IF Interview: Victo Ngai

The polls were unanimous, and interviews have been missed. So we’re back!

This week we caught up with Victo Ngai. Only five years out of art school, Victo is no longer a “rising star.” From Tomb Raider to the official NYC MTA poster, she not only has a broad client base, she has more gold medal awards than most industry vets. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Enjoy the interview, and enjoy a few of Victo’s wonderful illustrations below.

Victo Ngai

  1. Hi! Thanks for joining us on Illustration Friday, where we sketch to new words/topics every week. We like to draw on Fridays. What do you do to keep up your chops when not working on client work?I love playing drawing games with my friends such as the exquisite corpse and paper telephone. There is this game I came up with during Art Hist class in RISD which is still my favorite: one person doodle random marks/shapes on the paper while the second person complete the drawing into something meaningful with as little strokes as possible. I find games like these really fun and helpful in working out my creative muscle.
  2. Why did you become an illustrator? Why art, why not fine art, why not a designer?One of my RISD professors told me this back in freshmen year “Fine artists like to create problems for themselves while illustrators like to solve problems given to them.” I love drawing and I love problem solving, hence illustration.
  3. How did you find your first client, or how did they find you?My first client was CD SooJin Buzelli. She is the wife of my RISD teacher and mentor Chris Buzelli. I did a piece in Chris’s class which SooJin saw and liked, that’s how I got my first published piece. Very lucky, I must say.
  4. What were three mistakes you made early in your career? What did you learn?1- Acting too much like a scared student in social events. It made it hard to carry normal human conversations with other illustrators and art directors.
    2- Thinking ADs are above illustrators in the illustration ecosystem. Now I learnt the best working relationship is an equal and respectful one.
    3- Afraid to ask for more budget. It’s a business, if you think your work deserve more money, there’s no shame in asking.
  5. What advice would you give to up-and-coming illustrators who want to break in?“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” – Paul Arden.
Sweet Dreams by Victo Ngai

Sweet Dreams by Victo Ngai

Jack and Queen at the Green Mill by Victo Ngai

Jack and Queen at the Green Mill by Victo Ngai for Tor.com

Treacherous Water by Victo Ngai

Treacherous Water by Victo Ngai for Plansponsor Magazine


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Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Posted by Thomas James on 02/05/14 under artists,Interviews
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