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Knight Zhang

Knight Zhang

Meet concept artist and illustrator from California, Knight Zhang

GirlsclubAsia-ConceptArtist-Illustrator- Knight Zhang

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a California-based character concept artist and illustrator for video games and entertainment! I grew up in Southern California before moving in 2016 to the east coast with my family for college, only to continue my education close to my hometown back in 2018. I currently live in Laguna Beach after I dropped out in 2020 to start working as a concept artist full time.

 

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

Laguna Beach has always been one of those tourist-y beach towns, but with an art-centric twist. It likes to advertise itself as a hub for artists and cultural trendsetters, so it has a lot of galleries with a bunch of paintings of the sunset, all from different exhibitors. I’ve never been really enthused by downtown arts culture, but the breeze is nice, and since I rarely leave my home, I never need to think too deeply about the city itself. It treats me fine, so I like it.

 

Laguna Beach has always been one of those tourist-y beach towns, but with an art-centric twist.

 

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

Best part is probably the weather? It’s nice and temperate, so I don’t need to worry about sweltering in my chair as I’m working. If it hasn’t been made clear, I really don’t go outside. Even without a pandemic to keep me sheltered, I’ve always been a homebody so if the breeze and sunlight are filtering through the window, I’m truly at peace.

 

Worst part is the house centipedes. I’m growing to accept them as quite friendly spider hunters, but I swear my blood pressure goes up every time I see one. Oh and the spooky canyon noises. Screams are occasional. Pulsating unidentified noises in the sky is a classic Tuesday night experience.

 

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

Since I spent some time on the east coast, I think it’s interesting seeing how east coast and west coast artists differ in their approach to art. Savannah, Georgia in specific was very abstract, metaphysical, and gallery-focused. Southern California (not just my city in particular) is very literal, straightforward, and production-focused.

 

How did you start your career in art?

I’ve been drawing since I was 2, but I didn’t really evolve until I got into DeviantArt around 2008. Since then I worked on indie projects and posted my own art on various platforms, such as Instagram starting in 2011, and Twitter in 2014-2016. I think the amount of time and effort I put into my online presence really helped me land my first bigger jobs these past couple of years, eventually leading me to my current job and additional freelance career.

 

I think the amount of time and effort I put into my online presence really helped me land my first bigger jobs these past couple years, eventually leading me to my current job and additional freelance career.

 

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

My parents were the ones who encouraged me to be an artist. There were plans for me to be a pianist at the time like my older sister, but on top of never learning how to read music, there just wasn’t enough time in the day for us to be practicing on the same instrument at all hours of the clock. So at the humble age of 2, I was asked to keep doing that art thing I did occasionally and I’ve stuck with it ever since.

 

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

I have a variety of personal projects I’d like to embark on someday. For now, I will keep them close to my heart, as it doesn’t have anything to do with the greater art community at large. I don’t have grand ambitions of being anywhere or doing anything in particular. If I’m allowed to sustain myself doing the only thing I’ve ever loved doing (drawing), then I’m satisfied with my life.

 

I have a variety of personal projects I’d like to embark on someday. For now, I will keep them close to my heart, as it doesn’t have anything to do with the greater art community at large. I don’t have grand ambitions of being anywhere or doing anything in particular. If I’m allowed to sustain myself doing the only thing I’ve ever loved doing (drawing), then I’m satisfied with my life.

 

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

My partner, Gary Tanaka! I’m uninterested in the idea of art heroes, so collaborating with any artist I admire (there are lots that bring me joy!) isn’t something I feel very strongly about. I think being able to work with someone I love would be much more fulfilling.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in working as a creative?

I am in a constant state of self loathing, self sabotage, and self destruction, which is a fancy way of saying I’m like most other artists. It gets quite old after a while, and I’ve had twenty years of practice so I’m much better at handling it. But at the end of the day, I am an optimistic person who believes in everyone but myself. I carry that sentiment into the best and worst days.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Strong willed, beautiful, deeply afraid, and distrustful of others. I was always told “You can only rely on yourself.”

 

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

In the sense of really looking up to someone, no. My creative inspirations were all men, and they were all dead. Once I got into online spaces, art became less of a death sentence, and more filled with pop culture and people my age who just did this stuff to be a part of something. It was refreshing!

 

The entertainment industry needs more women, more diverse voices and minds of different origins, ideologies, and upbringings. Things can only change once they are actively challenged. I believe in your strength, your ideas, your expertise, and your skillset.

 

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

The entertainment industry needs more women, more diverse voices and minds of different origins, ideologies, and upbringings. Things can only change once they are actively challenged. I believe in your strength, your ideas, your expertise, and your skillset.

 


What type of music do you like to listen to?

My playlists have been dubbed by multiple people as chaotic evil in how terribly basic it is and how much whiplash you get from song to song. I listen to anything from J-Rock to musical theater, orchestral video game soundtracks to anthem metal. Generally, I like songs that 1) make me happy, and 2) make me feel like an anime protagonist in the opening of their show. If it makes me feel strong, it’s added to my playlist.

 

What’s your favorite local food spot?

Coco Ichibanya! I never liked curry until I had it and I was instantly converted.

 

Ivee Pendo asks: How do you win your dream clients?

With each year, more and more recruiters and scouts are looking to social media to find their prospective vendors. I always recommend people to have a platform on social media (Instagram or Twitter), an Artstation, and/or a personal website available at all times. Updating your personal website with work geared towards your specific dream clients is key, especially if you are applying to them directly. Do the work you want to be hired for! For applying to places, have a LinkedIn if you’ve gone to school with other creatives, get on Indeed, watch your favorite artists if they ever post job openings on their social media. In between the time you’re applying for work or waiting for contracts to come in, you can keep working on your art and staying on top of your own artistic growth. It’s not a super clean process, but putting yourself out there is the only way a recruiter or scout is going to be able to see the work you’re doing.

 

Vikki Zhang asks: Have you ever admired other artists who do excellent work and can’t help to doubt your own style?

All the time! I think the delicate balance between letting it destroy you and letting it drive you is one that many artists struggle with. I’m far from perfect, and I find myself stopping short out of frustration quite often. But at the end of the day, I always circle back because what excites me the most is how much fun these other artists seem to be having. So I try not to limit myself when it comes to style.

 

What question would you like us to ask the next artist?

What is something you struggle with as a creative that you don’t think is talked about enough in communities or online spaces?

 

 

Photos courtesy of Knight Zhang

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