This week we talked to Gloria Ho, of Gloria Ho Illustrations. We love that she has illustrations that can easily be identified as hers, as she mainly paints portraits and animals and uses watercolors. Her animal paintings have such character and the story behind how she started painting them is too cute. Sometimes you need just a little bit of random inspiration to get a project going and we’re glad she did. Gloria has now become a published illustrator and sells her pieces online and at art markets. She hopes to have her own exhibition in the future and we know she will achieve that goal soon! Keep reading for Gloria’s full story.
: Tell us about yourself. When and why did you start illustrating?
: I’m Gloria Ho, a freelance watercolour illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. I started painting when I was about 11 or 12 and always did it for fun, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that my watercolour style started to develop. It was my final year of university and I did a 20-piece watercolour portrait series for my capstone project. This project really ignited my love of watercolour and taught me so much about the medium.
After graduation, I went to South Korea to teach English and some of my elementary students thought Gloria sounded like “gorilla” and started calling me “Gorilla Teacher”. I thought the nickname was so funny and I started sketching gorillas. These sketches led to primate paintings, an endless series of animal illustrations, and a commitment to make painting an important part of my life.
: You illustrate a lot of animals and portraits. Is there anything in particular about these subjects that attracts you to paint them?
: I think the reason I love painting portraits is because I’m fascinated by physiognomy. I enjoy looking at physical qualities of a subject and painting them in a way that expresses the person’s intangible characteristics. I also love painting animals because they have so much personality! I also find that the colours and different textures on an animal really allow me to play with several watercolour techniques in one painting.
: What are your favorite medias to work with and why?
: Watercolour is by far my favourite medium to work with because I never totally know what the end result will be and I enjoy the process. The way it blends and bleeds is unpredictable, which is both exciting and frustrating at times. It is an unforgiving medium so there is a necessary balance between control and spontaneity.
: When did you decide to start selling your work?
: I started to sell my work here and there when family members and friends commissioned me. It wasn’t until 2014 that I started pursuing painting as a business. I didn’t have the confidence to sell my illustrations until I started posting images on social media and strangers expressed interest in my work. It also really helped to have a strong support system with family and friends believing in me and encouraging me to give it a try. In the past year, I have sold my watercolours at art markets, online, and to individual clients.
: What has been the most exciting moment of being an illustrator?
: I’ve always dreamed of becoming a published illustrator and this came true recently when 5 of my illustrations were printed in the farewell issue of the Worn Fashion Journal! Not only was it a personal accomplishment, but an awesome learning experience.
: You have done some traveling. What was one of your most memorable moments being abroad? Has traveling helped your artistic career?
: One of my favourite travel memories is when my best friend and I had the opportunity to bathe an elephant at a sanctuary in Luang Prabang, Laos! It was such a cool experience and a really positive time in my life. When I traveled and worked with different organizations abroad, I found myself in a lot of situations that I didn’t expect. I think I learned to be me more decisive yet adaptable, and a better communicator. I also started to figure out what I wanted to change about myself, what my strengths were, what made me happy and what I wanted to achieve. All of these things collectively motivated me to start my artistic career.
: What are your biggest dreams and goals?
: I would love to have a solo exhibition one day! How cool would that be?
: What’s the best advice you have received?
: I learned from a university professor that when it comes to painting and illustrating, it’s impossible to have successful pieces 100% of the time. There will be days where all the work you do is horrible, no matter what. This helped take the pressure off illustrating and helped me focus on the process instead of the end result.
Another piece of advice that stuck with me came from an accomplished illustrator who emphasized that whatever came from my hand naturally was the style that I should develop. He said imitation is a good way to study technique, but we shouldn’t try to copy the style of another artist when building a portfolio for commercial work. If clients see imitated work, they will only be reminded of the original artist, and wouldn’t commission the imitator.
: Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring illustrators?
: Develop both your creative and business skills together because you need both to succeed. Meet and share ideas with other working creative people who understand what you’re going through when you’re trying to earn money selling things you make! Forming a community is a great way to pool your knowledge, get constructive feedback, and make personal connections.
See more from Gloria below: