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Meet Ang Chen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ang Chen.

Ang, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I got my start at the age of 5. My mother signed me up for many extracurricular classes to fill up my childhood time, and fine art classes were one of them. She also banned Internet and any type of video game in the house, so to keep myself entertained, I devoured books and daydreamed about their contents. It was a form of escape and learning how to draw helped me visualize how different elements of each escapism fantasy would look.

This habit of doodling out what my favorite villains, monsters, and lairs looked like continued into high school. One day, a good friend showed me a reel of Star Wars concept art, and I knew what I wanted to do. I had no idea I could visualize and daydream for a profession, and from then on I’ve been working towards making that career a reality.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road.

I attended Art Center of College and Design for Entertainment Design and ended up switching in my last few terms to Illustration in order to graduate faster. There was a lot of self-doubt, stress, and comparison; it was intimidating learning alongside other students who had much more experience and knowledge, and who were often older and more mature. I was lucky that my mother had ingrained a strong work ethic, otherwise I would have struggled much more in school.

I ‘caught’ severe depression in my later terms at school. It had been festering for a few years, and finally blossomed into a full-blown mental demon when I realized that years of hard work and not much sleep had ruined my health so thoroughly that a doctor described my heart as that of a 70 years old. I was forced to reconsider the way I went about improving: instead of blunt force and brutal hours, I had to be more strategic with the way I applied myself.

I don’t think I’ve figured out a good balance yet, but one of the good things that came out of my depression period was a special body of work that has gotten me most of my jobs to date. I wanted to escape the pressure of doing well in entertainment design, and the idea of drawing the typical concept art subject matters (knights, robots, ships, etc.) were nauseatingly stressful to me. So I drew whatever I wanted. That happened to be, somehow, babies with multiple limbs, weird organic backdrops, comical creatures, etc. I’m very thankful that I could find a golden lining in my situation., and that I can continue to work today.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I work as a concept designer in the entertainment industry, mainly for TV and occasionally for films and games. I currently spend most of my time working for Lucasfilm on their animated TV shows. Most of the work I get requested for nowadays is centered on characters, creatures, and backgrounds. Many of my freelance clients seem to want work that resembles the pieces I’ve done during my depression, and they often say that it looks dreamlike, crazy, drug induced, etc. I want to keep improving and building on top of what I’ve done so far, and continue drawing and designing in the hopes that others can find their own escape in what I’ve created.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
So many people have helped get me to where I am today. My parents are the most important; they’ve raised me and helped me throughout my education, and continue to eagerly lend a hand whenever I need it today. The teachers at Art Center have also been amazing and inspiring role models; sometimes I wish I stayed longer to absorb more of their knowledge. My classmates were probably even more valuable than my teachers in some ways. One of the most precious advantages of going to a competitive design school was having peers that helped challenge and push one another. I am eternally thankful that I had the privilege to study and ‘suffer’ alongside my friends, and I will always think back fondly on the experience I shared with them.

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