Interview with Helen Huang
How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
I’ve been doodling ever since I could remember. Illustration makes me happy and gives me fulfillment like nothing else. I never thought illustration would be a career for me, until I started building a portfolio with my vector art and got noticed.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
When I was little I took a few art lessons. But when it comes to digital art, I am self-taught. I wish I had formal training or attended art school, however, art is a very intuitive thing. If you love it, just put in your time, you will be rewarded.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
Manga is definitely one of the biggest artistic influences for me. I used to save half of my lunch money to get the newest issues. I have kept some of them with me even after I moved from China to the US.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
Some of my favorite manga are City Hunter, Crest of the Royal Family, Ranma ½, Dragon Ball. I would read them again and again. And I would also draw the characters from the books.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I do keep a sketchbook around. I have a busy schedule. So to be able to utilize little pieces of time here and there to capture random thoughts and inspiration is a great way to stay productive.
How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?
It depends. Sometimes it takes a long time to get to where I am happy with the result. Sometimes characters are fully flashed out in my head before I draw them.
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
Figuring out clients’ needs is my first step. This generally entails the message we try to convey, the age of the target audience/reader, the style that best suits the project. The second step is to sketch on paper. Then I would import the pencil sketch to the computer and do the rest digitally. Most of my work is done in Adobe Illustrator. It’s my favorite illustration tool.
What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?
My favorite subject is female portraits, from little girls to young women. I want to capture their beauty and strength and inspire more young girls to chase their dreams and be successful in life.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?
This is a very competitive business for illustrators but also rewarding. During rough times such as creative bottlenecks or crazy deadlines, look forward to what’s to come, your art on children’s literature that will inspire the little ones to read and learn. All the effort is worth it.