Terry Wong Illustrator Interview

Terry Wong

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Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I was lucky enough to have a course in high school called ‘career prep’ that placed students in real life work situations for one week every semester for three semesters.
My first “career prep” was in a sign shop preparing vinyl signs. That situation was too technical and not very creative. After that, I was placed in a graphic design firm where I had a blast. I asked if I could return to that firm for the third ‘career prep.’ It was there that I first saw the practical application of working as a creative.

Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
One of my earliest influences was that of my father. I remember him as the very first person I saw sit down and actually draw something cool. As a young child, I watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons. My dad would occasionally pull out a piece of paper and draw a character for me.
The second influence was a character on a TV show: Mr. Dressup from the CBC show by the same name. He’d occasionally have a segment in his show where he’d sit down at a drawing table and draw a scene freehand while describing what he was doing.

Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
When I was three years old, the very first thing I remember drawing that garnered attention from my parents was a picture of Sergeant Duex Deux from the old Pink Panther cartoons. I walked over to my mom to show her when I’d finished drawing. She asked my dad if it was his. I told her it was my drawing. She seemed very happy.

Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
Ever since I was a young child, illustration seemed like the clearest path. Illustration was a defining activity in my childhood. It set me apart from my peers. I knew from very early on that this was a field I excelled in.

Did you study art in school?
I studied visual communication at Alberta College of Art and Design.

Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
Inspiration can come at any time, in any form. The trick is to be open; to recognize inspiration when it comes.

How would you describe the process of creating art?
A good friend of mine always used to say, ‘Concept is king.’ That’s where I start; with a great concept.

Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
I don’t have a favorite illustrator. I’m a huge fan of commercial illustrators from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I also love the work I see in many comic books. An old sentimental favorite is vintage Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoons. I have a personal affinity for anything retro which is why I’m drawn to mid 20th century styles.

If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I would definitely be creating something, whether in film or music.

Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
I don’t remember my first set of paints, pens or markers. To this day, when sketching, I still use the same mechanical pencil that I purchased during my first year of art college.

Do you have a favorite illustrator supply, a favorite method, or favorite location, where you like to create artwork?
My favorite art supply is a mechanical pencil. I’ve used it on almost every job I’ve ever completed as an illustrator. It’s not a particularly fancy or expensive pencil but we have a long history.

If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
If an illustration of mine makes you smile, then you’ve got it.

Do you think illustration has the eye of the public or could public awareness of this field be improved upon?
Commercial illustration gets a bad rap because it’s created to sell things. However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with creating art for a specific purpose. Illustration can be beautiful and it can also affect how people think.

Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
Art has always been an important part of my identity. Some of the earliest and happiest memories I have are of drawing and creating. Illustration has been constant throughout childhood, into adolescence, and now in my adult life.

Why does art matters to the world?
I’d say, it’s a mirror of society; how we have lived since the beginning of civilization. Art continues to mirror society in its many evolving forms from illustration, to music, to the written word, to film, and beyond.

If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
I think, in a hundred years, the life of an illustrator will improve. I definitely think we’re better off than illustrators a hundred years ago, though two hundred or even three hundred years ago illustrators probably garnered more respect than the illustrators of today.

That being said, I don’t believe that there are as many starving illustrators as there once were. Not to say there aren’t any; I’m sure they exist. I think the avenues open for making a living creating art are expanding. Surfing the web really lends itself to working in a visual medium. Sharing art, that can be seen by millions, has never been easier.