Questioning Creatives

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This article was written on 05 Oct 2016, and is filled under illustrators.

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Ileana Soon

Hi! My name is Ileana and I am an illustrator/designer. As a child, I grew up in a small seaside town in Borneo, Malaysia, and spent my formative university years in Australia before making my way to Los Angeles where I currently live and work. In 2016, I graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

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When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
From as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to make a living through the creation of images. The moment that stands out to me the most as a child was watching The Little Mermaid when it came out. That movie really made a significant impact on me and if I could somehow be involved with creating something that moving when I grew up, being an adult would not be so bad after all.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
While I cannot speak for everyone, going to art school was really good for me. I met a lot of really fantastic designers and teachers at school, and have learned as much from my peers as I have from the curriculum. It was also good to be exposed to and take classes from other majors, and the graphic design classes I took at school has had a significant impact on how I design my illustrations today.

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How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
I am lucky as illustration is a very broad skill set that can be applied across many fields. Living in LA I have had the opportunity to work across these fields (advertising/entertainment), thus I was lucky I did not need to get a day job to supplement my income (yet).

Could you describe your typical day?
Every day is a little different from another. After waking up, I normally eat breakfast whilst writing my to-do list to make sure I am clear about all the things that need to be finished on a particular day. Then I mostly spend the rest of the day working in front of a computer trying to get assignments done. I like to sneak in as much reading as I can throughout the day (when I take a break from the monitor, lunch or before I go to bed).

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What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
I wish at school our professors were more candid with us in our critiques and about the realities of life as a working illustrator. Also, the business side of illustration can be tricky and hard to navigate with a lack of experience.

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Creating something out of nothing, and having that something create an emotional resonance with the viewer. Hands down.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
I’m not sure I will ever understand how it feels like to have a weekend. Everyday is an opportunity to create more (and hopefully better) work.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I have a degree in Applied Finance and if I had not pursued illustration I would probably now be working as an analyst or trader at an investment bank.

Any other tips you could share?
If I could give advice to students still in school, I would advise them to reach out to Art Directors before they graduate. You will never feel ready until you force yourself to be. Other than that, it is not easy to make a living as an illustrator, but the rewards of doing this kind of work for a living far exceeds any monetary compensation you will ever get working in a field you do not enjoy. Also, always meet your deadlines!

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