli’s Wife, SooJin Buzelli, is a famous creative director (CD of Asset International (publisher of Plansponsor, Plansponsor Europe, Planadviser and aiCIO) and she saw my student work and decide to run it. That’s how we started our 6 years and counting working relationship. With a professional portfolio ready by the time I graduated, I contacted AD Aviva Michaelov at the new pork times who then become my second client. after my works were seen in the wildly circulated newspaper, I gradually accumulated my other clients. 

What do you like most about being a freelance illustrator?
Getting paid to do what I love. Also the freedom of working from anywhere and at anytime.

Is freelancing for everyone?
No. Freelance illustration is more than a job – it’s a lifestyle.
A freelance illustrators wear many hats - the studio CEO, an artist, an accountant, a PR as well as a studio janitor. One needs to be very discipline on working and, resting. For me, sometimes it becomes impossible to separate work and personal life. I often have to cancel plans because of rush jobs and revisions. Also, without any official office hours and holidays, it’s very easy to overwork. Also, freelancers are attaching their names to the work they are selling, which is the product of one’s thought processes, habits, taste and preferences. This makes it quite difficult not to take things personally when the work is not going well or rejected.

How did you stay and work in the US being an international alien?
I was able to obtain the O-1 artist VISA during my one year OPT. I hired a VISA broker to help me better present the evidences and strengthen my case. It costed quite a bit ($5-7K) but I would recommend it if you can save up that amount, as the process is quite complicated. Besides all that jazz such as supporting evidences and recommendation letters (see the details on US citizenship & immigrantion website), you would also need a sponsor - someone who contracts you work in the States. In my case, It's my agent.  

AS a Student

What was your biggest struggle as a student?
Finding my own voice was the biggest struggle at RISD. Since I didn’t have any formal art training until RISD, I was very overwhelmed by the influx of new knowledge. I was very anxious to metamorphose into a “professional” artist. And as I didn’t know how to, I started making a frankenstein body of work which were inspired by different artists I love. For the longest time, I confused artwork that I adore with artwork that’s true to myself. 
Did you find not having formal training before RISD disadvantageous, or is it unimportant in the long run?
Without formal art training made it a bit harder for me during freshmen year. Especially during class critics, when I had no idea what the technical terms mean or which master was which. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. When it comes to artistic development, everyone starts at different places and travel at their own pace
anyway. Curiosity and readiness to admit what you don't know is far more important.

What are the benefits of going to art school besides the teachesr and the education?
The name of RISD definitely helps on a job-hunting cv. In my case, the alumni and industrial network was valuable, but most importantly it offered me a tight group of friends whom I can go to for honest critics and constructive feedbacks. No friendship is as pure as those
of fellow schoolmates, cherish them!


What inspires your artistic vision and where does your illustration ideas come from?  
I’d like to talk about illustration in a few different ways. First, “inspiration” in general, it comes from everything, for example the environment, people on the subway, music, books and of course other artists’ work and much more. I think inspiration is kind of unpredictable, but if one is willing and open to be inspired, one will get the most extraordinary ideas out of seemingly ordinary things.
When “inspiration” is talked about, many have the mental image of a light bulb miraculously lighting up on top of someone’s head. But what’s not being shown here is all the time and effort that contributed to this eureka moment. I like to think of inspiration as a clothes closet, when a special occasion arises, it’s much easier to find the right outfit if one already has a diverse and comprehensive collection, versus having to hunt down new clothes at the very last minute. To enrich the inspiration closet, I think it’s important to approach the world with curator’s eyes: be eager and open-mind with new knowledge and experience, yet purposeful and selective with those we file away into our collection. After all, it impossible to create from nothing, I see the process of art-making as digesting the world through an artistic lens. 
To be more specific on the inspiration for my illustrations, first of all illustration is different than fine art, it’s different from gallery art. We usually don’t just sit there and dream up something we want to paint or something we want to express. Usually, you’re given a prompt. I am very interested in concepts with every project. I start with learning what my clients want me to communicate: what is the most important thing that I need to showcase in this piece? From then on I brainstorm and see what kind of visuals will be relevant and will be the best symbolism or metaphor to communicate this idea and tell this story.
What are the influences of Chinese/ Asian traditional culture on you? 
Asian influences when I was growing up. Living at different countries, traveling, reading, being around other creatives. It’s hard to pinpoint one or two things as I think my work is an extension of myself and my experiences.

Can you give us an example of how you come up with a concept for an editorial illustration to accompany an article?
If I were given an article, I would first try to understand its main point. Usually the title tells a lot. Then I would read the article and underline the words or phrases that give me hunches. Afterward, I would explore and expand those hunches until i get stories, scenarios, or metaphors that would work for the main point. after having those ideas, I would start making thumbnails to consolidate the concept, and sometimes other ideas along the line will strike me during the stage. 

FAVorite Artists/ Influencer/ Mentor

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Miro, Matisse, Monet, Calder, Hokusai, Jakuchu, Gauguin, Turner, N.C. Wyeth, Amano, Moebius, Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair and many more!

Who are the most Influential people in your life and Illustration career?
My life role model is my mom. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution, she managed to self-teach herself while working at the Communist labor camps, and eventually got into college when the school system was restored. My mother has worked many jobs in her life, some are more humble than the others but she has always given her best and excelled at every single one of them. At age 40, she decided to go back to college and get a Chinese Medicine Degree which took 10 years to complete. Everyone told her she’s too old to make such a drastic career change but now she’s a renowned doctor. She has raised me to dream the impossible and be a woman of action. I would be very happy if I turn out to be half the woman she is.
I think I've been really lucky with people. There has always been a few key figures at each crucial stage of my life that helped me grow into who I am today. I almost gave up doing art when I was in high school because art class conflicted with my other class schedule, Miss Eileen Tsang, my high school art teacher, who saw potential in me, sacrificed her own free time to give me private tutorials. It was under her guidance that I created the portfolio pieces which got me into RISD. My parents were really supportive about my decision of going to RISD, despite the expansive tuition and everyone’s opposition. In Hong Kong, most people typically do not regard art and design as serious and valid career options. I didn't have much proper rat training until RISD, and for a while I was overwhelmed by the new ideas and the amazing works that hit me. I tried to paint like the illustrators i admired, and forgot about my own voice until i met my portfolio professor, Chris Buzelli, in junior year. Chris not only introduced me to the editorial world but also helped me be honest with myself, and reminded me why i want to draw in the first place. he also recommended me to his wife who is major art director, SooJin Buzelli, which led to my first published work. Chris has been so generous with his teaching that he has probably saved me at least five years of “hustling” in the editorial illustration world. I hope to become a teacher like him someday. 

Working Process and Techniques

What are your favorite traditional and digital mediums to work in, and why?
My favorite traditional medium is nib pen because of the wide range of line quality it gives. My favorite digital medium is Adobe Photoshop. The away I work with colors is more like a designer than an illustrator. I like to plan and test out a few color palette before deciding on the final one. photoshop allows me to be adventurous with colors and texture without the fear of messing things up and missing the deadlines. It also allows me to bring mediums which are not physically compatible together seamlessly, like crayon and photos, to make interesting visuals. 

Are there other digital techniques or programs you'd like to learn more about?
I would like to learn  ore about Corel Painter because I like the way traditional mediums look but I also enjoy the freedom given by digital mediums. Corel Painter seems to be a good bridge between the two.  I would also like to learn more about Adobe After Effects. I have always been interested in animation and would like to explore more into that possibility in the future. 

What is your artistic process like? For example, how do you create your art? 
Illustration is all about communication of ideas, so coming up with the right conceptual solutions is the most challenging and fulfilling process of my work. 
When I get an assignment, I would read through the material a number of times to understand the main point. After extracting the essence, I like to work with that alone and forgo the given given material– this helps to free my mind from literal images and obvious metaphors. I want to make sure the visuals I develop are effective solutions to the assignment, but also stand alone well as interesting art pieces.
If there’s extra time, I like to do something unrelated to art and forget about the assignment all together. I have noticed some of the best ideas come to me when least expected. For instance, I struggled quite a bit with the 75th Four Freedoms Project, as the topic has been well explored by forerunning masters such as Rockwell and Szyk. After fruitless days spent at the drawing table, the birds idea came to me while I was waiting outside a restaurant one evening. 
Sometimes it’s very helpful to think backward, especially with more abstract concepts . I like to think of the kind of imageries I am in the mood of and see if I can make them work with the story. I like this approach because this makes the piece that much more personal and fun.
When it comes to execution, I work in a hybrid way. The lines are drawn with nib pens, sometimes with brushes or rapidograph pens. Then I create layers of textures on paper with various media (pencil, charcoal, crayon, paint .etc). Finally everything is scanned and colored digitally in Photoshop.

You’ve worked with Apple, DreamWorks, and now Johnnie Walker. How does the creative process work in these partnerships? How much creative freedom do you get?
It varies from client to client. Working with DreamWorks was an incredible opportunity, but it involved further adapting someone else’s story as the brief was already in place, so there wasn’t as much creative freedom. It was about what I could additionally bring to the team using my own imagination, but sticking within the theme work. With Apple and Johnnie Walker however, there was more flexibility as they were open to creative ideas. I use more or less the same techniques in all my work – I draw the lines with nib pens, sometimes brushes or radiograph pens, then I create layers of texture on paper with various media such as paint, crayon, charcoal, etc. I will normally provide three versions and go from there. I then scan them in and do the composition and coloring in Photoshop. Then it’s mainly just a lot of back-and-forth [with the client]!

Why have you chosen this process? How long does your artwork usually take to complete?
It is a process evolved from print-making, a media which I have been loved since childhood. It really depends on the projects. Black and white pieces for newspapers calls for same day turnaround. With color pieces, I can finish one in 3-4 days if I can lucky. The most tricky and frustrating thing with art is that, sometimes I can be working for hours and get absolutely nothing done.

How do you strike a balance between your artistic sensibility and producing commercial art?
I try to treat every piece like a personal work, sneaking in small details that makes me happy as I believe great work comes from honest work. If I am interested in what I am doing, hopefully that passion would translate. Of course, there are times when clients have very specific requirements which I do not agree with, I would try to let them see my point the best I can. If it doesn’t work, I have to remind myself that sometimes a job is a job and distant myself from the piece and find other creative outlet so I wouldn’t take it too personally when the piece is “sabotaged”.

Studio Life

What’s a day in your studio look like? 
Work, Work, Work, procrastinate, work. procrastinate work…( Although the rate frequently changes) 

On Future/ Future Of Illustration

What’s something that you’d love to do but haven’t done yet?
I would absolutely love to author my own book or short animation. It’s something that I have wanted to do for so long but am not ready for just yet. It would be a long-term project that I would really need to dedicate my time to work on – therefore I need to be truly passionate [about] it. I’m constantly learning and, I guess, “growing” each day, so I know one day – hopefully in the near future – I will make it happen.

What are your plans for the future? What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I’ve been doing a lot more cross-disciplinary work and it’s been fun. I’m hoping to do more of that. I personally have a great interest in fashion so I’m hoping there’s some kind of collaboration with fashion houses. It could be a window display, it could be a photoshoot, or it could be the pattern on the fabrics. That could be exciting.
I want to keep on doing what I am doing now, but do it better. I also want to see my illustrations used in different places: T-shirts, advertisements, animations, children’s books, CD jackets… One of ambitions is to save enough money to one day travel around the world and sample every Michelin three-bdtsrred restaurant!

What do you think is the future of illustration?
From tapestries to tablets, the media may be change but I think illustration will always be around.  

Illustration At The Digital Age 

Do you have a website ?
Yes. It serves as a professional portfolio which allows people to check out my work any time. It’s also a hub that links to my other sites such as Twitter, Tumblr etc.

What social media do you use regularly?
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Behance and Drawger. I think the internet makes promotion a two-way street. It’s great to be proactive and reach out with conventional promos like mailers but it’s even better if clients are able to discover me. Social media has the ultimate snowball effect. Through re-blogs and retweets, my work can be spread to the most unexpected places.
Is social media important in promoting your work?
I would say so. The best thing about internet promo is that it allows the interaction to be a two-way street, allowing the clients to discover my work. Social media
is the ultimate snowballing machine, through reblogs and retweets, my work can been spreaded to the most unexpected places and seen by the most surprising clients.
Also the online followings has benefited my print sale, which helps pay the bill so I can be picky with the assignments I take on.
Can you clearly see a return? How important is social media in your promotional armory? 
Yes, my first big ad job came through the net. Leo Burnett was scouting out illustrators online for the McDonald’s Dragon New Year poster, they contacted me after seeing my portfolio on Behance Also, I sell limited edition giclee prints of my –illustrations, which makes up 1/4–1/3 of my annual income. Gaining a big following online has helped the sales a lot. Social media plays a very important role but other promotions are equally important. I see promotions as branding campaigns: any effective means to get my art out there is valid, as I can never anticipate where jobs come from. 

How does/do social media outlets (Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram) affect what you create and do you find yourself thinking about your audience while creating the work?
I really appreciate the following but I don't think about social media when I work. There really isn't a point to think about it as social media is quite unpredictable. Some of my okay work went viral while some of my proudest pieces, or award-winning pieces never picked up the momentum. There are so many factors contributing to this uncertainty - the posting time, who's reblogging, the artist's internet persona, pop culture references, etc. Internet popularity, in my opinion, is not directly proportional to how great an artist is at all.

Why do I need portfolio reviews if the clients can see my work online?
Internet promos are great but they are no match to personal connections. There are so many talented illustrators for an assignment. Often who gets the job depends on who comes to the art director’s mind first. With a face and (hopefully good) personality attached to the work, the impression an illustrator has on an art director is much stronger. 

Do you think the promotional landscape is changing?
Fewer and fewer publications are still doing portfolio drop-offs or reviews. Also more and more people, including art directors, are against printed promos due to environmental concerns. The internet will play a more and more important role in promotion.

Advices to new illustrators/ To yourself 

Any tips on portfolio reviews? 
It’s important to research the clients and tailor the portfolio according to their interest. For example, it would be silly to have an entire portfolio of dogs if I was to meet with a magazine that features only cats. Illustration is about visual communication and problem solving, so I try to demonstrate both conceptual and stylistic ability in the work I show.

You created a lot of editorial illustrations, what do you think are important things for illustrators to consider in this kind of work.
There are a few important things for editorial illustrators. first, never misses a deadline. editorial jobs usually have shorter turnaround times and set publishing dates. if an illustrator misses a deadline, the art director have to find something else to replace his work on the spot, or leave a hole on the page. Also, the chances of that illustrator getting hired again are slim to none. Second, have a good concept. editorial illustrations are meant o direct reder’s interest to the article they accompany, so ideally the images should echo the articles in fun/ eye catching/ emotion-arousing way without spelling the whole story out. Third, show a distinctive and consistent styles and work quality. Most editorial illustrators are freelancer, and they are hired because of the styles presented in their portfolios. Therefore its important to maintain distinctive and consistent styles and work quality. Lastly, be nice to people. Editorial illustration is not an easy career, and its hard to make it without other’s help, such as constructive criticism, job opportunities' and sharing experiences… So be nice to people, always be grateful to the ones who have helped you, and be generous in helping others. 

Any advice you would give yourself before starting?Any words of advice to young artists, who want to get their name out there? Could you offer one piece of advice to new illustrator.
To young artist: Let me quote Paul Arden, an influential author on the one “ its not how good you are, its how good yo want to be.”  The ones who eventually make it are not necessarily the most talented ones but the most presets ones.
When you were a student you follow rules, you follow assignments which are necessary for the classroom environment. It also puts you in the mentality of being a follower or doing things that are required of you, instead of being self-generated. When I was in school and I had the chance of doing an internship, I would pick the internship that on paper says you will be more hands-on and will give you a lot of tasks to try on. As opposed to work that might give me better networking connections. 
I had the option to interview with the New Yorker or to intern at the local Providence small ad agency. I picked the latter one because I thought that I would learn more. Now knowing what I know now, I think I would benefit more from going to the New Yorker because even though on paper you’re just doing the minimal stuff, it’s up to you how much you want to learn. You can just look around the office: you can study how they run the day-to-day life and how they run the projects. You can learn what requirements they’re looking for for the people they hire. I imagine within the office they would talk about if the project is not up to par. Its problematic and there’s so much you can learn just from observation if you keep your eyes and ears open. 
After working for a few years I realized that sometimes even if a project scope is given to you, it’s limited, you can find opportunities to pitch more ideas to the client during the process. There are times when my client just wanted one piece of work from me and I sent him three different idea sketches; it turned out that he loved all three of them — the project became triple the size. That’s something I didn’t know: you don’t have to play by the rules. A lot of the time you can set the rules by yourself.  

“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be,” is a quote you frequently reference. What sorts of goals did you set for yourself to get where you are now?
I didn't have concrete ambitious goals such as, " I must win this and that award before this age!". Rather, I have always had the abstract desire to be the best. The beauty of an abstract goal is that it's flexible and adaptable. It can be the best of this week's assignment, the best of the class, of the school, in the field.etc. The last thing you want would be being discouraged by seemingly impossible goals. It's much better to focus on getting every baby step right. Then before you know it, you are already on top of the mountain.
Often dreams seems impossible because they are indeed impossible, from our current position. For example, picking a flower on the edge of a tall mountain would seem impossible to me while standing down in the valley. But after I climb the mountain and come to the cliff, I would realized there's actually a hidden path leading to the flower, that I couldn't see before. The artistic journey is a dynamic one, one's ability, understanding and view on the world changes as one changes. As we learn and experience, previously deemed impossible goal/obstacles would no longer be impossible.
We would never know when opportunities may present themselves to us, but if one is always striving to be at his/her best, one would be ready when the opportunities come.

Being A Female And An Artist 

Do you feel that one's gender determine one's work?
Does being Victo Ngai determine Victo Ngai’s work? Sure. But does being a woman define Victo Ngai? Yes and no. I don’t think there’s on single attribute which can conclude one’s identity or work. Just as I am a female, Chinese, former New Yorker, current Los Angeles Resident, hotpot-lover, animal-enthusiast.etc, my work is shaped by all that shapes me as a person.

Being An Illustrator

In your opinion, whats the difference between an artist and an illustration? are you planing to be a professional artist.
The most obvious difference lies in the form of work. When an illustrator is invited to work on a project, the illustrator will discuss the various aspects of the project such as the price and the right to use before starting to create the art work. Fine Artist sells paintings to galleries and collectors after making their own creations. The dividing line between illustrator and fine artist is actually very vague, and there is no necessary opposition between the two. For example, Michelangelo, his works are the world's major museum collection, he's one of the best artist. He was  also commissioned to draw the zeppelin for the Sistine Chapel in that year, and in his painting the bible story was an illustrator. So illustration is a branch of professional art.

What were your first experiences of working as an illustrator?
Chris Buzelli’s wife is the creative director SooJin Buzelli of Plansponsor, Planadviser and aiCIO magazines. During junior year of college Chris brought in a Plansponsor’s assignment and told our class that the best piece could get published. The assignment smoothed my tradition between college and the real world. By the time I graduated, I already had a portfolio of professional work. 

What do you like the most about being an illustrator?What do you like least?
Making a living with what I love to do, also the freedom of working at anywhere and anytime. Freelance illustration is more than a career- it’s a lifestyle. Sometimes it becomes impossible to seperate work and personal life. I often have to cancel plans because of rush jobs. Also, without any official hours, its very easy to over work. The worst part is, an artist’s work is the product of one’s thought process, habit, taste and preferences, which makes it difficult not to take things personally when I have a bad work day. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned about being an illustrator?
The biggest and hardest lesson to learn about myself is that - no matter how hard I try, I can’t knock every piece out of the ball part. I looked up Joe DiMaggio’s slugging percentage and it’s somewhere around .5-.6, which made me feel better. The improvement curve is like a stock with potential, it goes up and down but hopefully will keep going up in the long term. 
It used to be a lot easier for me to experiment when I was starting out, as there's nothing to lose. But now, with external and internal expectations, I have to keep reminding myself that failure is just part of being human. This helps me move on from the less successful pieces.

Although you’ve emphasized the importance of ideas over style, your work has a very distinctive look. Do you feel this has any bearing on the types of projects you’re offered, and if so, is this a good or bad thing?
It definitely does. Obviously if Time magazine wants a realistic portrait of Obama, they are not going to come to me. And that's ok, as I am not interested in doing realistic portraits. There are all kinds of jobs out there for all kinds of artists, it's physically impossible
for one person to do all of them. All of my clients may add up to be less than a couple percent of the entire industry and that's enough to keep me more than busy. It's good to be mindful to your client's need but it's more important to be aware of what makes yourself happy. No one goes into art for money or power, we do it because we enjoy it.
Don't sacrifice the joy of art-making for the market , otherwise it's hard to have a long and sustainable career. One just need to figure out his/her niche.

(And don't get me wrong, style is important too as that's your brand-what makes you stand out to art directors, as well as the vehicle to carry your idea. I like to emphasize ideas as many students tend to overlook that.)

Do you ever find yourself obsessed with the subject of an article after doing an illustration for it?
Certainly. One of the nice things about being an editorial illustrator is that we are forced to read things we normally wouldn't pick up. I hated finance and economy when I was in high-school, mostly to rebel against my father, who worked in the industry. Emo teenager Victo thought money was filthy and went into art school. Ironically most of my early clients were trade/business magazines. After reading many articles and doing research for the projects, I grew more and more interested in the subject matter. Now I read financial books for leisure, love the NPR Money Planet program, and my friends would tell you I am huge geek in credit scores and NY real estate.

Looking at your works, there are a lot of elements to take in. Do you suggest people taking it as a whole and zooming in on the smaller details or vice-versa? 

I think people should look at them in whatever ways that’s natural and intuitive to them. After a piece is finished and exhibited, it takes on its own lives and interact with its viewers in ways which I can’t control
What is your least favorite thing about art?

What is your most favorite thing about art?
Its ability to convey emotions, communicate ideas and arouse empathy beyond the barrier of language. 

Do seasons affect what you're making?
Not really. But I am definitely less productive from late October to New Year’s. All the food, wine (and hangovers) from the party season makes it harder to focus.

What is the weirdest 
thing you’ve been asked to illustrate?
I was once hired by a nurse magazine to illustrate an article about 
the difficulty/embarrassing incidents happen in hospital. So of course 
there was a story of a feces-obsessed patient, he liked to steal his
 own poop and hide it when the nurses weren’t looking. One time the
 nurse found a brown matter under the patient’s pillow and thought it 
was a left-over brownie. it wasn’t. Unfortunately the magazine wanted 
a more tasteful approach which wouldn’t gross out the readers, so I
 didn’t get to draw too many poops. 

On Achievements 

What has been your career highlight so far? 
When I received an email from a student, who told me that her parents read about my story and changed their mind about dissuading her from the pursuit of art. This makes me feel extremely lucky, I haven't really put in any effort to make the world a better place, yet by being self-serving and doing what I like, I manage to help some others unexpectedly along the way. 

You’re a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and a two-time gold medalist of the New York Society of Illustrators. Why do you think your work has resonated with these global organizations? 

How do you define success?
Waking up every morning excited and going to bed every night satisfied. 

Whats your interpretation of a successful illustrator?
A great drawer doesn’t make a good illustrator. A great painter also doesn’t make a good illustrator. A great thinker doesn’t make a good illustrator. Being a great illustrator means you have to have the best of both worlds: you’re able to deliver an idea but you’re also able to execute it. If you have the concept, but you don’t have the skills then people won’t know what the concept is about. It’s almost like having a software without the hardware to deliver it. You have to be able to think in a critical way and also an imaginative way, and you have the skillset to represent that. 

You've worked with a lot of major brands and companies at only 25 - these include tiger beer, general electric, McDonald’s the New York Times and more, is it a lot to take in for some one so young?
I have been extremely lucky to have all these great clients under my belts within a few years of working. Sometimes I am amazed myself thinking about all these big names as they have seem otherworldly for the longest time. But most of the time, while I hunch over drawing away at my drafting table, a personal work is not different from a big job. I love all my “children” equally.

How do you stay grounded- both as an artist and a person- knowing all these big names want to work with you?
Haha, it’s really not that difficult to stay humble as an illustrator. As an artist, like I said before, I focus on the work itself and treat every job equally. As a person, I work long hours alone at my home studio and communicate with my clients mostly via emails(so they don’t seem real most of the time anyway!). The public may have seen my works around but don’t often know the person behind them. Those who are interested in the illustrator are usually limited to fellow artists and art students. It’s really nice that my works are public but my life is quite quiet and private.

Do you have self-doubts?
Of course. I believe every creative person has a complicated relationship with self-doubts. Without it, there’s no motivation to change, evolve and progress. Too much of it, it can be overwhelming, depressing and handicapping. It’s always a battle trying to have just the right amount of self-doubts.

Art And Its Influence On Public

What’s your all along believing in art in order to create a good piece of work which could reach out to the public? 
I think my motivations behind art-making has always been self-serving: I like to make a living by doing what I like, which is drawing, while hopefully making kick-ass works that excite me the same way many great masters’ work have excited me before. I hadn’t given much thought to the public, which is pretty easy to do when you work alone inside your own studio, until I started getting a following online. So I guess it’s sheer lucky that others happen to enjoy what I enjoy.

Do you think art can be a means for social change? If so, how?
Definitely, good art do not tell a story but “paint” it with vivid colors. While using art as a mean of communication, the ideas are appealed through emotions . As a result, audiences not only understand the messages intellectually, but emphasize with their hearts. That is why art is so often used in political propagandas and commercials. For the same reasons, art can become a powerful mean for social changes.

Client Relationship 

What kind of promotional activity do you do?
My agent sends out mailer and e-mailer blasts for me. We both promote via social media. For the handful of ‘dream clients’, I target them by mailing them personal notes, cold-calling for portfolio reviews and introducing myself (shamelessly) to them at illustration events and openings. I also enter major competitions (American Illustration, Society of Illustrators NY Annual Competition, Communication Arts, SPECTRUM Fantastical Art.etc), which proved to be quite an effective promotional tool. Recently I have started giving public talks at events hosted by Society of Illustrators NY, ICON and Ovilgy HQ.etc, this allows me to show my work to fellow illustrators and ADs. Above all, being published by the New York Times and the New Yorker may be the best (accidental) promotion I have ever done. More clients came to me because they have seen my work on these publications than from any other promotional effort. 
Do you have an agent/ rep?  What do you like or dislike about it?  
Yes, I am represented by Morgan Gaynin.Inc. The biggest benefit of having a rep is   that I can focus on making art when they do the money talk for me: negotiating contracts and rates, selling me for potential projects, chasing payments etc.

How do you maintain contact with clients over time, or what do you consider to be the best way?
E-mailers, social media, through my rep Morgan Gaynin, Inc, meeting art directors at events and for portfolio reviews. I don't do regular emailer updates as I know clients are very busy, but once in a while I remind them of my existence when I have big projects or news. I always thank them when the project we work on together get into competitions or annuals. If they have done me a favor, I would show my appreciation by sending them a print of the piece we collaborated on. With some of my regular clients who also live in NY, we become friends over time through SOI and AI events, which is the best.

How do you protect yourself from poor quality clients?
First, watch out for these red flags: Clients using the word "collaboration" or "submission", instead of "commission" (Translation: They usually don't have a budget. ) Clients who promise you "publicity". (Translation: They want you to work for free.) Clients who ask you to do works in another artist's style. Clients who ask numerous illustrators to pitch ideas for free before committing to hiring one. Clients who spell your name wrong. Clients using non-company emails, such as google, AOL and hotmail.
Second, be thorough with your contract, never start work without a signed contract. What kind of rights are you granting, does it justify the pay? Have you include a kill fee for sketch and final stage? How many rounds of revisions do the client gets? After that, how much would per revision cost ( I usually charge by hour for extra revisions)? If it's a large project, it's a good idea to be paid in stages. (E.g. 50% at sketch stage and 50% after work is finished.) Make sure to state when the clients need to pay you. (E.g. Within 30 days upon receipt of final work. )
Third, if a client is proved to be a nightmare to work with after you take on the project. Try to be professional, finish the project the best you can and blacklist them for the future.

Are there any nightmare clients you've dealt with and what have you learnt from that experience?
Definitely. If the client is a bully, it's important to stand up for yourself. You don't have real power until you are able to say "no". Sometimes, a client is faultless but his/her way of working is not for me. Just as clients are choosing illustrators for the right jobs, illustrators can pick the clients they enjoying working with for their career. I don't have a long list of clients, but I have a few loyal ones whom understand me well and we make great works together.

Q&A 中文版


我出生於廣東,兩歲跟爸媽搬遷到香港。Victo這個名字是由兒時英文名Victoria減縮出來的暱稱。中學於聖士提凡女子中學就讀,中學會考選課曾因為對未來的“現實考慮”以及科目時間表的衝突差一點放棄了美術課,但有幸當時的美術老師Eileen Tsang對我有伯樂之恩,主動犧牲了個人休息時間,課餘一對一地指導我。這讓我在會考美術課上拿到了好的成績,同時積累了一份不錯的作品集。
2010年大學畢業後,我決定到紐約發展自己的工作室,2016夏天這個工作室遷移到了洛杉磯。在過去六年的時間內,我有幸跟世界各很多行各業的客戶合作,包括紐約時報,紐約客,華爾街日報,紐約地鐵,麥當勞,美國運通,通用電力,漢莎航空,夢工廠,Johnnie Walker,虎牌啤酒,大疆DJI,以及這次的Apple等。也感恩作品也得到業界的肯定和支持, 包括入選福布斯 “30歲以下30位俊傑 (藝術時尚)” Forbes 30Under30 (Art & Style)榜,連續七年入選Communication Arts 插畫年鑑,榮獲紐約插畫師協會金獎,大中華插畫獎金獎等
除了畫畫,我一直也很喜歡旅行,這些走過的看過的同時成為了創作的養分。現在由於我工作的自由性質,經常可以藉者參加活動以及演講的機會順便到世界各地遊玩,也是一大樂事。 幾年前領養了一只喜歡在工作檯下打盹的小狗, 在大風雪不斷的紐約嚴冬,他作為工作室的暖腳器功不可沒。



喜歡的創作題材是?/ 你的作品中,动物也是很重要的组成部分,可以和我们聊聊你的想法吗?不同的动物有着不同的隐喻吗?
動物,大自然等都很喜歡。他們形態萬千,在創作上允許了很大的塑形和藝化空間。 還有就是帶有神話和超現實味道的東西。 能夠置現實世界規矩不理的題材讓我覺得很自由。 我很喜歡動物,他們的形態動靜都特別漂亮有趣。而且他們特徵明顯,這給我一個很大stylize的空間。所以有時候動物成為我玩設計的一個載體。再來我喜歡用動物因為他們是中性的。也許因為電視電影的關係,很多人的外表會被typecast。比如說我們看到金髮碧眼身材豐滿的女生就容易覺得她是個花瓶。或者看到尖臉鷹鉤鼻的就會認為他是冷酷的人。可是我們對動物沒有這種偏見,所以我可以更有效的運用他們來說故事,能讓他們表演出我希望的情感和寓意,而不用擔心觀眾的先入為主。



从Rhode Island School of Design毕业时你有多大?毕业后马上就以freelancer的身份在纽约开始工作了。纽约是一个充满艺术活力的城市,竞争激烈,刚毕业的那段时间你的收入来源于哪里?每天都在做什么?怎么找到你的第一份工作?



插畫在美國有很長的歷史,加上市場較大,所以稿費也給的起。雖然自從照片的流行以來,插畫師並沒有像是Golden Age時那麼吃香風光,整的來說做插畫在美國還是有比較多的機會。



我覺得想像力跟練肌肉是一樣的,熟能生巧,我會經常做一些聯想性的練習和腦袋風暴。不要只安於一開始想到的幾個點子,看看有沒有辦法強迫自己,更上一層樓。當人脫離自己的“溫室”時,才會成長。一般卡殼的時候我會去散散步,讓自己放鬆,給靈感找上門的機會。/想像力跟練肌肉是一樣的,熟能生巧。不要安於一開始想到的幾個點子,看看有沒有辦法push自己,更上一層樓。當人脫離自己的comfort zone時,才會成長。一般卡殼的時候我會去散散步,讓自己放鬆,給靈感找上門的機會。很多時候越是鑽牛角尖越是想不出來。經驗也是重要的,如果真的沒有靈感可是deadline逼人,有一些過往的方程式可以套用一些。
很多人覺得靈感就是頭上出現一個燈泡,其實不然。靈感不是點A到點B的直線關係,它更像是一個潛意識裡的複雜網絡,很難定位到靈感的最最源頭。不工作的時候我喜歡吃飯看電影,讀書還有旅行。 有時候旅行時看到的元素會出現在我的畫作裡,在我參觀敦煌石窟的時候,飛天的眩目色彩讓我腦洞大開,也影響到我其後的作品。


有沒有什麼人事物特別影響您的作品? 在插畫之路上是否有過轉捩點?
對我影響最大的兩個人是我母親和我大學老師Chris Buzelli。我母親從小培養我對藝術的欣賞,當我決定報考美術學院時,雖然大家都說讀這行出來沒錢, 媽媽還是支持我去追尋自己的夢想。 等我工作穩定以後她才告訴我其實那時候她是真的有擔心我會餓肚子。進入大學以後,每天都泡在藝術的環境下。吸收了很多新東西,也認識了很多以前不知道的大師作品, 不過卻有點眼花繚亂,每天像是在追別人地花蝴蝶忘了自己的聲音。有一段時間我充模仿一位大師到模仿另一個。 後來Chris 跟我說“每個人都是有著獨特的風格,因為每個人都有著獨特的生活經歷。”, 我才恍然記起當初選擇插畫的原因-不是為了追求某一種完成的效果而是因為畫畫過程給我帶來的樂趣。慢慢地我不再強求,反而找到了自己地聲音。

喜歡的藝術家實在是太多,不能盡錄,隨便從書架上拿幾個講講。Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Mary Blair: 我喜歡他們大膽的用色,自信的筆觸和各具一格的透視感。Andrew Wyeth 和 Eyvind Earle: 他們的留白太正了,構圖形狀設計感一流。 John Singer Sargent 和 William Turner: 光和影的魔術師. Yoshitaka Amano, Gustav Klimt, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Kay Nielsen, Aubrey Beardsley: 很喜歡他們線條的流暢感以及華麗的細節和圖案。Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Hiroshige: limited palette的大師。還有很多很多。。。我認為如果希望作品豐富有特色,興趣廣闊很重要,所以盡量還是要多看多吸收。

最近看了幾部大紅電視電影留意到一個有趣的共同點:West World,新海誠的妳的名字,The Arrival,他們的故事題材都截然不用,然而同時都利用了模糊時間概念的插敘手法來製造懸念和劇情逆轉。我覺得這點很有趣,因為雖然我們知道時間並不是獨立的直線,而是时空闭联集( space-time continuum)。但是因為我們的日常生活的局限性沒有辦法親身體會,所以還是會以鐘錶直線前進的方式想像時間,當我們看到影像時便不假思索地將故事理解為直敘。這種不假思索是人類進化中形成的一種慣性(habbit),這讓我想到一本最近看過的書-The Power Of Habbits,書裡提供了很多有趣的案例講述人類理所當然的習慣如何被商家加以利用,而消費者全然不知。比如說Target能夠準確地以用消費者的購買習慣以及大數據去推斷婦女的懷孕週期去有目標性的打廣告, 由於新父母們的購物最容易被誘導,這個資訊是一個改變市場營銷方法的金礦。這些案例的時候讓我非常興奮,因為如果能找到一個引爆點可以帶來意想不到的顛覆。我現在在思考有什麼我們平常不加思考的視覺habbit可以在作品裡拿來玩。




(我大學Rhode Island School of Design位於羅德島州的普羅維斯,不在紐約。)當時選擇這所大學其實算是一個賭注。高中時打算報考藝術大學但是當時大家並不是很了解和支持我的想法,因為作為一名成績不錯的高中生我可以去報考香港大學裡類似法學這類畢業後生活較有保障的專業。其實長輩們的憂慮我也能夠理解,因為在藝術圈裡只有達到比較高的水平才可以享受安逸的物質條所以件,但是當時我對自己的藝術造詣水平不是很確定,所以決定只報考世界最好的藝術大學之一作為對我自己的一個考驗。


我一般的創作模式是傳統和數碼的結合:線條用鋼筆和水墨勾勒,線條完成後, 我會把畫放到燈箱上, 在上面另外放上一張紙, 用不同的材料, 像是炭筆、鉛筆、水彩等, 達到我想要的質感。再來就是把這些準備好的「半成品」掃描進iMac, 經Adobe Photoshop 合成和上色。我在畫具上並不挑剔。去年在巴黎一家小書店意外找到一款Brause 古董鋼筆頭很喜歡, 後來在ebay上大量買了一百多個, 所以現在都在用那個。 





以前在紐約的時候是在家裡工作的,但是自從搬到洛杉磯以後,我建立了一個分別的工作室,這樣我有一個更加系統的工作時間和工作地點。每天朝九晚七, 午飯一般在工作室附近吃,太忙的時候會請助手幫忙帶外賣。的卻作為freelancer我需要兼顧工作的方方面面,比如作品創作,商業運作,PR, 媒體採訪等等, 以前事業起步時期,我很摳門(笑)所有的事情都自己做, 現在工作量越來越大,無法兼顧,發現有時候回覆郵件的時間比創作的時間還要長。而且老了(笑)也沒有像以前那樣能熬夜, 所以也慢慢學會放手讓助理承擔一些創作以外的雜活。
我比較需要也享受自己的空間。一個人的時候比較好想東西,也可以沉浸到書本的世界裏。而且現在各種social media都很方便,在家裡也還是可以跟外界保持很密切的聯繫。週末的時候也會跟朋友出去,所以我並不覺得孤獨。



最近一两年有很多媒体会炒作90后这个概念,似乎漂亮的年轻女孩或男孩是个很好的标签。你也曾经被媒体或别的什么人贴过标签吗?例如外来者,亚洲人,美女…… 你如何看待这样的身份标签?


当别人问你做什么的时候,“插画家”这个回答会遭到“blank stares”。作为一个女性,自由插画家(freelance illustrator)这个身份,是否会为你带来无形的压力?比方说,很多人(尤其是长辈)会希望女孩子有稳定的工作,而不是他们单方面认为的“闲赋在家”、“不切实际”。你的家里人会对你有这样的要求吗?


你提到的那一副叫Sweet Dreams,是給紐約人(The New Yorker)畫的。 遮掩主要還是出版物的尺度問題。因為是老少咸宜的刊物,如果赤裸裸的就沒辦法出版了。不過個人創作來講,我覺得含蓄的性感比起全裸更誘人,多些空間距離美。



与你同在去年上榜的人中,你关注过谁, 为什么?
上榜的人中給我影像很深刻的是能源類別的一位16歲的高中生Jonny Cohen。美國的校巴大都很老舊了,非常耗油不環保。可是公立學校又沒有資源去把這些車子全部換掉。Cohen發明立一種能裝在車頂上符合空氣動力的小帽子,這個簡單的附加品就能減少25%的用油。這讓我感覺到,只有肯懂腦筋發揮想像力,改變社會的能力就在我們手裏。



“30 under 30”最年轻的得主之一、插画家协会的两枚金牌,以及很多含金量非常高的奖项和荣誉,你和你的作品在行业内外都已经受到了广泛的认可和肯定。这些都不免把你和“成功”这个词联系在了一起。在你眼里,什么才是所谓的“成功”?对现阶段的你而言,有没有去定义过自己的成功和幸福呢?


你的作品风格现在已经非常明显,并且被大众所熟知,有想过尝试其他的表达风格和绘画语言吗?风格是一个不断寻找、探索、发现的过程,当你被一种形式困住想要突破改变,却变而不得时,你会怎么做呢?是继续这种风格,还是去画它的对立面(哪怕不喜欢),以此来突破自己的局限性? 当创作遇到暂时的卡壳或者瓶颈的时候,你会怎么做呢?

最明顯的分別在於工作形式。插畫家(Illustrator)在被邀稿的時候,會把價錢和使用權等各方面商討好才進行創作。純藝術家(Fine Artist)是進行個人創作以後再把畫賣給畫廊和收藏家。插畫家和純藝術家這條分割線其實是很模糊,兩者也沒有必然的對立。比如說米開朗基羅,他的作品被世界各大博物館收藏,藝術造詣毋庸置疑。他當年受委托為西斯廷大教堂繪製天頂畫,用他的畫來說聖經的故事這種創作模式,就是插畫。所以說插畫是職業藝術的一個支派




“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to me.” -Paul Arden 



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