Our inaugural Artist in Residence, Chelsea Wong, has already been hard at work at RT HQ for over a month!
We took a moment to catch up with Chelsea to learn more about her art, inspiration, and her love of sharks, of course!
Visit Chelsea at RT HQ on Saturdays from 12pm - 6pm and Sundays 12pm - 5pm and check out her creations in-person!
Read on to learn more...
When did you know you wanted to be an artist? Was there a major event or person who helped you find your artistic side?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved making art. Whether it was drawing, painting, or writing my own characters and stories I was constantly creating from a young age. Growing up with a love for animation and stories definitely shaped how my artistic style came to be! It wasn’t until I attended conventions and saw the artists there did I realize that I could try turning art into a career! Seeing people around me make a living drawing what they loved was a huge inspiration for becoming an artist myself.
What drew you to comic art and illustration? Do you ever work with other and/or traditional mediums?
I experimented with making comics in my time in art school and really took a liking to it! The amazing thing about making illustrations and comics is the art of telling a story through your use of imagery. As someone who loves telling stories and bringing them to life I have to say that’s my favorite part of the sequential art process.
As with a lot of art journeys mine started with the basics! While I mostly use digital tools for my art I’ve learned how to use many types of traditional mediums such as paint, charcoal, and ink! It’s great to jump back into traditional mediums sometimes. I like to do a balance of both traditional and digital depending on what the project calls for! Sometimes you can’t replicate the same effect digitally, so it’s always great to get back into traditional mediums!
Who are your major artistic influences? Is there anyone in the industry that you really admire?
There are so many! To pinpoint just one would definitely be a challenge. I draw a lot of inspiration from artists who are behind some of my favorite media! Some of my favorite Disney concept artists like Mary Blair or Brittney Lee helped to shape my whimsical style! For comics and manga I grew up around Osamu Tezuka and Naoka Takeuchi which helped define my cartoon like style. I also draw inspiration from my peers and friends in the art community. So many artists that are local that I’ve gotten to know over the years have really inspired and shaped who I am as an artist today!
What advice would you give to young artists who want to make a career out of their art?
Experiment! Oftentimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the perfect piece of art, but I find that you learn so much more from experimenting with your style and art! Look to your favorite media and draw inspiration from all around you. Don’t be afraid to try something new with your art! You might accidentally find out you love a medium more than others because you tried it on a whim.
If you're starting your art career, have an open mind! You never know where your art path will take you, and as you grow and learn you may find your artistic career path ending up differently than you imagine. But most importantly encourage your art peers and connect with others. Networking is an art skill that is vital to an art career and making friends along the way is a great way to get experience!
Tell us more about your project Jezebel! What inspired you to a dark, monochromatic story rather than something bright and colorful like your previous works? How does the story connect to your own experiences?
Jezebel is a spooky story filled with mystery, but with a little bit of a humorous spin on the genre. When making this comic I wanted to push myself and create something that was very different from the typical bright art I make while still being true to my artistic style. I love telling stories of whimsical adventures and Jezebel is the intersection of a fun fairy tale and the macabre. I’ve always loved stories with that supernatural yet playful theme like The Addams Family or Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Creating Jezebel was my own way of taking those inspirations that were a big part of my childhood and making it my own.
Growing up I enjoyed comics that not only told interesting stories but also used the comic art form cleverly. When a comic is restricted to a limited color palette such as black and white it’s an interesting challenge to show elements like lighting and mood on a page. Bringing all those elements together to tell a story is why I decided to make Jezebel dark and monochromatic.
As an artist, how do you define success? What are your major goals for the future?
Success can be defined by so many factors! I think that as long as you enjoy what you’re creating and connect with people with your art that’s a huge success. Seeing someone filled with joy as they look at something I created is why I do what I do. Of course the drive to keep creating art means that I’d like to reach for big goals one day! As an artist who loves selling at conventions and making merchandise I’d love to expand my line of products and travel to sell at conventions outside of the country! I would be honoured if I got a chance to be an artist guest at a convention or event one day. Who knows what the future will bring?
Your website states that you have diplomas in Fine Arts as well as Digital Illustration. How was your experience in art school? Do you have any words for other artists who are considering or enrolled in formal education?
I find that personally art school was very important in my journey to an art career. It gave me the tools to learn not only art fundamentals like color theory and anatomy but also practical skills like marketing and writing. I owe a lot to the teachers who believed in me and pushed me to grow over my years in school. It was a chance for me to experiment with who I wanted to be as an artist while having a mentor who was always there to help.
If you’re considering enrolling in an art institution there’s lots to consider! Art school was great for me but it may not be for others! Many artists start off their journeys in school, but plenty of talented artists have no formal training either. Do your research and see if the school you’re applying to is the right fit for you!
Your website also states that you’ve been attending artist alleys at conventions since 2013! That’s impressive! What has your experience been like at conventions? Was there anything you wish you knew before your first artist alley?
Artist Alley is an incredible place for anyone who wants to try to find their place in the art industry! I love attending conventions and meeting people who share similar interests to you. At artist alley you can connect with fellow artists and attendees about your art. The great thing about artist alley is that the merchandise you make often is personal to you! Whether it's a print about your favorite show or a button of your favorite character, artist alley is the perfect place to make what you love.
Going into conventions is definitely an intimidating experience. When I first started it was definitely a bit of a struggle to get into the rhythm of the convention scene, but once I found what worked best for me it got so much easier. If I could tell my past self one thing, it would be to not get discouraged so early on! Starting off was a lot harder than I expected but once you find what works for you it’ll all be worth it!
How is being the Artist in Residence at RT similar or different from your previous experiences at conventions or as a freelancer?
Being an Artist in Residence at Rolling Tales has been an absolute blast so far! Like conventions I get to talk to people about their passions and interests here in the store and that sparks interesting conversations. Being surrounded by comics and games feels like a smaller version of a convention!
The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that there’s more opportunity to have one on one discussions with people coming in. In a busy convention scene I don’t get to chat with people for more than a few minutes, but here we can have a full discussion. At Rolling Tales you get such a variety of people asking questions I don’t usually get at conventions. I also get to work and talk about my own projects freely which is very different than working as a freelancer! Being Artist in Residence has definitely been a unique and fun experience!
If you weren’t working as an artist, what career do you think would be awesome?
Interesting question! My love for sharks and sea creatures is prevalent in my work so I’d love to work with them in some way if I wasn’t an artist. When I was a kid I did love marine animals and wanted to be a marine biologist or an ocean conservationist! Getting to study these animals I love while also working to help them sounds like an incredible career!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself or let people know?
If you’re curious about my work you can find me on most social media @sharksndonuts! Do you have a question about creating comics, starting your own art career, or even about Jezebel? I'm always available to answer your questions right here at Rolling Tales every weekend! I can’t wait to meet more of you during my time here at Rolling Tales!
Thank you Chelsea for taking the time to talk with us and thank you, dear reader, for coming along on this story!