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Meet Yumi Tsang

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yumi Tsang.

Yumi, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a freelance illustrator, concept artist, and toy designer based in Los Angeles. I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Los Angeles when I was 12 years old. Like most people, I started drawing since I was a kid. I used to grab my crayons and draw all over the walls and under the table since I was a toddler. And I told people I wanted to become a “drawer” when I was three years old because I didn’t know the term “artist”, and I thought by adding “-er” to any word would make it a job title.

Being an artist had always been my dream, but I had lost courage when I was in second grade. In Hong Kong’s elementary school, we had two art periods every week. My parents couldn’t afford extra art classes for me, so the art periods in school were the only time I could learn about drawing. When I was in second grade, my teacher had made fun of the art supplies my parents prepared for me because they were not as expensive as my classmates’ supplies. I was discouraged, and I started to think maybe being an artist was not an option for me.

I still drew for fun during elementary and middle school, but I didn’t think about being an artist anymore until high school. When I was in 9th grade, my high school art teacher, Miss Yim, had encouraged me and helped me to pick up my dream as an artist. She helped me understand that being a good artist wasn’t about the price of my art supplies, but it was about my ideas, creativity, and skills. Then, I started researching art schools and preparing a portfolio.

Unlike most Asian parents, my mom was very supportive when I told her that I wanted to go to art school and become an artist. However, she couldn’t support me financially. So I entered a community college after graduating high school, and I worked part-time as an office assistant and graphic designer. Three years later, I transferred to Otis College of Art and Design. Fortunately, I was awarded a big scholarship.

After graduating from Otis, I was freelancing for three months, and then I was working full time in a studio called FriendsWithYou in Downtown LA as a Junior Artist for a year. Last August, I had made a decision on quitting my full-time job and start freelancing again because I enjoy being able to work on different projects and learn from different people. I am really happy to become an artist and do what I like, and I will never stop learning and improving.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It was a big challenge switching from a full-time studio artist to a freelancer mostly because of financial stability. As a full-time studio artist, I was sure that I was getting my paycheck every month, but being a freelancer is riskier. At first, I would panic when projects come slowly because I was worried about rent and other spends. However, I realized the negative thinkings wouldn’t help my situation. So I learned to have savings, and during dry periods I would work on personal arts and keep practicing to improve my skills.

We’d love to hear more about your art.
I am an illustrator, concept artist, and toy designer. I am best known for my illustrative style and detailed illustrations. I can work both digitally and traditionally. When I receive a project, whether the request is similar to my style or not, I can adapt to a variety of looks and designs for my clients. I enjoy doing background arts and prop designs for animations and games, and I also enjoy doing product designs.

My personal works are usually 90% cute and 10% creepy. And I love to draw bears or bunnies in most of my illustrations. I love making paintings and illustrations for gallery shows. Luckily, I was able to join some group shows these years. I recently started a series of paintings called “Poisonous Mushrooms” to show people to be cautious about the danger of drugs and other types of bad addictions. I wish my works can reflect social issues and bring positive influence to people.

I also love to design products and prints for my online shop. One of my goals in 2020 is to design some clothes with my illustrations. Back in school, I was told that my style wasn’t similar to most mainstream concept artists, which made me very upset, but now I am not bothered by this anymore. This is my voice and I am proud of who I am. I will keep experimenting and keep improving!

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I am lucky that I started working at a young age. All the work experiences helped me learn to work with others and problem-solving. My luckiest job experience was one of my part-time jobs during college. The company originally hired me as an office assistant, but their graphic designer was about to quit, so they promoted me to a graphic designer and had the past graphic designer trained me before she quitted. I had learned so much in that part-time job.

I wouldn’t say now is the luckiest time of my life, but it’s not a bad luck time neither. Even though there are obstacles, I am still happy with what I am doing and the works I’ve been making. And I believe things will get better!

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