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It seems like there’s a narrative behind just about every illustration you make. Even when you make your Monster Project monsters, you always have a backstory to go with them, which is really cool! Can you tell us more about how stories inform your work and how you go about trying to convey those messages?
I've always been drawn to storytelling and have always believed that visuals, when combined with a story, will result in even more engaging work. Before I start to create anything, I always start with a message or a backstory in mind. When I have a story in mind, it challenges me to figure out what the best way is to convey that message/story. I'll try out different sketches, color palettes & scenes... it's almost like problem-solving.
How would you describe your illustration style and how did it develop?
My style is still developing, and I think it will always continue to develop. It took me years and years of practice to get my work to where it is now. I've been drawing since I was 12. When I went to art college, I was exposed to some amazing work by artists, and it effected my style very much. Some of my favorite artists are the main inspiration behind how my style has become what it is right now. So I think that styles comes from practice and observations.
Can you give us some insight into how you go about designing a character or illustration? Perhaps using the example of one of your previous Monster Project contributions?
It's quite a unique process with The Monster Project, because we are interpreting the kid's drawing in our own style. Like usual, I always start with a story. What did the kid want to say? What is the monster doing? Does the monster have some kind of superpower? What is it doing in the picture? I craft a story around that visual first—only then it becomes easier to design the character. When we have a story/a world settled, I feel that the drawing will have more depth & details.
Kathrin Honesta's Monster Project contribution, 2017
You’re pretty young and it seems like you’re already kicking some major butt in your career. What advice would you give young artists or students looking to make great work and get noticed?
I feel that I still have so much room for improvement myself, and I'm still far from being an established artist whatsoever. The most important advice that I've received is the famous quote by Ira Glass about working really hard and being patient. These two key points are obvious pieces of advice, but it's so true. It's easy for us to look up to a successful person and then look down at ourselves, but it's important to remember the process behind it. Nothing is instant. It takes time to grow and improve, and its okay if it takes a while. But most importantly, have fun while doing it!
What fun new personal projects are on the horizon for you?
I am in the midst of doing another picture book as my personal project with my writer friend, Kay Jen Ong. We have collaborated on two stories before, and we are brewing another one now. Stay tune for that!
We’ve been seeing your Instagram posts about the new poetry art book you illustrated—The Petite World. Tell us about that project!
The Petite World is a fully illustrated poetry book. I co-created it with my best friend, Yu Yessi, through a local Indonesian publisher. She wrote all the poems and I illustrated it. The process is unique to me because in my previous projects I've usually interpreted visuals from narrations that already had detailed descriptions of a character/scenes. But with poetry, I have to draw a feeling; such an abstract matter. So for that, I use a lot of metaphors and symbolism in this book. And also, because there are no specific descriptions, I have freedom to express the message through visuals.
How many monsters does it take to change a lightbulb?
Change? They would eat it!
You do visual journaling workshops for kids—so cool! Tell us how that came about and what that experience has been like!
I have actually two classes for the visual journaling workshops; one for adults & another one for kids. There is a session in the workshop where the participants have to start making their first journal entry in a new sketchbook. In the adult classes, they all hesitate at first. Most of them are being so careful—scared to make mistakes I guess. And usually it takes longer for them to fill in the first page. On the other hand, all the kids go right in with all their paints, painting all over the covers—they just don't care. I think at that stage they don't have the concept of being afraid of making mistakes. Whatever they create doesn't have to make sense. It's very spontaneous. That is kind of refreshing. Just like The Monster Project! I don't think I could ever think of the kinds of monsters the kids create. Those ideas are so wildly wonderful. I admire kids' creativity so much. I just wish that I could be forever reminded that, sometimes, the key of creativity is just to let loose and play. I've learned so much just by watching the kids!
Kathrin Honesta's Monster Project contribution, 2017
How would you like to see your career as an illustrator evolve?
As much as I love storytelling, I would love to work on more book-related projects; cover designs & spot illustrations. I would love to publish my own picture book too in the future.
Would you rather have a giant pet monster that would let you ride on its back and take you anywhere you wanted to go, or an adorable, tiny monster pet that could fit in your purse and hang out with you all day? Explain.
I would love to have tiny monster pet that can hang out with me all day. I work alone as a freelancer most of the time, so it's great to have company. I could also bring him anywhere I wanted to go, so we would always be close to each other that way. Also, I live in Jakarta where the city is extremely packed and there is not much open field to roam around, so it's hard to have a giant pet monster!
Why do you participate in The Monster Project?
I think the concept behind The Monster Project is just very brilliant & different. There is a part where I want to challenge myself too—to see if I can manage to create something out of the kids' drawing. It also kind of feels like a collaboration with the kid. The kids draw out their idea, and we as artists give a little final touch to it and make it a reality.