Den Yang Ho reminds me a lot about myself. A nerdy, yet cool, artist who has a wide range of hobbies from MMA to video games. Hailing from Chicago, IL and attended the Columbus College of Art & Design, he spends a lot of time creating art in Photoshop. He also has a passion for competitive Starcraft 2 and follow the pro-scene. All good nerdy things aside, we talk about a variety of topics and get inside the head of this young artist. Read below for the full interview…
Your work is pretty unique and full of creativity. Where does your inspiration come from?
Den Yang Ho: My inspiration comes from everywhere. I know, that’s what most people say but it’s the best way to keep your work fresh. As an artist, you can’t just look at art within your own field. Venture out and get inspired by everything: high fashion, military photos, industrial design, massive engineering projects, random YouTube videos, etc. The world is your tool. Utilize it.
You attended the Columbus College of Art & Design, majoring in illustration. Did you get a lot out of the program? Would you recommend formal education to a creative for them to develop skills?
Den Yang Ho: Formal education is not necessarily required, especially in this day and age with the Internet. The most useful thing about college is meeting like-minded artists and networking with the alumni and teachers. I got my first full time job through an alumni who was already working in the industry. Even if you don’t attend an art school, you can still connect yourself with artists through forums and art sites. Saves yourself some student loans too!
I knew I wanted to become a concept artist during college but a lot of art schools currently don’t offer concept art courses so I would always rush through my homework to be able on my own concept art portfolio. I saw too many kids just wasting their time away on homework and then doing nothing else afterwards. It was as if they think accomplishing the homework can get them a job. Art school is what you put into it.
The most useful classes in college were the foundation courses like life figure drawing and painting. Those were invaluable.
How does your job as an artist and designer influence your life? Do you feel that you see things around you differently for example?
Den Yang Ho: Definitely. I see it more as a curse [laughs]. I’m always finding myself critiquing the design of things around me. I can’t just enjoy a stroll outside without having to nitpick something.
I would imagine being a gamer that it bleeds through to your work. Would I be correct in this assumption?
Den Yang Ho: Being a gamer, I know I want to be continuously amazed at what I see on screen so I’m always pushing myself to create unique designs all the time. Then again, being a gamer and a game artist has a downside too! Whenever I play games, I’ll always be criticizing the armor, or the face, or the weapon, and environment. Sometimes I’ll get so inspired by really good designs that I’ll take a multiple screenshots from all angles, which totally ruin the flow of the game [laughs].
How do you spot a good Pho restaurant? What is a dead giveaway that an establishment isn’t authentic?
Den Yang Ho: You know it’s legit when you can see beef bones in the pot that’s used to make the broth. Really good broth can take up to 12 hours of simmering! When I make pho at home, I do it the lazy way with powdered broth. 30 seconds. BAM. Done. Doesn’t come close to nice authentic broth. Now the question is…do you have the nerves to ask them how their broth is cooked?! [laughs]
You are at a point in your career where you work full time as a concept artist and cinematic illustrator. Having worked for years as a freelancer, could you tell us if you value stability of a full time job over the diversity of freelancing? Or do you sometimes miss the freelance life?
Den Yang Ho: Having a full time job is nice because you have controlled hours. When I freelance, I would usually work late into the night (and early dawn!) just because the access to your work is always there, tempting you. Then again, that’s what I miss about freelance work as you can make your own hours, no matter how insane it is 😉 Don’t know what my girlfriend would say about that…
How important is concepting and sketching part of your creative process?
Den Yang Ho: Very important. You want to get all of the ideas out of your mind, even if you think they are bad. This is for you to know you haven’t shortchanged yourself somewhere. Sketching and working out the kinks will lead to a stronger foundation for you to build and finish off of. The rest will just flow if you have something solid to work on.
Are you a fan of Asian films or Anime? Have any particular films inspired your work?
Den Yang Ho: Of course, everyone loves themselves some Miyazaki. My top two from him are Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. They’ve inspired my work through their atmospheric feel and iconic designs.
I love Tekkonkinkreet‘s unique take on drawing faces and their amazingly detailed backgrounds. Oh yeah, can’t forget the classic Ninja Scroll, which influenced my all time favorite comic book, Battle Chasers by Joe Mad. Got to give a shout out to my guilty pleasure, Azumanga, the epitome of chibi cuteness [laughs].
As for Asian films, I’m a big fan of old school Zhang Yimou like Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou. They both have a nice eerie, surreal quality to it.
Lastly, could you offer up any general advice for a creative that could apply to both their career and/or their work in general?
Den Yang Ho: Work on your fundamentals in anatomy, form, color, and design first. It’s only when you are confident with your basics can you move onto style. Now style’s a tricky subject. Most people starting out with style get called out for copying someone else. Don’t force a style on your work. You need to let it naturally develop. Also be careful to not hide your flaws with style. I’ve heard one too many aspiring artists defend themselves with, “but it’s my style!” whenever they are critiqued on their anatomy.
My last bit of advice is that you need to have the passion for what you do. Don’t make art just so you can post a finished piece online and have everyone praise you for it. Like the saying goes, “you don’t go into a restaurant to take a shit.” Enjoy the art process. Create art because it’s fun. Fame is just a by-product.
As for furthering your career, one of the most important things is networking. Like I said before, go on forums, go to conventions and make friends. Knowing people in the industry is key to getting your foot in (along with a killer portfolio. Still need that!) Just don’t forget to love what you are doing along the way.
Take a peek at Den Yang Ho’s newly launched site where he updates with new work daily: