Thursday, 10 December 2015

Illustrators Arise: Olivia Chin Mueller

Hiya, illustration lovers! How are you doing this fine morning? Hope you're well 'cause I've got some good news: it's time for another edition of Illustrators Arise! Woohoo! In case you're unfamiliar with it, it is where I introduce my favourite illustrators from all over the world every month through an interview so you guys can read along and get to know them too. This month our special guest is a multi-talented lady with so many passions and interests, Olivia Chin Mueller! If I were being frank, I don't really remember how long I've been following her work and how I found her, but I often scroll through her tumblr gallery. Today she lives in Los Angeles, California, spending her time playing with her cat and raising silk moths when she's not illustrating.

Hi there, Olivia! Why don't we start with your first experience with illustration and how you fell in love with it?
Hi Bivi! Both of my parents are artists as well, so I’ve been drawing and illustrating for as long as I can remember! I always knew I wanted to be some sort of artist, but it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I realized I wanted to be an illustrator! I remember being torn between illustration and animation when deciding my major, so I took an intro to both classes. I quickly realized that animation was not for me, and that illustration was everything I wanted!

I see you went to Rhode Island School of Design. What are your opinions on it? Would you recommend art schools for everyone?

I absolutely loved my time at RISD! My parents used to take me almost every year when I was in high school to the RISD street sale, so I had always known I wanted to go there. I found the whole experience to be exactly what I needed to not only become a better artist, but also to mature and become a person that was ready to actually be in the world as an adult. For me though, it wasn’t so much about the classes, but about the people you meet and the experiences you have while at school that really made it worth while. I grew up in a tiny Connecticut town of about 3,000 people, so being at school and meeting all of these new people from all over the world really helped prepare me for real life.
I personally would recommend going to an art school, but only if you think you need it! Not everyone can have the privilege of attending one, or even wants to. And while I do think it helps develop your skills, it is certainly not a necessary thing for one to become a successful artist! It all depends on the person, and the place they are at in their lives.
What materials do you usually use?
I mostly work digitally, using Photoshop. However, I recently have started using gouache for some personal work! 

In your illustrations, elements of nature seem to be abundant. Where do you draw inspirations from?
I love the forest! The house I grew up in is in the middle of the woods, so for me, drawing nature is what comes naturally! I also have a huge passion for animals and insects, so I try to include them whenever possible! I think that if I weren’t an artist, I would most likely have become an entomologist or botanist! I think that my interests really do influence my illustrations, because I always find myself going back to the things that I love!

You've worked with a lot of books and editorials. How did the journey start and how do you find the experience so far?
I first realized I wanted to work mostly in the publishing world in my senior year at RISD when I took a children’s book class! I really enjoy the cute side of illustrations, and working narratively, so working on children’s books really just clicked. So far, I really enjoy it! Ive only just started working in the field, but I am very happy with how things have been going! I love working from home, where I can stay i my PJ’s and have my two cats by side all day, so freelance is definitely perfect for me! I also found a great agent, which has made the whole experience so much easier and stress free.

Perrin, in particular, seems like such an interesting character, especially with all the changes he's gone through. Would you tell us more about him and the journey of creating his story/publishing the book?
Perrin is actually the book I made for the children’s book class I mentioned before! The book he’s in, “Perrin and the Peculiar Poppy Pod” was my final project for the class. He is not published, or even finished, but I hope to continue working on it someday! He has a special place in my heart, because that story was the first I ever wrote and really put my soul into!

Recently, you've been making a lot of tiny paintings. What inspired you to do so? What is your greatest obstacle in the process?
Honestly, the reason I started working non-digitally is because I was getting awful headaches from staring at a computer screen all day! I wanted to try gouache to give my eyes a break, and I really love it! Now, in my free time, I make little gouache paintings and sell them on my Etsy shop! The greatest obstacle was definitely learning how to use the medium. I had used gouache a few times before in school, but I really didn’t know what I was doing then. Picking it up again was hard, especially because it is so different than working digitally! But I find it to be a nice change. :) 

Aside from illustration, you also seem to have an apt for felting and sculpting. So lifelike! How do you find these fields in correlation with one another? Do you think they influence each other?
I absolutely love working in 3D! When I was a kid, I used to make hundreds upon hundreds of animals and figures in that foam Model Magic clay. My brother and I made so many, that Crayola actually sent us a bunch of model magic for free when they saw how much we had used! I think working in 3D really did help me become a better illustrator. Understanding shapes is a big part of drawing, so I find that being able to create in 3D will help you with this! 

What does the future look like for Olivia Chin Mueller?
Well right now I have 2 children’s books in the works along with a bunch of other exciting projects! I unfortunately have to keep them secret for now, but I can’t wait to announce them soon! But the future looks good so far! I hope to continue making children’s books, and to just keep busy and happy in 2016!

If an amateur/newbie illustrator, such as myself, comes up to you and asks you for advice, what would you tell him/her?
I would say, don’t be afraid to make bad art! I have a horrible habit of making something ‘bad’ and feeling terrible about myself for days after. As an artist, you will always make things you hate once in a while. But you have to accept it and know that even though you don’t like the finished piece, it still served as a stepping stone and a learning experience in your journey as an illustrator! So don’t crumple it up and toss it, or delete it from your computer; keep it so that a year from now, or even a few months from now, you can look at it and see how far you have come since then!

A little note from me

Although she just graduated, Olivia shows a promising talent to go far in her field. I think I first found her through one of her children's illustrations - you know my penchant for cute things - and I instantly fell in love with her use of colours, gravitating towards softer and friendlier ones. But after I discovered her other illustrations, it occurred to me that she can use colours according to the feel she was going for. The poetic quality her more mature work has is aesthetically intriguing, as opposed to being a people-pleaser sort of style. The incredible ways in which she portrays her message leaves an almost fine art sort of imprint on the viewer. I've seen too many people who are so good at digital art but suck horribly at traditional media. Olivia is definitely not one of them. I love how she can use materials other than paper and paint to bring her illustrations to the next level - felt, for example - and how she keeps trying new things she wasn't particularly experienced in. I'm excited to see how far she'll go and how much she'll achieve in the future!

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