Girls On the Rise: Katherine Tsai

Katherine has one of the most unique and beautiful styles of art we have ever seen. Katherine is a self-taught artist currently residing in Pittsburgh. She dreams of one day working in visual development and animation, although she is currently studying fine arts. Her work is featured on both her Instagram, as well as her Tumblr!

Risen: When did you first become interested in art? Loads of kids enjoy art when they are young, but tend to lose their connection with it. What motivated you to continue producing art?

Katherine: Like many other artists, I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t constantly drawing.  For me, I think that encouragement from my parents helped me continue my passion, as they were happy to help me develop my interests so long as it didn’t interfere with my schoolwork. With that in mind though, art is fundamentally an intrinsically motivated activity, and if you don’t have a passion for creation then you’ll never be willing to put in the long hours required to bring your technical level to where you want to be.

I think a lot of kids get discouraged when they have a grand vision but lack the technical skill to bring it to life, and they give up on drawing when they can’t instantly get the results they want. I think it’s key to have patience and remain inspired even in the face of mediocrity, and I believe that’s the only way I’ve been able to stick with art even through periods of time when I believed I was a failure of an artist.  

Risen: One of your pieces I absolutely fell in love with was your Fresh Off The Broom comic. Will we be seeing more from those characters?

Katherine: Yes! No ETA on when content will be coming out, but the story and characters are still solidifying in my mind. 

RisenIf you could pick one of your own characters that you’ve drawn to come to life, who would you pick and why?

Katherine: Probably Toby [second from the left]. He’s a shy, introverted soul who becomes a little dry and sarcastic when you get to know him better. I think out of all my characters, he is someone who I could be really close friends with. 

Risen: When did you create your blog Asian Artists? What are your thoughts regarding the fact that POC artists and underrepresented in mainstream media?

Katherine: I was taking an art history class at university, and I was shocked at the complete lack of representation of POC artists, especially Asian artists.  There is still very much of a Euro-American-centric approach when it comes to academically discussing art and art history, and I was disappointed that the class didn’t give a single mention of the existence of Asian art unless it was in the context of how Western artists learned and appropriated from Asian culture(Google this: Van Gogh’s copies of Japanese woodblock prints). So while taking this class, I decided to vent my frustration by creating that blog, which I hoped would be a way to make Asian artists and artists of the Asian diaspora more visible.
Visibility and inclusion of under-represented groups in media is very much something that I find important, because of the tremendous impact it can have to improve and enrich everyone’s lives. Everyone benefits. Members of under-represented groups get to enjoy appreciation of their own lives and experiences, and everyone, including members of the majority, gets more interesting, engaging media that come from the lives and experiences of all kinds of people.

Risen: Do you pull inspiration from any artists? Which artist, in your opinion, has had the biggest influence on your style?

Katherine: My life has gone through pretty definitive phases in terms of inspiration, and looking at the work of other artists has absolutely informed that. It’s too hard for me to give just one artist so I’ll give a little list: Alphonse Mucha (art nouveau illustrator of the early 1900s), Gustav Klimt (painter of The Kiss), Tadahiro Uesugi (my favorite contemporary illustrator, period), Kevin Dart (of Steven Universe fame), Brittney Lee (gorgeous designs for Frozen, beautiful paper-art), Akihiko Yoshida (designer for many Japanese RPGs), Dadu Shin (editorial illustrator).

I kind of tend to go through phases where I’ll feel more inspired by games or by film or by illustration and the artists that I look to for guidance will also tend to shift accordingly.

Risen: What do you have to say for other creatives in a rut or fighting the battle of becoming known and appreciated as a creative? 

Katherine: Keep working hard and draw what you want to draw, instead of drawing what you think people want to see! Over time, more and more like-minded people will find you and appreciate what you’re doing.

Risen: Young artists on Instagram frequently go wrongfully unnoticed by many. Who are your top 3 favorite artists on Instagram?

Katherine: Tatsuro Kiuchi (@Tatsurokiuchi): An incredibly talented and renowned illustrator with not nearly enough attention on Instagram. I love how he intermixes his art with photos of his life.
Sylvia Liu (@blalasylvia): An animation artist and illustrator who works in a really awesome graphic style.

Jun Cen (@juncenart): Gorgeous illustrations.

Below is a magical cartoon collection of Katherine's work that has us in awe!

For more of Katherine's work, check out her portfolio!