Jade Fang started doodling at a very young age and has developed great interest in drawing and painting as a child. She has been working as an illustrator since 2010 and has worked with several publishers on children’s book projects. Books that she has illustrated include The Twelve Days of Christmas, published by Accord Publishing, Journey to the West, published by Compass publishing, The Purple Paw Prints and its sequel, Paw Prints on the Magic Sofa, written by author, Sarah Mounsey, and were published by Brindal Books.
She now lives in Singapore, spending most of her time making colourful and whimsical illustrations. When she is free, she will continue to spend her peaceful days doodling.
Here is Jade discussing her process:
Scanned into computer and digital color added.
Final version with painted in details
1. How long have you been illustrating?
I start illustrating work a year after I graduated, probably for about three to four years now.
What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?
My first commissioned work actually came from a friend’s friend who wanted to self publish a children’s book. I was definitely very excited about the project but because I was still trying to develop a better portfolio at that time, I was more nervous than wanted to celebrate the event.
I see that you received a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Since you lived in Malaysia, how did you end up going there?
Initially it was just a dream that I had after high school of doing an oversea study and explored the other side of the world. I did some research about schools, AAU website, to me, at that time was very user friendly and the school corresponded very well with me so I was more or less decided to the enrollment. Another deciding factor was definitely the city itself. San Francisco is probably one of the few cities in US that I have known or heard of from news or TV shows at that time but it fascinates me.
What types of things did you study?
I was there to major in animation initially but switched to illustration after year realizing that it was not as simple as watching a Saturday morning cartoons. I took most of foundation drawing and painting classes that teaches techniques and mediums, I also took illustration classes like children’s book illustration, narrative illustration etc. Later years during my master program study, I took more fine arts painting classes to be better at it.
What classes were your favorites?
It would be Quick Studies taught by Craig Nelson. I actually took the class twice but the second time was taught by another great Fine Art instructor Tomutsu Takishima. I love the class because you get to painting a lot of different subjects, from people to still live, landscape and cityscape as well. The objective is to learn to paint fast effectively without the burden of trying get perfectly finished painting every single time, like Craig said to the class once, “it’s a great way to build an artist’s painting mileage.” I did get a lot of quick studies paintings done from that class and it was really good. Now when I look back at these paintings, I can remember the time that I took the pictures, the people, places and events that I came across at that time, it’s almost like a collection of diary inputs in painting form.
Are you still in the US?
No, I’m current staying and working from Singapore.
Did AAU help you get work?
The school has its own student career service department to help students with getting work and promoting themselves. I wasn’t as initiative as I should be with the service but one my friends got a job offered through a post on the department site just three days after she graduated.
What influenced your style?
I like a lot of artists’ work but the illustrators that I would always refer back and look at their work are Norman Rockwell, P.J Lynch and Charles Santore. Their works are always well constructed and very descriptive, the characters they created for the story are always engaging and animated, on top of that, they completed the work with their mastery painting skill. As a new illustrator, I know it is not easy to achieve that as it requires the artist’s acute observation from daily life, tons of good references, and the time and efforts to sit down and construct a piece that really works. I admired their capabilities, they inspired me a lot and I guess one way or another they influence me in my work as well.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book? What influenced going in that direction?
I think somehow I prefer to do work that is more innocence, happy and less violence, and Saturday morning cartoon, which in a way is very similar to a children’s book, is what attracted me in the first place. So through the projects that I did in Children’s book classes during my study, I grew more and more interested in it and continue to do it as my thesis project during my master program. Another reason is that once I get to know about children’s book and all the great children’s book illustrators better, I come to realize that children’s book not as simple as it seems, it actually comes with a challenge to want to create something good and leave an impact to the young readers. I think this aspect interests and excites me to want explore more about children’s book illustration.
Have you done any work for children’s magazines?
Not really, I had a chance to do a spread for a poem for Ladybug Magazine once and not anymore after that, ha.
Do you have an artist rep? How did you find each other?
Yes, I am currently represented by WendyLynn & Co. I started out like all newly graduated illustrators, I did my research to get names and contacts and then I would send query letters along with a promotional postcards or brochures to publishers and art representatives who would be interested in my work. Wendy replied to my query and offered represent me.
How many children’s books have you published?
I have done nine books so far, including those that I did for self published authors.
What is the story behind getting the contract for The Twelve Days of Christmas with Accord Publishing?
It was through my agent. I think the publisher was looking for someone who was able to illustrate the book within a limited time frame. As I haven’t done any real fully illustrated 24 pages of children’s book before at that time and when the publisher ask for portfolio samples for review, I sent over a dummy book that I did base on a children’s story when I was developing my portfolio, as a side project for myself. Fortunately, publisher thought it was ok and that was how I got to work on the book.
How did you get the contract to illustrate Journey to the West, published by Compass publishing?
It was through my agent as well.
Is Compass Publishing an educational publisher? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Actually not much I can tell you about them except yes, they are educational publisher, beside two stories that I illustrated from them, I also did a couple pages of artworks for their workbook as well.
Which book was your first?
I did a series of illustrations for a self published author before I got to work on The Twelve Days of Christmas with Accord Publishing. Both the author and I were very inexperience about book publishing at that time and so I would consider The Twelve Days of Christmas to be my first book published by major publisher.
What types of things do you do to find illustration work?
I actually don’t promote myself and my work actively but I try to at least maintain my website and also attend events that are related to children’s book publishing or illustration. A website is helpful when people want to check out your work and portfolio instantly. A blog is good too but I am not discipline enough to commit to that. As for attending events, it’s good for keeping up to date with current trends related to our field and also to get to know people in the industry as well as letting people to know about ourselves (and our work) as well. I am also a member of SCBWI and that how Sarah contacted me because we are both members of the society in Singapore. Some of the works that I got were through word of the mouth and some were gotten through my agent.
I notice that you have listed doing work for Atheneum Books for Young Readers. What did you do for them and how did they see your work?
Hmm…actually I’m not sure if I did any for Atheneum Books for Young Readers before, probably a mistake that I made about the information. Did I mention it on my website or on ci.com?
Are you open to illustrating for self-published authors?
Sure, actually four out of the nine books that I have done so far were commissioned by self published authors. More and more authors are doing self publishing as it seems really easy to do that nowadays. The fee for the commission is usually not as good as what a publisher could offer but I appreciate the opportunity to get involve and illustrate a good children’s story. Two books (Purple Paw prints and its sequel, Paw Prints on the Magic Sofa) that I illustrated for Author, Sarah Mounsey are good examples. Sarah wrote the story, I did the illustrations, she published them and did wonderful book launch for each of them, she also continues to promote the book at schools and places. Both books did very well but I think mainly because it has good story to start with.
What is your favorite medium to use?
I used to paint a lot with acrylic when I was in school but now, due to conveniency, my medium of choice is watercolor. The clean up is easier.
Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?
Yes, not so much with taking picture but research references from the web is usually part of the working process. Knowing the subject matter that you are working on is really important. Even though I am not a realistic painter, good references will help me to turn something that’s made up more believable.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Yes, all the social media that we have now makes it easy for us to promote our work to the public. Artists are selling prints online and authors are self publishing, I think internet definitely opens up more channels for us to do establish ourselves.
Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?
Yes, definitely but mostly for the sketching and editing of the sketches. I still prefer to paint my illustration work traditionally but Photoshop saves me a lot of time in constructing the layout.
Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?
Yes, I do all my sketch in computer with Wacom tablet.
Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?
Not really, I think. I use watercolor but am trying to find time to try out other material for my own work.
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
I am actually thinking of doing a series of my own work for exhibition. Hopefully I am able to do it next year and if it works out well, I will try to do it annually or every two years. I think this part of my wish to want to get my hands into creating my own content some day in the future.
What are you working on now?
I am actually finishing a children’s book illustration project now and will be starting another after that. Both stories are animals oriented so I have been drawing a lot of animals recently.
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.
I use what my instructor in AAU recommended, Winsor Newton watercolor paint with Arches cold press paper.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
I don’t think I am a successful illustrator yet but I think passion and perseverance will definitely help one to achieve that. Good luck!
Jade thank you for sharing your work with us. Please keep us up to date with your journey. Her is Jade’s website link: www.jadeartz.com/
Hope you will take a minute to leave Jade a comment. Thanks!