Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 22, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Betty Tang

After Betty attended USC School of Cinematic Arts, and CalArts, where she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts, she built a more than 25-year career in animation, during which I worked on many Hollywood projects such as The Simpsons, The Swan Princess, and various Disney TV shows like  Winnie the Pooh and Lion King 2. My most recent accomplishment was Co-Directing in Beijing, China, an animated feature called, Where’s the Dragon?.​

Betty says, “The trouble with working on studio projects is that I can neglect my own creative expression. I make an effort to keep my voice and vision alive, especially with the “Katie and Besties” story series. They are a lot of fun for me to create and I hope you will enjoy reading them! I post regularly on Instagram @hasi.betty, so be sure to follow me!”


Rough sketch

My rough drawing can be quite sketchy. I usually don’t spend too much time refining it. I want to capture my inspiration as quickly as possible. What’s important to me are the composition, essence and the expressions of the characters.

Line Art

With an ink pen tool, I traced over my rough sketch on a new layer, taking special care to not to lose the essence of it, which is easy to do. Normally I’d use all black lines, but for

this underwater scene, I felt it was necessary to give it a softer look, so I selected dark blue and green.

Background color

More often than not, I’d first select a main background color. This way it’d easier to control the rest of the colors. I also added a lighter and darker shade of blue, for depth.

Detail colors

I knew the colors had to look soft for an underwater scene. I duplicated the background color, changed its opacity to 40%, and then placed it above the super saturated color layer. The look softened instantly, achieving the look that I had desired.

Highlights and glows
For the final touch I added highlights, glow and bubbles. As you can see, they really make the drawing pop. Use sparingly though. Too much can become distracting.

Finished Piece

Interview Questions for Betty Tang 

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I could remember. I grew up in Taiwan, with mangas all around, so it was inevitable that I started drawing. In fact, I had really wanted to become a manga artist. I’ve even made a couple of my own, just for fun. But later when we moved to the U.S., where manga hadn’t caught on yet, I turned to illustration,. However, my parents were really against it, they had thought it’d a tough career to pursue, so we compromised and I went into animation instead. It wasn’t only until recently that I returned to illustration. So you could say I’m a newbie.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think it was back in the early 2000’s, where I did a series of black and white illustrations directly for the author Jan Farris Ezelle, for her middle grade book titled Brewnie: A Harvester’s Tale (Publish America).

Why did you choose USC School of Cinematic Arts, and CalArts to get a bachelor of Fine Arts?

Since animation is really about filmmaking, I thought it’d be good to get a solid film  foundation at one of the world’s best cinema schools. But I missed drawing too much, and an USC advisor told me about CalArts. So I transferred.

Did any of the schools help find illustration work for you?

Not directly, since I didn’t major in illustration, but the skills I had acquired from both schools gave me a broad versatility that many opportunities opened for me.

How did you go from fine arts to a career in animation?

Bachelor of Fine Arts was just what the character animation majors received upon graduation. I actually didn’t study fine arts.

Do you feel animation influenced your illustrating style?

Oh, totally! I sometimes feel maybe too much, and worried that I don’t quite fit in the children’s book illustration world. My main thing is bold lines, and illustration is mostly without them. But eventually I came to the conclusion of, why not? It’s my style and I should just stick to what’s true to myself, and not worry about what others think. Besides, in a way because so few people do it, I believe I stand out more.

Have you made a book dummy to help sell a book idea?

I have not.

What was the inspiration for the Katie and Besties series you published?

Katie and Besties series came about from a little girl doodle I posted on Instagram. It was received well, so I drew another one. Then another. Eventually, I named her Katie and gave her a bunny and a squirrel—Angel and Rascal. I created simple stories for them, which later turned into series. My 20k Instagram followers are a result from them.

Can you share some of what you did in animation in Hollywood?

I started at the bottom, in clean-up animation. It was where you’d take the rough drawings of the animators and perfected them into the beautiful final drawings you’d see on screen. It was a thankless job, as the animators got all the glory. But I’m grateful, for without it, I wouldn’t have developed my preference for line art. The very first feature animated film I interned for was the Pagemaster, then afterwards I became a Key Assistant Animator on the Swan Princess. Later came Dreamworks, Disney TV, Warner Bros., etc. I think though I liked working on The Simpsons the best. It was just fun. Some of the other positions I’ve held were animator, character designer, storyboard artist, and eventually, co-director.

What made you decide to go out on your own and freelance doing illustrating?

I’ve dedicated more than 25 years to help bring other people’s visions to life. I’ve missed my own voice and style in the art that I create. I have many stories and ideas that I’d like to share with the world.

Was it hard to move into another direction with your art?

I don’t think so. Like I’ve said, I think my strength is versatility. Now I just try to stay true to myself, and improve with each illustration. I think the hardest part is to not compare myself with all the amazing illustrators out there. There are so many!When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate for children?

When I decided to turn the Instagram Katie and Besties posts into series.

Do you still have you hand in animation?

No. I closed that chapter of my life. Onwards!

I see you just joined The CatAgency. How did the two of you connect?

Instagram! I followed The Cat Agency, and to my surprise, I was followed back. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and humbled to be a part of such an incredibly talented group of artists. Being among them pushes me to strive harder. I couldn’t be more excited. The agency is wonderful. Chris and Christy are simply the best!

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Sure, but it’d now depend on if The Cat Agency deems it to be a good project.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I have not.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

A couple of projects for Humpty Dumpty.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

Yes! I’m currently adapting my Katie and Besties series into chapter books.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I haven’t, but will now. Sounds like fun!

What is your favorite medium to use?

Graphite and color pencil.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, now I do everything digital. It’s much easier to control consistency, make changes and deliver on time.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio?

Violet is my favorite color, so the walls of my studio are violet with white trimmings, as well as my book case, which is filled with reference materials. On the glass desk are my Cintiq and computer that I use to finalize the drawings. The room is well-lit throughout the day. Outside the widow is a Japanese pine tree that the squirrels use to get onto our roof. Often I’d hear them thump, thump, thump across it. It’s never boring.

Are you active in your SCBWI Chapter? If so, have they helped open any doors for you?

I’ve only recently joined SCBWI, and attended my first summer conference in Los Angeles. I look forward to becoming more active in the near future.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to draw everyday. I truly believe in “practice makes perfect.”

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, whatever is needed. Internet certainly makes it easier.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. Specifically, Instagram has served me well. It’s a great way to self-promote, engage and network.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Co-directing the China-produced feature animated film, Where’s the Dragon?, where I helped lead a green crew that had never done a feature film before to complete one. It was a challenge, I could tell you that.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Procreate. Then if I need to tweak my final image, I’d use Clip Studio Pro.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I have a 21” Cintiq, but I prefer drawing on the iPad with the Apple Pencil.

Do you ever exhibit your art?

I haven’t.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

That the books I write and illustrate will bring happiness to children around the world.

What are you working on now?

Adapting Katie and Besties into chapter books.

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.

No, sorry. Since going digital, I don’t have any material tips to share.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I can’t comment on this yet. I’m striving to become one. So maybe some day!

Thank you Betty for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Betty’s work, you can visit her at: Website: If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Betty. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Represented by The Cat Agency
Christy Tugeau Ewers

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Just amazing…WOW!!!! 😍😍😍


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