Today we’d like to introduce you to Edward Cao.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I have been making art as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I was just that token artist kid in every school class. I was obsessed with art in every form that I could find it in — comic books, Nancy Drew book covers, animated television shows, the medical illustrations in our family’s set of Encyclopedia Americana. Even still, I didn’t ever consider pursuing illustration or painting as a career.
My older sister recognized my passion and pushed me to take it seriously. I ended up attending Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, where I received my BFA in Illustration ten years ago. Art Center played a huge role in shaping me into the person that I am today — it was a truly invaluable experience to be mentored by working artists and illustrators that I admired.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I wouldn’t say that it has been a smooth road at all, but I also wouldn’t have had it any other way. Once I was finished with Art Center, I struggled with trying to figure out the kind of personal work I wanted to make. I was finally free from the heavy workload of college but now crippled with fear and self-doubt. The impending doom of student loan repayment quickly scared me into taking part-time jobs and low-paying illustration gigs that I disliked. Looking back on it, the most important thing for me to do at the time was to just get the ball rolling on some sort of a career path.
Nowadays, I really love the work that I do, but there are a lot of things to balance like managing workloads and racing to meet deadlines all the while learning how to market myself to new clients and still trying to make the best work possible. There are plenty of struggles and challenges along the way, but I think that just means there’s always something new to learn and overcome.
Please tell us about Edward Cao Art & Illustration.
My time is primarily divided between work for exhibition in galleries and freelance illustration, with a bit of privately commissioned work in between. The work varies, but I’ve been told that my artistic strengths lie in creating a balance between contrasting sensibilities, thematically and stylistically. A juxtaposition of opposites; a soft rendering, overlapped by geometric graphic shapes for example.
Making work for gallery exhibitions is often the most satisfying; these pieces can be deeply personal, self-indulgent, and sometimes even cathartic. In contrast, commercial work can sometimes feel like a compromise, but I think challenging projects for me have sparked the most artistic growth. My recent illustration work for MMAFighting.com is an example of this — it pushed me to flex new artistic muscles, and allowed me the opportunity to bridge my interests (art and mixed martial arts) to gain a new audience.
At the moment, I am participating in an amazing group exhibition at Nucleus Portland, curated by WOW x WOW. I’ve also been collaborating with an author, illustrating a graphic novel aimed at the children’s market, which has been such a satisfying challenge. This summer, I will be designing a limited edition tee with BloPop Magazine, as well as painting for exhibitions coming up in the fall. The breadth of creative projects is what keeps a career in art and illustration so infinitely interesting and rewarding.
The role of luck – What role has luck (good luck or bad luck) played in your life and business?
Fortunately for me, I do believe that I’ve had a lot of good luck on my side when it comes to my career. For instance, my gallery career here in Los Angeles was essentially kickstarted by a chance encounter with Nathan Cartwright, owner and curator of The Hive Gallery, a longtime staple of Downtown L.A.’s contemporary art scene. Nathan saw me walking by his gallery (which I didn’t know of at the time) with a framed painting underneath my arm, and asked to have a look. After this meeting, I was invited to participate in numerous group shows at his space in those early days of my career.
Opportunities like this were instrumental in helping me gain experience in being an exhibiting artist, and making meaningful friendships with other like-minded people. Time and place both play a big role in “luck,” and Los Angeles is an amazing place to be — I’ve been very fortunate to be able to work alongside, and collaborate with so many amazingly talented and creative people in this town.
- Website: edwardcao.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/edwardcao
- Facebook: facebook.com/edwardcaoart
- Twitter: twitter.com/edward_cao
Lluvia Higuera, Free Dominguez, Kidneythieves, MMAFIghting.com/Vox Media