I love interviewing NYC artists because their hustle is unlike any other. They know how to grab life by the horns and take what’s theirs. The latest Creative Spotlight focuses on Sophia Chang, who hails from the borough of Queens. She is an avid and eccentric spirit, active in the art & design community. She works in all mediums of crafted matter, from printmaking, tees, zines, sites and more. We sit down and chop it up about a variety of topics you are sure to be interested in. Read below for the full interview…
New York offers every creative a unique experience in termsw of a career and general clientele. Hailing from Queens, what was your journey like in NYC?
Sophia: I am fortunate enough to be born and raised here in the concrete jungle with a hustler’s mentality where the sky is the limit. Being born and raised in NYC in the 90s has exposed me to a lot. Music, streetwear, a melting pot of various cultures, different ethnic groups. You name it. There is an awesome community of creative people, young and old, always growing, always moving forward and motivating each other.
You’re a big fan of hip hop, as am I. Which artists do you feel still put an emphasis on Cover & package design? Do you feel CD Cover art is a declining medium?
Sophia: I feel that a lot of the Stones Throw Records artist have some pretty awesome CD covers. I also enjoy the classic Dr. Dre ‘The Chronic’, simple and straight forward. I loved Kanye West ‘Drop Out’, ‘Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and ‘Watch The Throne’.
We interviewed Jeff Staple in an earlier Creative Spotlight episode. Could you explain your relationship with him and how your Tee’s were made available in ReedSpace?
Sophia: Ah! This is a funny story. As a student of Parsons School of Design, I’ve always looked up to Jeff along with my friends. I admired his business, and his way of thinking. Late one evening, I was commuting home from school and I realized I was in the same train cart as him. We got off at the same stop and I ran up to him to say hi. I was a sophomore at the time, just told him I was a fan, shook his hand and that was it. No information exchange at all.
After a year or so, I heard that he was teaching a course at my school. I enrolled in the course, sat in class every week and never said a word to him. I was too intimidated and shy. I didn’t think I had anything ‘legit’ enough to say to him. On the last day I regretted that I never spoke to him because I figured I’d be in a room with him ever again! I kept his email contact from the course and decided to shoot him an email to say hi. State my name and see if I could perhaps contribute to Staple Design as an illustrator in any way. No response after a few months. Out of the blue I had a pretty straight forward copy-paste email from him asking me to contribute to the Fall 2011 line. That’s where we started building our professional relationship. Since then I have been contributing to the Staple Design line as an illustrator, freelancing as a designer, and writing on the Staple Design blog. Jeff has been kind enough to give me all these wonderful opportunities to grow as a creative and be affiliated with such a iconic name in this industry. Thanks Jeff!
After watching True Grit, you got inspired to draw a character from the film. Do any particular Asian films resonate with you in this way?
Sophia: Oh man. I give myself a goal to do an illustration for each film that I watch. I am a huge fan of Park Chan-Wook. I would love to sit down and do some illustrations from his trilogy.
What is a day like for you? What usually keeps you busy?
Sophia: Right now, I freelance full-time from home. I usual day would start with me walking my dog. Answering emails. Looking at my calendar and jumping right into work. Whether it’s drawing some graphics for a tee-shirt line, creating album art, following up with an interview, designing a website page in photoshop, or creating a logo. It varies. At some point I have to remind myself to eat because I get so caught up with work haha. Sometimes I will go into the city for a client meeting, or run errands. Then I usually end the night with dinner with a friend.
In recent group shows you have displayed your pen and ink skills, but I am also partial to your colorful pieces as well. Do you prefer colorful illustrations versus B&W? Any particular pros & cons?
Sophia: I work in a number of different styles. This always depends on the medium I use and of course the project at hand. I cater a lot of my art to my clients (of course). I have one style in pen and ink, another in watercolor, another in vector/digital art etc. I usually draw things by hand and scan it and color in the computer. The PRO in using a computer at the end allows me to do the ‘perfect’ illustration, so I have the power to erase and/or adjust my lines. No CONS come to mind. I just choose my mediums based on whatever style I feel like doing for the specific project.
What are you working on now?
Sophia: Hmm. I can’t share too much but there are a lot of great projects coming up. I will be working with some music artists, tee-shirt lines, a sneaker line, an revived magazine company, and some other silly interviews. Stay tuned.
I love your tribute pieces to Nate Dogg and Amy Winehouse. If I could, can name I some musical artists and you walk us through your creative process on how you would tackle it? J Dilla? Guru? Big L?
Sophia: These are such great ideas! I think I’m definitely going to revisit these at some point. I always have ideas going on in my mind. I would start by searching up a good photo on google to see what is a suitable reference image that best captures my idea of this specific artist/person and jump in from there. I may go with a sketch first and do brush&ink (what I did with Amy Winehouse and Nate Dogg) or I’ll do an illustration with a micron pen (similar to the Aretha Franklin illustration). Do my sketch, ink it, scan it, clean it and color it. And do a blog post of course
Thank you very much for the interview. As a final word, do you have any tips for upcoming artists and designers?
Sophia: No, thank you! Tips? For those in school, take advantage of every free minute you have. I took a full set of classes, worked a part time job and did internship(s) all throughout my four years in school. I spent a lot of time in the computer labs, libraries and time speaking with my professors. This may sound geeky but my parents were working too hard and paying too much for me NOT to take advantage of my education and my school’s resources. I think doing internships really helped me launch my career early. I was able to build professional relationships, witness how it was like to work in a real studio (with Ryan McGinness), work in a publication/magazine environment (at Complex Magazine), work with a freelance illustrator (with Frank Stockton), and work at a design studio (Book Club). I was never scared to make mistakes but I definitely made the effort to learn from them. Many thanks to all the people that allowed a pip-squeak student like me, intern with them and make mistakes.
Want to keep tabs on Miss Chang’s work? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: