- GUEST ILLUSTRATOR -
I always enjoy promoting and hosting illustrators because I am hopeless at drawing anything. Anyway, here is my interview with an inspiring illustrator from Australia.
Welcome, Katy ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR ILLUSTRATING JOURNEY.
My name is Katy Jiang, also knowns as Hong Jiang - 江泓. I was born and raised in Shanghai, China. I first came to Perth, Australia, in 2004, when I was working as an interior designer. At that time, I would’ve never thought of changing my career. I suppose it was the life guided me.
I always love art. From a very young age, I started to learn traditional Chinese ink painting. From the age of ten, I began to learn western painting. I excelled at still life drawing, figure painting, Chinese ink painting, and Chinese Baimiao drawing.
However, when I grew up, I couldn’t see any future for pursuing art as a career in China. I chose to do interior design after I graduated from university, so I could make a living.
Not until I immigrated to Australia, I returned to the art career. It was a brave decision. But I was very thankful for this country because there’s a lot of freedom here. You dare to speak and do the things that you never dare to do before. I’ve been very encouraged and supported by my friends and family in Australia. Without them, I would never embark on this new journey.
2. WERE YOU GOOD AT DRAWING AS A KID?
Yes, I was pretty good at drawing as a kid.
3. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME AN ILLUSTRATOR?
I started to do illustrations for my first kid’s book in 2007. It was a chapter book that I wrote for my friends’ kids. I self-published it in 2009. The book is called ‘Sandy and the Magic Chinese Book’, and it’s on Amazon.
Then I put my career on pause for a few years as I had to raise my two young boys. It was the time I began to have access to a variety of children’s books, which led me to a new path in narrative arts.
In 2014, I generated a new idea for my second children’s book. It turned out to be one of the biggest challenges. I wrote and rewrote the manuscript at least 20 times, changed the title 5 times and drew more than 60 pieces of draft version illustrations and 50 pieces of developed sample illustrations. I wanted to make this book right and to be loved by young children. Later on, I joined the SCBWI Australian West group and gained more knowledge from the professionals in the publishing industry. Another five years passed, I kept on working on the same book, and alongside that one, I came up with more new ideas for picture books. It was fantastic! You never know what the future holds for you.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING AN ILLUSTRATOR?
The thing I enjoy the most about being an illustrator is to imagine wild, to become a part of the fictional world and to discover a new way of narrating the story.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN ILLUSTRATOR?
To learn new skills in illustration, such as the digital app.
6. DO YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, OTHERS OR BOTH?
Yes, I work for myself. I’m always open to collaboration. Love to help out those who need me.
7. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME AN ILLUSTRATOR?
I was first a child who dreamt of becoming an artist. Years went by, I became an academic student learning lots of difficult subjects. Then I graduated and worked as an interior designer, designing offices for people who worked in the box. After I quit the design, I worked as a cleaner, a babysitter, a draftsman, and finally, I set myself free, steering into art and illustration and writing.
8. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
To become the person who I am now.
9. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
At the moment, I’m looking for an agent and trying to pitch my story to the right publishers. At the same time, I’m working on building up my social network, opening myself up to the community.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUM?
Pencil, ink and watercolour.
11. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Many great books I read, people I met, a good piece of music, artwork, and of course nature.
12. WHAT DO YOU PREFER TO ILLUSTRATE?
13. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR EMERGING ILLUSTRATORS?
Okay, tips. I’d say you need to work really really hard, day and night! Nah, I’m kidding. Just be confident, patient and persistent. Remember to you use your heart to draw, not the tools.
14. DO YOU SUFFER FROM ILLUSTRATOR’S BLOCK?
Yes, I do, but who doesn’t? It’s the suffering makes you advance and evolve.
15. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED SCHEDULE?
Not really. I can’t wait for everything in perfect condition. I often come up with a rough plan or set up a deadline, then do it accordingly.
16. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE TO ILLUSTRATE?
Yes, often it’s in my bedroom where I set up a drawing desk against a big window.
17. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN YOUR WORK?
To share my ideas with my kids.
18. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ILLUSTRATOR AND WHY?
I liked many famous illustrators. My favourites are Feng Zikai, Arthur Rackham, Cicely Mary Barker, and Hergé. From my childhood, there’s the one I particularly liked.That’s Osamu Tezuka, the Japanese manga artist. I loved and still love Astro Boy. I remember when I was a little girl, I was very connected to the character Atom and I would draw him after each episode. Tezuka created such a legendary figure, giving it human emotions and bringing it to life. He was undoubtly a Pioneer at the time!
19. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED?
Not long ago, I read my latest version of the manuscript to my younger son. After he listened to the story, we had an interesting conversation.
“I like it, it’s better,” he said.
“Is it better than the old version?” I asked.
“Ahem,” he replied, then added, “It's better than this book.” He showed me the book that he read the night before, and asked me again, “Why can’t your book get published, mum?”
Well, to me, that is the greatest compliment.
20. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED?
That was back in the 80s when I was about ten in China. One day, I was notified of the third place in the Annual National(Chinese) Children’s Art Award and my artwork being displayed the exhibition in Beijing. I remembered my art teacher gave me the worst comment when she handed me the certificate and the gifts.
“Don't be too proud of yourself,” she said. “Many kids are doing better than you.”
I’d never forgotten her words, and it reminds me of being humble.
21. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I guess there’s a bit of that.
22. HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU ILLUSTRATED?
So far, I have been illustrating the third book of mine.
23. HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
Yes, I have won some art awards and prizes in my childhood. Some are quite memorable.
24. WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?
I think those are the achievements in the past. I shall not linger on them too much.
25. OTHER THAN DRAWING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love painting, reading, cooking, swimming and snorkelling.
26. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ALL WORLD LEADERS IF YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY?
Please focus the agendas on humanity, diversity, environment and education. And think about working together, rather than individually.
27. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My perfect day: Let it begin with the hot air balloon trip at sunrise. Shortly after its landing, (oh, it lands on the warm white beach.) I walk along the soft, smooth sand, then dip into the sapphire blue water. From a distance, I see a big boat sailing towards me. I swim over and people on the boat waving at me. When I get on board, I’m welcomed by the whole crew, among which are my family and friends. I happily stay on the boat, enjoying the sailing and good company with everyone. There is a variety of healthy food, drinks, some classic entertainment and lots of reading materials. And they are all free! After the whole day’s fun, the boat anchored near an island. I retreat in one of the comfortable bedrooms on board with my family. I lie on my bed, reading on until I fell asleep. Then I start to dream, dreaming of another perfect day.
28. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Keep doing what I’m doing. Hopefully, my books can be published soon.
29. HAVE YOU MET SOME GREAT PEOPLE ALONG THE WAY?
Yes, I’d say many. They’re ordinary people, but they are special to me. They are all very kind, generous and always give more than they take.
30. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I’d say thank you, Clancy, for giving me the opportunity on the Q&A section. It’s great to meet and connect with many professionals on social media. Thanks for reading. If you’d like to know more about my work, please feel free to follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook.
Any personal request, please simply send me an email.
LinkedIn: Katy Jiang
Clancy's comment: Welcome, Katy. Love ya work. So much talent. So much imagination. Best wishes.