It’s a lot of pressure. I have a 10-year-old cousin who always checks her likes on Instagram.
Exactly. It’s now really a source of validation for people. It’s not wrong. It has a lot of good effects too because you’re pushed to put out good work, and you’re pushed to think about what you’re posting. In terms of, “Is this valuable, or is this a contribution?” But at the heart of it, if you’re like an artist or illustrator who’s just [starting out and] experimenting, or, if you’re starting with calligraphy and it’s your first time, you might feel insecure that the picture’s not good, or the lighting’s not perfect unlike this letterer who always [has] bright pictures.
[When Instagram started] nobody [had] set expectations of what a perfect Instagram should look like, which was liberating in a sense. Now, of course even me or you, we watch what [we] post. That’s the thing that’s not good for artists who are starting out. It’s good to be mindful of the quality, but if that’s the thing that’s stopping you from posting something, and if it’s an endless comparison to your idols, just beating yourself for not being able to come close, that’s the bad part.
My advice is that since the internet is free, to look at it as more of a tool for mapping your growth. Like, “This is how I started, and every day is a chance to post something better or prove that I’m improving.” Just take more pictures, better pictures. And don’t stop at just judging your work by yourself. Otherwise, number one: How are you going to get your work out? Number two, how are you going to get discovered if you keep it all in? And yeah, how will you watch yourself grow?
There’s something great about seeing something blossom in front of you, even if it’s just yourself. Try to strip away all those apprehensions about being judged or whatever, because people will really judge anyhow after seeing your work. Every time I doubt myself, I always think that, for every creative work that I put out, as long as I have pleased myself first and foremost, that’s fine. I’m the artist, I put it out, and I’m happy. If you have your own opinion, then it’s OK. The reason you’re doing the art is because you’re genuinely curious and you’re showing your curiosity by showing your work. Don’t overthink. Don’t make it a hindrance. Don’t compare endlessly in a negative way. Just think of it as charting your personal growth. It’s really exciting to think that, “I’m going to get better every day, and I’m going to see it. I’m going to see myself getting better.” Don’t be too mindful because the culture now is so weird. Awesome, but weird.
What would you tell people who are scared to do three things at one, or not just focus on one thing? Think of the saying “jack of all trades, master of none.”
You’ll never know until you try. I’ve seen it done, and there are living testaments to that. If that isn’t enough to inspire you to try to come close, I don’t know what’s more inspiring than a living person living the life of being everything that they want. Realistically, you can’t be everything. Like, if you wanna be a baker and an astronaut. Obviously, you also have to ground yourself and have a sense of realism. I’m sure the normal person would have very realistic goals. For example, what stuff do you want to be if you have all the time in the world, or no school?
I think I’d bake and write. I’d also do art.
Right? It doesn’t sound impossible. But now, given you have school and stuff, it sounds logistically impossible. [But] you have 24 hours—it fits. I feel like it helps when you quantify the hours. Like, “I have 24 hours. I’ll set this aside for sleep, and for eating.”
So that’s when math is useful!
Yes, this is where math comes into play! When you think about how everyone has 24 hours—there’s a meme that says, “Beyoncé also has 24 hours.” Isn’t that the truest thing?! The only constant thing that we all have is the number of hours that we have in the day. You know that nobody has a real time turner, and nobody’s in cheat mode. You know that things are really getting done by people because they have the same number of hours as you do. It’s just a matter of adjusting your lifestyle or adjusting your routine, and little tweaks here and there to make you productive.
So you have to want to be productive?
You have to want to be productive. You have to want to be able to accomplish all these things in a day. If you’re just thinking of, “I will do this,” and “I will do that,” but you spend so much time doing other stuff and not getting anywhere close to the kind of work that you want to do, then that’s just moping and complaining about your life and not really adjusting. It has to be coupled with action.
It doesn’t just happen for prodigies, like Tavi Gevinson or Taylor Swift, it’s very doable. These are real people achieving things. You really shouldn’t be afraid to try, because the worst thing that could happen is you “fail,” or disappoint [yourself]. For me, disappointment is—I don’t look at it as a permanent thing. It’s a learning experience.
The internet has made it so easy for us to learn any skill imaginable. Everything is being spoon-fed. You just have to take the spoon. It will always be there!
I think that I really needed to be reminded of that. Yesterday, all I did was watch Gilmore Girls because it was the start of my Christmas break. But you also have to want to be productive once in a while.
I’m overloaded with work, so every time I watch a movie, I feel guilty, What am I doing? I should be working. What we don’t realize is that first, we need to rest, and second, all these shows, all these movies and books, they all contribute to our persona and personal enrichment. I’ve gotten so much inspiration from the movies and shows I’ve watched and the books I’ve read, and that has shaped my creative work. I owe so much to that aspect of my life—of just binge-watching and binge-reading. We really need that.
And you also need to be aware that they’re inspirations.
I always go back to Tavi because she’s the perfect example. When you read her blog [Style Rookie], you saw that she watched all those movies, and she was able to make moodboards and outfit inspirations [from] movies, pop culture, current events and issues—stuff she was exposed to. It’s a great thing. With Gilmore Girls, at some point in time, you might get to write a piece on it, or have an opinion on the mother-daughter relationship, or something like that. It’s never be a waste to watch something.
Asian kitsch, pop culture, outer space, and childhood are some elements that you mention when it comes to questions regarding your influences. How do you usually translate these elements to your work?
With any creative work, research is the most important part. I love researching. I love delving into the specifics of things. You can see that in all my work, but [it’s not always] obvious. For the space suit [I designed] that was featured in Vogue Italia—it had patches on it that looked normal from afar, but it had the names of the eight most common parts of the space suit: dacron, Teflon, nylon.
I always like researching and knowing. With my album, I have an Evernote notebook filled with research. I researched marketing, specifically about how Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber marketed their own music. I take pride in the research that I undergo in every creative project that I have. With The Gathering Season, I also researched a lot about collectors.
I found that so interesting! You got collections from people and you put them all in an…
In an artifact box where they all had reference codes, so it was up to people to weave them together.
It was really cool! That must’ve taken a lot of time.
It was all in my head first, but then it suddenly came together. Research. That’s the most important for the process, and everything else will fall into place. I want every creative project to be backed up. Not just because I wanted to do it, but that I took time and effort into knowing what I was getting into, and into knowing the kinds of work that existed before I made my own work. Something like a review of related literature or citing sources. ♦