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Teressa Ong One Foxy Illustrator !

March 9, 2015

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Teressa Ong is a young (masked) illustrator (/ Superhero ?) who works for Paper Plane. In her spare time she creates modern-retro masterpieces ! I caught up with her recently to ask a few questions.

What’s your earliest memory of drawing  ?
That would be when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I would use glittery pens to doodle girls (mostly with long hair) in a small sketchbook filled with different coloured paper. Almost all of the girls would have their hands behind their back because I couldn’t draw hands well and refused to learn how to draw them, haha.

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I feel that your fab style has a hit of Mary Blair about it. Was it a conscious decision to give it a slightly retro look or are you (like many other illustrators at this time) drawn to this period and wanting to work in this way ?
Oh shucks, too kind ! I think it’s a bit of both. Some of my work looks slightly more retro than others, depending on the subject or illustration. As much as I hope I have a distinct style of own, I’m easily influenced by the drawing and painting of other artists and I can’t help experimenting with art styles. I’m always enchanted by the works of Mary Blair, The Provensens, Richard Scarry and lots of works from those times. How they create their work is a mystery to me! I enjoy working traditionally but I’m still not good at it so I learn a lot from trying to create work that is at least a tiny bit close to theirs.
Who would you say are your main artistic influences ?
In case I didn’t rave about her enough in the previous question, Mary Blair! She is right at the top of the list. Also, the colourful works of Joey Chou, Lorelay Bove, fantastic designs of UPA, Scott Wills, Nicolas Marlet, Andrew Shek, Robin Joseph and magical, beautiful works of Kei Acedera, Amélie Fléchais, and Sanoe (not sure if that is her actual name).
As you can see I’ve discovered a few on your list already Teressa, I must look up and visit the others too : )

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You seem to have quite a few fox and bear related illustrations, were these for specific projects or just because they made you smile to work on ?

It’s definitely because they make me smile! I’ve always kinda struggled with thinking about a subject/coming up with ideas, so even though I still love the drawing process, I wouldn’t be as excited as compared to if I were to scribble a fox watching tv now. Trying to stop myself from drawing foxes and bear cubs can be a problem at times.

Currently, I think I only have 2 projects (both personal projects) with fox(es) and bears in them . I want to create a short story/picture book type thing with a fox character as another personal project at some point.

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Is your work mostly digital or do you work with scanned pieces and gouache to add depth and texture to your work ?

I wish I did more traditional paintings but most of my work is digitally done. Kyle T Webster’s photoshop brushes really help me a big ton with adding textures and is probably one of the reasons why I work digitally more often nowadays. It’s rare for me to work traditionally and digitally for the final illustration. I think I find it a hassle, haha ! I do admire mixed media works though, they are really fascinating to look at.

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Who do you do work for most often and can you describe what might be classed as a typical working day for you ?

I haven’t done a lot of client work and I’ve only worked on one client project at my current workplace and most of the projects I’ve done are targeted for kids. A typical work day would start with me trying very hard to resist a second bowl of cereal while having a bowl of cereal before heading to work. I’ll spend the day (9:30 to 6:30ish) painting up illustrations for any project that I’ve been tasked with, mostly short stories. Occasionally sneaking in a doodle or two. 


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I see you work in sketchbooks a lot, how important is this process of ‘testing’ shapes and figures for you on paper ?
It’s really important. I almost always start with scribbling and exploring designs and ideas in my sketchbook, especially for commissions and important projects. I’m getting a hang of sketching digitally now but it just doesn’t feel the same as sketching on paper. Also, I tend to spend more time doing just one sketch on the computer and will want to start messing around with colours as soon as I can because I have close to zero self control in photoshop. So, I wouldn’t explore as much as compared to me sketching in sketchbooks. There are more happy accidents when scribbling on paper too. I might ‘discover’ a design I like that may be very different from what I originally had in mind.

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Any plans to take your work into different markets ? Books, animation, films etc ?

BOOKS! Especially children books. :B I’ve worked on a couple at work which I had a lot of fun with but I still don’t know much about making them so I’d love to hang around the children’s book community for a while and maybe one day I’ll be able to come up with a nice one of my own. Getting to be part of an animation project is a little wish (especially a stop motion project, the dream!), designing for an animation and seeing my designs come to life or getting to help create miniature props would be so exciting! But despite graduating with an animation diploma, I still don’t feel quite ready to be part of an animation project just yet.

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What advice would you give anyone wanting to start out as an illustrator ?

I am so terrible at giving advice (nervous laugh) but here goes: do as much personal work as you can, draw what you love, have lots of fun with them and get to know more people in the illustration/animation/artsy family because they are very lovely and helpful people.  Oh, and cute cats are a big thing on Instagram. Just sayin’. *wink*

Many thanks Teressa for the fun and honest answers and for being part of the Fishink community too. Keep creating the wonderful work, and we’ll keep our flippers crossed and look out for a foxy book in the near future : )

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2015 2:01 pm

    What great illustrations and I can totally imagine this lovely designer doing her own children’s books one day – the kids will love her characters!!

  2. March 9, 2015 3:47 pm

    Such bright colors and a sense of wonder and innocence, they really chase away the winter doldrums. I should have been looking at these instead of the gray days outside.

    • March 9, 2015 4:51 pm

      Yes they certainly cheered me up Joy when I put the post together, glad they had the same effect for you.

  3. March 9, 2015 3:49 pm

    I really enjoy it when you show photos of an artist’s work space.

    • March 9, 2015 4:54 pm

      Me too. I try to ask for a pic, always fascinating to see where such illustrations are born. There are whole books on artists spaces if you’re that interested : )

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