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Interview with Philip Tseng

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Read Time: 6 mins

Philip Tseng is an illustrator from San Diego, California. He works as a 2D artist for an online game company. Philip says he loves vector art for it's versatility and simple, clean and crisp design. He is an animal lover and his favorite source of inspiration is food. He loves to personify the food through his illustrations which can make you smile.

Q Hello Philip, give us your background bio, tell us where you're from and about your formal education.

Hi. I'm an illustrator from sunny San Diego, California. By day, I'm a 2D artist for an online game company and by night, I draw little doodles on my computer of things I find funny.

I graduated from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) with a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Psychology. After a year of being a research assistant, I decided to go back to school and received a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Arts from The Art Institute of California-San Diego.

Q How long have you been designing and illustrating? Tell us what your typical work day looks like.

I've been drawing since I can remember, drawing comic strips in grade school to designing flyers for friends' bands in high school. Professionally and career-wise, I've been designing and illustrating for over six years.

I'm a full-time 2D artist for an online game company and my typical work day usually consists of creating 2D art for our games, testing some games, and going to meetings.

Q Could you describe your typical workflow for an illustration? Do you sketch these illustrations by hand first? What fascinates you about vector arts? What are your tools of the trade?

A typical workflow starts with getting inspired by something that I might have seen, heard, or dreamed. I would quickly rough out the idea and jot down notes so I remember what I want to try to incorporate into the design. If I'm already on my computer I would go ahead and start working on the design in Illustrator.

I do not always sketch out my designs by hand before working on it in Illustrator, unless the design is really complex.

What fascinates and what I love about vector art is how versatile it can be. I can create a simple, clean and crisp design with a few clicks of my mouse or I can add some textures and create a different piece of artwork.

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are the two tools I use the most and probably can't live without.

Q Your illustrations are very versatile, fun and engaging. Where do you find the ideas for your illustrations, what inspires you to create? What are your favorite sources of inspiration?

I get inspired from random things around me, jokes with friends and family, and situations I find myself in. I can be standing in line at the grocery store and be like: "Wouldn't it be funny if the fruits and vegetables on the conveyor belt think they were on a treadmill or in line for an amusement ride?" Weird stuff like that gets my imagination going.

My favorite source of inspiration is food. I love food and I love giving food personality.

Q I like your PhotoVectors, the images are very unique and interesting. How do you go about creating them, do you photograph the images yourself? What processing do you need to do before you add the vectors shapes to the photo?

My first PhotoVector design was actually an accident. I was working on an illustration of a bear and needed an image placeholder. I ended up liking the contrast between the realistic photo and vector elements.

I try to photograph my own images, but sometimes I don't have the access to, like, a tiger or a bear. I use free stock images or ask for permission from photographers on Flickr for those.

The tedious parts about the PhotoVector designs are finding an image with the right pose and isolating the image out from the background. Sometimes I have to Photoshop together pieces to get what I'm looking for. Once I cut out the image, I convert it to black and white halftones in Photoshop, and then place it into Illustrator to add the vector elements.

Q Most of your illustrations (and especially PhotoVectors) have an animal theme to it. Are you an animal lover? Which animal do you like to illustrate most? Why?

I am an animal lover. I find them easier to put in funny situations because you wouldn't expect a polar bear wearing roller skates and listening to a Walkman.

I don't think I have a favorite animal to work with, it's more about which animal best fit the situation and design.

Q You do a lot of T-shirt designs. When and how did you become interested in designing for T-shirts?

I love creating T-shirt designs — it's wearable art. The first T-shirt design I ever made was a hand drawn iron-on design for my friend's band back in high school. But it wasn't until 2006 when I saw my friend Sebastian wearing this really cool T-shirt and I asked him where he got it. He introduced me to Threadless.com and how you can submit your own designs, have people vote on your designs, and potentially have them printed on T-shirts if you win. So I started submitting to Threadless and was fortunate enough to have gotten a few wins. The exposure through Threadless has led to many other great design opportunities.

Q Do you have a favorite T-shirt design from your creations and why is it your favorite?

Oh man, this is a hard question.  I think it might be “Catburger” because it combines my love for food and animals.  And because it’s just a ridiculous illustration.

Q What piece of work are you most proud of and why? What was the inspiration & idea behind it? What are some of your current projects?

I'm pretty happy with how my "Fruit and Vegetable AlphaDeath" series turned out. It was my first time attempting such a large series and I'm happy that I stuck with it.

The series was part of a project called "Make Something Cool Everyday" back in 2009 that my friend Olly Moss started on Flickr and got me to participate. The project was simple — be creative and make something cool everyday for a year. For twenty-six days, I illustrated each letter of the alphabet as either a fruit or vegetable dying a horrible death.

Some current projects include T-shirt designs, editorial illustrations, and little personal projects here and there.

Q How would you describe your design and artistic style? What are your goals/aspirations for the future?

I would describe my style as simple, clean, cute, and sometimes with a bit of dark humor. My friends have all said I should illustrate a children's book, so that is something I would like to accomplish.

Q Thanks for the interview Philip. Would you like to give any tips or advise to aspiring designers and illustrators?

Thanks for the opportunity. My advice for aspiring designers and illustrators is to be open-minded and thick-skinned. What we do is very subjective and we're always being critiqued. So, don't give up. Oh, and learn how to use the Pen Tool — you won't regret it!

Philip Tseng on Web

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