To many in the vector community Tony Soh needs little introduction. Tony runs an excellent vector blog called Vector Diary and is an all-around great illustrative designer. In addition to this, he also wrote the first tutorial for us here at Vectortuts+ and regularly contributes to various creative blogs and communities. Get some insider advice from Tony as he takes some time to chat with us about vectors, freelance and how to learn Illustrator in 30 days!
Q Hello Tony, welcome to Vectortuts+! Please introduce yourself, give us a brief bio, tell us where you're from and how you got started in digital art?
Hi, I'm Tony Soh, founder of Vector Diary. I'm 26 and I live in Singapore. Digital art began when it was time to choose my career path. During that time, Flash websites were booming on the web. I loved it and decided I wanted to become a Flash website Designer. Hence, I enrolled in Digital Media Design in Nanyang Polytechnic and specialized in web design. After graduation, I became a freelancer. Most projects were on doing Flash websites as that was my strength. Later, I moved on to create stock illustrations during my free time and created Vector Diary which blogs about illustrator tips and techniques.
Q How did you learn Adobe Illustrator? Many people think it's a tough application to master, do you have any pointers for these people? Which tools do you use the most?
I started learning Illustrator in school and picked up new techniques from books and magazines. the Pen Tool and Gradient Mesh might be difficult for beginners. But after much practice, you will be able to grasp it. Keep reading up on Illustrator tutorials and you can learn more techniques to use for your projects. My most frequent tool will be the Pen Tool.
Q Walk us through the creation of a typical image. How long does it take to create? Do you work with or without reference images?
Normally, I start out with a concept and I quickly sketch out the idea in my notebook. After that, I will begin to look for reference images to help out with my drawing. The final step is to determine the style and mood I want to achieve for the final illustration. After I have a clear image in mind, I begin to draw in Illustrator.
Q How long did it take to get a foothold in the industry and establish regular clients? Did you work for an agency before going freelance?
I have been freelancing since I graduated from school. My first few clients came from friends and web agencies. Slowly, I built up my client base from there. I have some experience working at agencies as a freelancer, it was quite an experience but I didn't enjoy working until midnight and most of the design work is done by art directors.
Q Could you tell us about how you got involved with blogging? Did it have a positive influence on your design business?
It started when I wanted to learn about WordPress, SEO, social media and traffic generation. As I was drawing stock graphics at that time, I was thinking of creating a blog on Illustrator. I Googled for Illustrator blogs but found none that focused just on Illustrator. So my blog was born. Blogging has helped me meet more designers and connect with people with the same interest. It has also landed me some extra jobs but not the big ones yet.
Q What do you think makes a great tutorial and what vector tutorial are you most proud of?
A good tutorial should be easy to follow. I always make sure that the readers can learn some new techniques out of it. So far, I'm most proud of my 'Illustrator 30 days crash course' as it has helped a lot of people to pick up Illustrator. I'm also proud of my premium tutorials as I have written about some unique techniques that I've discovered myself.
Q How did you devise Learn Illustrator CS3 in 30 Days? This is really an excellent manual for beginners. Do you plan to expand on the series?
I find that most basic illustrator tutorials are pretty boring and lengthy. They cover too many details and it feels like reading the user manual. So I decided to create my own crash course and strip it down to the minimum. I made it clear and simple. The idea worked, all the beginners find it really easy to understand and pick up illustrator. I may create similar manuals in future when time allows. Maybe Photoshop Diary?
Q You're an exclusive author for istockphoto.com, how long did it take to make your first sale? How does this contribute to your freelance?
I think I got my first download within a few days of upload. I was pretty excited on my first download, after that I uploaded more works. In a few months, I got my first payout. Drawing stock graphics acts as an extra income supplement when I have no projects on hand. Sales were pretty good when I started but now is a tough call. The market is too saturated and competition from other stock agencies is getting stronger every day.
Q What changes do you see happening in digital arts?
More subjective and abstract drawings I guess.
Q Do you have any hobbies and if so, how do they influence your creative and artistic endeavours?
My current hobby is 'iPoding'. There is lots of really interesting apps in my iPod Touch. Apple design is really fascinating. The icons, GUI and interactivity are really inspiring. Other hobbies include reading and watching movies.
Q What are your plans for the future? Do you have any creative work coming up, or any that you're currently working on and excited about? What can we expect to see on Vector Diary this year?
I'm thinking of moving into designing web apps. Now, I'm trying to clear my web projects and work on my personal projects. I can't reveal any current projects right now but I'm pretty excited with the outcome. As for Vector Diary, I will be finding new ideas to produce better and more exciting Illustrator tutorials.
Q Thank-you for your time, it's been a pleasure talking to you! Any final thoughts? What advice would you give to other designers and vector artists who aspire to be as good as you?
Thank-you. If you want to become a better illustrator, take up a life drawing course and study colors. Look at Disney paintings and drawings to learn about line art and compositions. Always remember that Illustrator is just a tool. Learning all the techniques of Illustrator doesn't make you draw any better. You need to build up your artistic sense.