Chinese born, Toronto based illustrator Teddy Kang reflects on his cultural heritage
Teddy Kang is a freelance illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. Originally from China, his works have been recognised by The AOI and 3x3 Illustration Show amongst others.
He is one of the 25 most creative visual artists among the world who under the age of 25, featured by Adobe Photoshop(25 under 25). He now creates illustrations for various clients in Magazine industry and publishing companies.
I started drawing again in high school when I realised that drawing really was something I always want to do; creating imagery being the best way to tell beautiful stories, and express what’s on my mind.
Can you give our readers a little insight into your background?
I’m a freelance illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. Originally from China, I came to Canada to study after high school, graduating with a major in Media from York University, Canada. I started drawing when I was 6 years-old, but stopped during middle school. I guess academic pressure got to me. I started drawing again in high school when I realised that drawing really was something I always want to do; creating imagery being the best way to tell beautiful stories, and express what’s on my mind. I feel very lucky that my love of drawing lead me to become a professional illustrator…I really love what I do!
You currently live and work in Toronto. Can you tell our readers a little about Toronto’s creative scene?
I always fall in love with colourful things; anything that contains colour gets my attention! Toronto is a city composed of colours; it is highly multi-cultural, made up of people from many different backgrounds, cultures, languages and life styles. It’s very active, artful and energetic across all art forms and events, whether that be architecture, visual art or festivals. I like to think that every colour has its own emotion and personality, just as every different person does, and that this somehow reflects life in Toronto. It always makes me curious – and happy – to see how different colours interact, and works with each other; some of them can be friends, some could be enemies. The places that most inspire me are supermarkets, where you can always discover new colours, lifestyles and people.
Toronto is a city composed of colours; it is highly multi-cultural, made up of people from many different backgrounds, cultures, languages and life styles.
You’re originally from China – How did you adapt to the Canadian life Toronto influence your work?
I grew up in a family where my parents ran their own boutique business together, but still loved to be creative, and make art. My Dad always worked on his paintings and my Mum pursued photography. I guess under their influence, I came to love art at a very early age, and I was sent to art school for painting and sketching class at the age of 6.
Growing up I learnt to draw in China, and realised that most of Chinese art teachers tend to let their students focus on technique instead of pure creativity, the more your drawings look real, the more you get recognised. When I moved to Toronto (high school age) I finally picked up drawing and I started to learn focusing more creativity and being unique rather than solely focusing on drawing skills was important. You could be praised when you created a very personal and unique artwork but just know a tiny bit about drawing skills. So having a life change in Toronto made my creation of the work more fearless and more innovative.
China definitely influenced how I think about and observe the world, and in turn my illustrative style.
Does Chinese culture and your childhood continue to influence your work now, and if so, how?
Of course! Growing up with a Chinese background gave me insight into a completely different culture, with different customs, relationships and emotions; a lifestyle very different to that found here in Canada. China definitely influenced how I think about and observe the world, and in turn my illustrative style. After living in Toronto for few years, it was interesting to see how my Chinese background still found its way into my work, and affect how I think about the world around me.
Can you describe your work for our readers in your own words.
I try to make sure that my work is always warm. As mentioned already, I love to use colour, and to test new colour variations. I like to explore how different colours work together, and play with different possibilities; selecting the right colour for the context of an image is always a challenge, but the most fun part! My illustrations tend to capture elements of transformation, such as a peaceful backyard in a summer afternoon, the daily route home or to a grocery store, or the sunshine on a beach. Such scenes remind me that we should really cherish what we have.
You have an impressive portfolio of clients. Is there a commission or project you’re particularly proud of to date, that you can briefly talk our readership through?
To date I’m particularly proud of the illustration I created for Adobe Photoshop, for their 25th anniversary in 2015. I was handpicked by them as one of the 25 most creative visual artists in the world aged under 25. I was so surprised when they contacted me because they were a dream company of mine to work with. I didn’t think they’d work with an illustrator who had just broke into the industry. I was given a lot of creative freedom, encouraged to show the very best of my skills within a familiar theme. The work was posted onAdobe Photoshop’s official Instagram account, and exhibited in their gallery.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? How do you find inspiration?
I am a complete food lover, and I love watching films, especially horror movies. I enjoy spending time alone, and doing things by myself. I’m quite contemplative, thinking about things quietly. Visiting the supermarket is always a highlight of my day because its a place where so much of my inspiration comes from. I feel relaxed when I shop, allows me a form of escape.
What are the main challenges for you as a freelance illustrator working in Toronto?
The most challenging part of being a freelance illustrator working in Toronto is that the cost of living is high. Compared with the United States, there are less clients and therefore it feels like less freelance opportunities. However, this does encourage me to be more proactive about always need to contact potential clients; although, as some of my major clients are based outside of Canada I can find doing this a challenge, especially if you want to physically meet with them. I find myself having to carefully manage my budget and time.
What is included within your designers toolkit?
My toolkit is pretty simple: Computer and Graphic tablet; pencils and paper. I basically start by making a rough sketch, piecing different components together, such as the sky, the sea, a tree, or a piece of clothing. Then I systematically go deeper into each part, step by step, until they all are brought together.
What are you aspirations for the rest of 2017; do you have any specific bucket list ideas you’re itching to tick off the creative list?
My main goal is to create more distinctive work, grow my client base, and have my work continue to gain more and more exposure in the industry!