Happy Feature Friday!
Today we’re featuring the fun and bright illustrations of Ann Shen! We have actually been familiar with Ann’s work for awhile since we always come across her illustrations in different places online. We love how her designs have an aesthetic that makes it easy to recognize her work and we’re so excited to get the chance to learn more about her. From selling her pieces on Etsy and doing freelance projects, to working on her very first book (that will be released next fall!), Ann is one busy creative! Luckily she took the time to answer some of our questions and show us how much she really loves what she does. Read on to brighten up your Friday by seeing her illustrations!
: Tell us a little about yourself.
: Hi! I’m Ann and I’m an illustrator, letterer, and graphic designer based in Los Angeles.
: How did you get into the illustration and design worlds?
: After working for a few years in the non-profit world post college, I decided to go back to school, namely Art Center College of Design. From there, I developed my technical skills, learned the business of illustration, put in my 10,000 hours, finished a degree in Illustration Design, and started my illustration and design career.
: You switched your career ambitions in your mid-twenties. What would you say to others thinking about making a career switch or going back to school?
: If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop chasing it.
: What was the process behind finding your signature illustration and design styles?
: Early on, it was all about gaining the technical skills. You have to learn the rules before you can break them. Then it was about making master copies of artists I really admired; for me, that meant mid-century children’s book artists and fashion illustrators. Studying the artists I loved helped me understand what appealed to me about their work (color, shape language, design) and I adapted that to my work – not necessarily their styles.
: What media do you like to work with most?
: I like to paint traditionally with gouache and digitally in Photoshop on my Cintiq.
: What inspires your work and how you live your life in general?
: Travel and meeting good, genuine people really inspire me. I like to live my life with things that fill my heart with joy, and traveling and good people and good food basically take care of that. Stories also really inspire my work – I love good stories, either from reading books, or watching TV shows or films. I love TV shows; when it’s good, it’s like a really good 13-hour long movie.
: You currently work freelance. What are some of its benefits and challenges?
: The major benefit of working freelance is the freedom – the freedom to take on the projects you want to take on, the freedom to make your own schedule, and the freedom to live the kind of life you want to live. You can constantly evolve your goals, and you can run your business on your own terms and according to your own ethics. The major challenge is the isolation. It’s important to have a community around you of fellow artists and solo-preneurs around you so that you can talk things out with them, but at the end of the day it’s all up to you. Every decision, every response, every opportunity or not. I’m really learning to trust my gut more and more because of that.
: You also have your own Etsy Store. How do you like running your own shop?
: I really like running my own shop – it gives me an opportunity to run with fun ideas that pop up and an outlet for me to share my personal work directly with individuals. I love being able to try things out and realize them in product form, and then see how people respond to it in person at shows and through the online shop. I’m constantly surprised and inspired.
: Share some memorable feedback you’ve ever gotten on your work.
: One memory that really sticks out is when Matt Groening bought all of my zines at L.A. Zine Fest, and told me that my work was really great. And then as he walked away, he said “Do you know the Simpsons? I did that.”
: Any advice?
: Never, ever, ever give up on the things that matter to you most. Quit the things that don’t.