Nien-Ken Alec Lu/ “How being an illustrator changed my life”

Nien-Ken Alec Lu

Hi there! Nien-Ken Alec Lu here! I’m an illustrator, a food fanatic, and a plant dad. My husband and I dwell in our cozy apartment in San Francisco, California, where we built our home and also where I started my career as an illustrator.

I grew up in Taiwan with my twin brother and a big family. My parents gave a well-meaning name to me, Nien, meaning thought and remembrance, and Ken, meaning cultivation and learning, that encourages me to pursue my path, and to never forget who I am and where my roots are.

From my earliest memory, I have always loved art. Growing up, my brother and I were always drawing and doodling. Inevitably, we both wanted to be some kind of creative professionals. After art school, I struggled to balance having a full-time job and pursuing an art career; deep down I knew the latter was always my calling. After a few years, when my bank account hit that magic number, I knew I had to quit my job and took a leap of faith in following my dream. Soon after some reflection on those two characters given to my name, I gave my manager my two-week notice and decided to follow the path and to become who I meant to be. An illustrator.

Becoming an illustrator has changed me profoundly. I was the cry baby of the family and never an adventurous or audacious character growing up. When I decided to move to America to pursue my passion, it took a lot of courage to pick up that luggage and said good-bye to my family. Looking back at all these years, it was difficult, many nights of loneliness, the different language, and the culture that does not match the movies seen on screens. However, there is no regret over the years. The path of becoming an illustrator opened my world. I started to explore many sides of myself. I became adventurous, confident, and independent. I built a strong community with artist friends, and also came out and found the love of my life. Becoming an illustrator makes me work the hardest I’ve ever worked before, but also live the fullest at the same time.

In 2019, I joined Anna Goodson Illustration Agency that run by two powerhouse agents, Anna and Sylvie, who prioritize diversity and inclusion when it comes to every aspect of how this agency is. As a proud gay illustrator, I knew I was in good hands. They guided me and gave the most helpful hand to lift me to become a professional and an illustrator who tells stories with my illustrations. I got to work with the most prestigious clients such as The Washington Post, ESPN, VISA, etc. and have met various creative forces around the world. But most importantly when I work with Anna and Sylvie, I feel included, inspired, and celebrated not only for my skills, but also for who I am: a proud asian, gay, immigrant who thrives creatively and has lots more to offer.


Reader’s Digest UK

If I can sum up how this journey has been with one word, grateful is probably the word to describe becoming an illustrator. The ability to transform what I think onto paper and share it with the world is a privilege. The people I have met and have become friends with are unexchangeable. The experience I have had is irreplaceable. I don’t think there is a type of life I could pursue other than being an illustrator. So now every day I wake up, I feel thankful and excited to think “Watch out, world, let’s see what I can create today!”