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Artist Interview: Veggiesomething

Welcome to the newest installment of our Artist Interview series! Today, we’ve got a chat with our pal, Veggiesomething. This guy has been doing it forever now, and is known for his clean, crisp character designs and other fun creative expressions.

We’ve known him for probably a decade or more now, and fondly remember how excited and interested he always is about not only art, but life in general. To this day, we still work with him on projects and are proud to be able to call him a friend.

Originally from Pingtung, Taiwan, he moved to the U.S. as a kid and has called Chicago home for quite a long time. He graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Computer & Information Science from the College of Engineering, but has always had a love for the arts and continues to kill it today with fantastic design.

Intro out of the way, let’s do this!

1. How long ago did you start creating art, and what made you begin?

I’ve been doodling, drawing, painting, etc. for as long as I can remember. I guess I’ve always loved the process of creating things and challenging myself. However, with regards to characters, I created my first character line back in 2002 by pure accident.

At the time, I was getting a small-frame Allstate (Vespa-made) scooter put together. I wanted to display a panda sticker on it since the scooter was white with mostly black accents. But, I couldn’t find any panda stickers that I liked – not even online.

I worked at a craft magazine publishing company back then, and we received products from manufacturers for reviews all the time. One of the products that we received was a sticker machine. You would put your design on a regular sheet of paper and then run it through the machine. The machine would attach an adhesive backing to the back of the paper and a clear film on the top of the paper.

With the permission of our editorial department, I tested the machine out and was really impressed by the quality of the sticker. So with that machine in mind, I decided to make my own panda sticker.

After creating the panda, I decided that I really liked the design. The idea of designing a few more animals to create a character line popped into my head. (I blame it on my Asian DNA. We have characters for everything.) The idea seemed harmless enough, so I created some other animal characters based on the initial panda design, and created a backstory for them.

I decided to make the line wacky and offbeat, so all of the characters had wacky and offbeat personality traits of people that I knew or sort of knew. I wanted the line to remind people to embrace their differences, as those things are what makes us unique and interesting.

Anyway, I decided to make some merch for the character line. I mean, what’s a character line without merch? I created some buttons and shirts, and people seemed to be really interested in them. I created some more products, and the line just grew organically from there.

I named the character line “Fizziefuzzie” because I was often consuming Coca-Cola (fizzie), and I always had hair from my long-haired cat on me (fuzzie). After Fizziefuzzie, I created the House of Liu character line, which got made into designer vinyl toys by the fine folks at Crazylabel, I had so much fun creating the character lines that I just kept creating more and more. I think I’m up to 11 character lines now.

2. What mediums do you normally work in, and what’s your preferred method?

Most of my character work is done on the computer. I just find it easier that way. However, I still doodle, paint, and screen print quite often.

3. How would you describe your style in your younger years?

When I was younger, my mom had a lot of fashion magazine and fashion-related materials around. She wasn’t “fashionable,” per se, but she enjoyed sewing and was a kick-ass seamstress. I not sure if she had those magazines around because she was interested in seeing the latest designs, or if they were an escape for her. Maybe she secretly wanted to live a fashionable life.

Nonetheless, I loved flipping through those magazines and was really influenced by fashion photography and fashion illustration at a young age.

Around the same time, I found out about Patrick Nagel and fell in love with his art. I’ve always been really analytical, and I was amazed at how much he was able to convey with such minimal content. His art also seemed really designed, and every element served a purpose. I also really liked the flat, 2D/3D effect that he used. I was really intrigued by all of those concepts.

Because of the above influences, I created a lot of artwork in the style that Nagel popularized when I was younger, while using fashion photography as references.

4. And now? Do you feel like it has evolved, or changed into something entirely different?

My character work has been directly influenced by the ’93-’95 era of skateboard and rave flyer graphics. I’m also influenced by Scandinavian designs in general. However, I would say that I’ve also carried over the knowledge that I’ve gained from my Patrick Nagel years as well. I often strip down my characters until they can’t be stripped down anymore. I also like every element to serve a purpose.

I think it’s sad that most people tend to disregard minimal artwork because they think there isn’t much work behind it. However, it’s usually just the opposite. It takes a lot of time and creativity to strip a design down to its bare essence. It’s actually much easier to pile on a bunch of stuff to “chocolate cover” and camouflage bad elements in the design. But unfortunately, people generally tend to think that more is better with regard to artwork.

5. Do you plan or reflect on a subject before you start working on a new piece, or is it improvised?

I usually plan out the basic concept and the basic vibe for the design. I may also have certain predetermined elements that I want to include in the design. The rest is improvised, as I like to try out different things and see which works the best. Even with years of experience, I’ll still try out things that I don’t think will work well, simply because sometimes two “wrongs” can make a “right” in the art world..

6. What inspiration do you find in your surroundings?

A girl that I once knew stated that she liked to be in beautiful places because it made her feel beautiful, so she wanted to design beautiful places. I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement, but I would expand that to include that beautiful places can also cause you to make beautiful designs. You put out what you take in.

7. Would you say that your hometown has inspired the type of art you create, and if it has, how so?

I’ve always felt like an outsider no matter where I am at so I haven’t felt inspired by my hometown – at least not directly. However, feeling like an outsider afforded me certain liberties and freedoms. I didn’t have to stay exclusively with one clique. I didn’t always have to like the things that my friends liked. I searched out things that interested me, regardless whether they were cool or not cool with the people that I hung out with. I was and am a wanderer of culture.

When I create art, I feed off of those different interests and cultures.

8. When you’re in the town you call home, where do you prefer to work? (E.g. home, studio, plein air, etc.)

I prefer a place where I can feel creative, so that could be anywhere. However, being at home has the most conveniences.

9. Do you travel for your work? If so, do you have a favorite place to go for that?

I do get to travel a little for my art, usually for shows and signings and such. My most favorite place that I went to was Taipei. I went there for the launch of my House of Liu vinyl figures and signing at the Taipei Toy Festival.

Taipei is a very underrated city, especially in terms of creative output. It gets overshadowed by Tokyo, like all Asian cities do. I get a lot of inspiration from Taipei, especially in the alleys of the Ximending part of the city.

10. How does being an artist affect your social and home life?

It makes me stay home more since doing art is not my 9-to-5 job. I think if I was a full-time artist, it would be different because I would have more hours in the day for art, thus more hours to socialize.

11. Have you found it to be a breeze – probably not! – or is it a pain in the neck to be seen and make a name for yourself?

I find the process to be difficult, as I find that a lot of people are all about hype and also have short attention spans, unfortunately. If you are not hyped up, then most people aren’t going to pay attention to you. If you are getting some attention, then you really need to continuously churn out stuff at a fast pace and take advantage of the spotlight, as the public will lose interest and moves on to some other artist.

I think I read or heard somewhere that the average boy band (the ones that had “made it”) has an average lifespan of 3-5 years, so they have to work their asses off in that time range. I think that’s a good correlation for artists in terms of an artist’s popularity span.

12. Are you at a point where you’re comfortable making a living as an artist, or do you still feel that you have to grind hard every day?

I wish I could do art full time, but there is just not enough demand in the U.S. for character designs. Even in places like Tokyo, where characters are being used for everything, character designers are having a tough time. The only way that I’ve seen character designers making it really work (minus a few exceptions) is to have a financial backer and self-produce a boatload of products.

13. Do you have a career outside of the arts? If so, what is it?

Yes. I’m a quality assurance tester for a software company.

14. Have those around you generally been encouraging of what you do?

Some of my friends of been encouraging; the rest don’t understand or don’t care about character design. My family doesn’t understand it either. Ha, ha, ha…

15. On an average day, how much time do you think about your art, and does it drive you mad when you want to work on something but aren’t in a place where you can?

I think about it all the time, and it does drive me mad that I can’t work on it at the exact moment when inspiration strikes. I usually end up doing a quick sketch or write down a few keywords, so that I can work on it when I get home. However, I sometimes lose the note and only to find it weeks later, and have no idea what those keywords meant.

16. Tell us about one terrible experience you had as a burgeoning artist.

Okay. I’m going to kick it super-old school for this one…I almost stopped making art after the 8th grade.

I’d had the same art teacher for a few years by the time that I got to the 8th grade. Everyone loved her, but I never liked her that much because I never thought that she liked me. The final kicker was when she gave me a C- on a shading assignment that I felt that I should have gotten an A. I mean, I knew the principles of shading by that time, and I totally rocked that assignment. She gave my friend Scott a B, and his shading and line work were all jacked up. (The dude would tell you himself that he was horrible at art.) He was surprised that I got a C- as well.

Anyway, I was so livid that I ended up tearing that assignment up and threw it in the trash, and decided to never take another art class after I finished the year out.

In the 9th grade, I always saw my friend John at lunch. I think it was the only part of the day where our schedules matched. We’ve been good friends since elementary school, and we’ve always been decent artists when compared to the rest of the class.

Whenever I saw him, he would always try to get me to take art again. He would literally bring it up everyday. He didn’t understand why I didn’t want to take art classes anymore, since I never told him or anyone else the reason. In fact, it was only when I saw John out of the blue a few years ago that I finally told him.

So, back to the story. John was very persistent and wouldn’t stop asking me about taking art classes until I finally agreed to talk to his art teacher, which was a different teacher than the one that we had before.

The new teacher was interested in having me as a student, as John had said a lot of flattering things about me and my artwork. I also got a good vibe about her. However, I didn’t think that the school would allow me to join the class, since I think about half of the school year was already over. But to my surprise, they did. I fell back in love with art under the guidance of the new teacher, and continued taking art classes for the rest of high school.

17. What about one memorable experience that has made it all worthwhile?

There were two big ones. The first was having my House of Liu toy figures launch in Taipei, the city that I lived in before my family moved to the U.S. And the second was having my toy figures for sale at the museum shop in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It’s probably the closest that I’ll get to their permanent collection. Ha, ha, ha…

18. What are the top physical tools that you recommend for any artist?

Chalk is one of my tools of choice. It’s great for transferring your ideas onto the canvas, board, wall, etc. I’ve gotten at least two of my friends to use chalk for that purpose thus far, and they seem to like it. Chalk also mixes wonderfully with paint and spray paint.

19. What are the top mental traits that you think an artist needs?

I think great art generally comes from not over-thinking about things, trusting yourself, and having a FTW attitude.

20. What dos and don’ts do you have for someone who is – or wants to be – an artist?

Do experiment with different media so you can increase your ability. Do work at the edge of your ability so that you can always grow. Do help other artists grow as you grow yourself.

Don’t treat your artwork like masterpieces, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Don’t think mistakes will automatically hinder a piece of artwork.

21. Would you recommend people forge a path in the arts?

I would recommended it if the person has the innate urge to create and express himself/herself creatively all the time. Otherwise, it would be much better to do it part-time or as a hobby.

22. Do you think you’ll ever stop being an artist?

I don’t think so. The urge to create runs too deep. Plus, I like to prove to my parents that they were wrong in trying to stop me from drawing and painting so much when I was younger. Ha, ha, ha…

I also like to challenge myself and see what I’m capable of doing. I’m my worst critic, and in some bizarre twisted way, I’m always looking for approval from myself as well.

23. In a parallel universe, what would be your ideal profession, and why?

I would be a character designer for a company that produced a lot of merch, like Sanrio. They can just put me in a room and ask me to crank out characters everyday.

24. If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?

I would be a panda or a black panther. Everyone loves pandas, and black panthers are just bitchin’.

25. Any last words of wisdom or warning?

Live a life that truly lives.

You can join the life and work of Veggiesomething and his projects at the following links:

Any thoughts about our interview with Veggiesomething, or his work? Any questions about this talk, or suggestions for future interviews? Let us know your thoughts down below!

Get your hands on our T-shirt collaborations with Veggiesomething right here. Also, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more.

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