Zeen Chin About the Mystical Stories Behind His Artworks
Please tell us about yourself. What sparked your interest in digital art?
I fell in love with digital art after seeing artworks by Katsuya Terada. I was still drawing and painting at the time but I decided to get a Wacom tablet and started practicing digital art instead. I was stunned when I saw his work, his style, and even his character designs, were really impressive! I wanted to make a painting like him in watercolour but I couldn’t get the it to look anything like his work (of course, there was a problem with my skill level too to be perfectly honest) so I tried asking my senior in college about how I could paint something like Terada. He was the one who advised me to try doing it digitally and this is how it all began.
I feel that Japanese art is one of the biggest influences on Asian artists. There are so many people who like the manga style, and even you are influenced by Terada. How do you feel about all that?
For sure! Terada is such a master though! I actually began looking at other artists after I started with digital art though. I am inspired by artists like Ashley Wood, Kent Williams and Phil Hale. I guess it really depends on the artist, everyone has their own tastes. I am not looking at Japanese artists all the time; the reason Terada inspired me to do this was because he’s the first digital artist I found.
How did you go about finding a personal style?
That’s a tough one. I am not sure how my personal style came about. I always tried to do something different from my last artwork, so I played around with colour palettes and lighting. I was imagining everything as transparent and that’s made it easier for me to put a whole bunch of colours into my illustrations.
Tell me about your newest work, Child Heart. How’d you make it?
Well, my latest illustrations are about my childhood. That was the happiest time of my life, there were no worries. When you grow up, you find that you need to face a lot of challenges, so I really wanna go back to that time. The piece called ‘Child Heart’ is about me trying to keep my child mentality, enjoying life everyday. You can see I put a little kid near the girl’s heart, it might look creepy but everyone knows I like creepy stuff anyway. I also used lots of vibrant colours to create a happy atmosphere!
What’s the story behind your personal art? It looks like it’s all happening in the same universe, I am seeing a few of the characters appear in a number of artworks. Tell us a little bit about this universe and what influenced it.
Actually, it’s all about childhood. Like I said before, I really want to go back in time. I use a lot of ghosts and witches in my illustrations and that’s because I watched a lot of Hong Kong horror films when I was small. I really enjoyed watching it. My favorite one was Out of the Dark, I don’t even know why, it was so funny even though it’s a horror film.
You can see the children that appear in my works over and over are pale and look like demons. For me, children are pure and innocent, but also evil. They do whatever they want to do. We can’t be like children after we grow up, we lose all of that innocence and the rest of these qualities go away with it. There’s a double meaning for me though. There are some Asian religions that have magic for taming the spirit of a dead child. Usually, the shaman would give this kind of spirit offerings like milk and all sorts of sweets so that they learn to like the shaman and maybe work for him. These little ghosts are actually the demons in my drawings and it works well with the running theme of childhood in my drawings.
I think that clients don’t go out looking for someone with a distinctive art style often because the art direction for the project is usually set in stone. This is especially the case with ones like Applibot. How do you deal with that?
I never use my personal style on freelance work. I do my best to base my work around the art direction that the client thought up and I just keep my style to myself. The client usually sends me a sample and I can see what he wants just by looking at that. After that, I’ll just use that sample as a reference and paint whatever it is that they want.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
I am trying to improve my art by observing what’s around me. I read a lot of books and watch all kinds of films so I always get good ideas from those things. I am guessing an aspiring artist would be the same.
Tell us about the types of software and processes you use.
I only use Photoshop and I don’t really want to learn anything else. I am focusing on making my digital art better so I am not getting into 3D and whatnot like a lot of other digital artists are nowadays. The tools I like using for my art are all quite basic, I just stick to the brush, eraser, smudge and liquify. They’re all very useful to me.
What’s next for Zeen Chin?
I am going to release my own art-book next year (I hope). The theme is childhood, so it’s gonna be in the same series as the ones with the witch and the little demons. The art-book will have illustrations, short comics and even some tutorials!