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Dream Chen

Dream Chen

Meet illustrator and animation director from Shanghai, Dream Chen.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello, My name is Dream, I am a picture book illustrator and independent animation director. I have a cat named Meatball, I think she is the cleverest and prettiest cat in the whole universe ( Maybe all the cat owners think they get the best cat) but anyway, my cat spends most of the time watching me drawing and I think she is my very first audience for all of my art projects.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

Currently, I live in Shanghai. Shanghai is a big and modern city with very fast pacing. Luckily I work at home for the most of the time, so I don’t need to compete with others in the subway during rush hour. There are lots of exhibitions, book expo, events in Shanghai. It is a very energetic and lively place to live.

 

It is a very energetic and lively place to live.

 

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Like all the big cities, living in Shanghai bring many opportunities because there are always new events and exhibitions. But the downside is it makes me feel far away from nature. I once traveled to Dali (a beautiful small countryside in Yunnan province) where beautiful lakes are just walk-able distance, and local people seem so relaxed. It is a lifestyle that I never find in the stressful big city. Maybe I will move to the countryside when I get a bit older.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Dynamic, Inspired, Competitive

 

How did you start your career in art?

Both my parents are fine art artists. My father is an oil painting artist, my mom is a printmaking artist. I got a good family art education while I was very young and then I chose animation as my major in university. After graduation, I had a very short period of time working in the animation company and I realized that commercial animation is not my thing so I decided to go to the USA, Minneapolis College of Art and Design for my MFA degree, where I accidentally fell in love with illustrating picture books. So now I still work on animation, but I only work for myself, I only do independent ones with my own story and point of view. I make a living by teaching and illustrating picture books.

 

After graduation, I had a very short period of time working in the animation company and I realized that commercial animation is not my thing so I decided to go to the USA, Minneapolis College of Art and Design for my MFA degree, where I accidentally fell in love with illustrating picture books.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

YES, my parents give me a lot of support to work as a creative, maybe sometimes “too” supportive. There was a time in high school that I became really interested in philosophy and psychology. But when it got to the point to choose major for university, my dad encouraged me to choose art major rather than the other two, for one reason he thinks it is hard to find a job if I study in philosophy, and the other reason is that he feels he could give me advise and help me if I choose art major. Of course, I never regret that I choose art, but it is interesting to think about a different life and different possibility sometimes. Now I am quite happy to use my art and stories to share my philosophy behind it.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I would like to publish a picture book that I am both an author and an illustrator. So far, I am working as illustrator for someones’ story. I would also want my picture book to spread all over the world. It would be my honor to publish some books in France. I just love their picture books so much and many illustrators that I admire are from France.

 

I would like to publish a picture book that I am both an author and an illustrator.

 

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I really love Neil Gaiman’s novels a lot, it would be my pleasure to collaborate with him.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Independent, happy, and strong

 

Independent, happy, and strong

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Yes, my mom! She is a creative female that I looked up to. She is serious about her work and always reflects on herself. She always says that making good art is not only about drawing a lot, more importantly, it is about thinking.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I think in the animation industry, it is very challenging for women, especially for commercial animation. It requires teamwork and sometimes long hours of commitment to quite repetitive work. A lot of my old friends who still work in the animation industry complain about staying up late and overworking. Some of my female friends worried about getting pregnant, they will not be able to keep up with such a fast-paced working life. But as an illustrator, I think it is much better, freelancing allows a certain degree of liberty in time.

 

Work hard, don’t be afraid to try.

 

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Work hard, don’t be afraid to try. Don’t lose yourself in commercial work, always explore your personal style. And don’t compare yourself with others, you will find your own path.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Dream Chen.

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