I have to admit, I was a little taken aback when I found out just how old our Artist of The Week is. Tracy Chen’s talent is way beyond her years. It can take decades for creatives to find their visual DNA; meanwhile Chen (aka Philosophyofart) did it before graduating from school. I catch up with the 15-years-old to see what she’s up to these days.
Tracy, how are you today?
I’m fine, a bit stressed because I have so many exams and projects, but also looking forward to summer break. I’m just really excited for next year (grade 11) because it will be the first time I’ve had an art course at school for three years.
You’re a bit of an enigma. Tell me a little bit about yourself; where you come from, what you studied.
My name is Tracy Chen and I was born in Vancouver. I started drawing ever since I was little. I still remember my mom holding my hands and teaching me how to draw a duck. I tried out some art classes when I was in grade 3 but all they made me do was trace so I quit. It wasn’t until I was twelve that I started taking interest in fashion and architectural design; I used to draw girls with clothes that match, hairstyles, makeup and give them their own room – it was all because of a website named Stardoll, and that completely changed my art life because suddenly, you could design anything you wanted. In 2013 I discovered this app called Didlr where you can draw and post so that people can see it along with a speed drawing video. It really helped me improve because there was no “erase” option, you either click “undo” or you start over. Somewhere around October 2014 I started drawing people’s faces and started an Instagram account, leading to where I am now. The amount of support I’ve received is shocking and it helped my self-esteem. I learned that as long as you’re comfortable and happy with what you’re doing, that’s all that matters.
If you had to describe your style of illustration in three words, what would they be?
I don’t really know but this is what I came up with:
Clean: I love how the background and the hair are white so the colours draw attention to the face.
Lines: Most of my drawings are just lines that make up the portrait and show where the light hits.
Simple: I love simplicity, there’s not much going on in most of my drawings, and you can see the details that I want people to see.
What advice would you give for other self-taught artists struggling to find their own visual identity?
Don’t worry if you haven’t found a style yet, one day you will. I think I just found mine early. Before I started drawing the way I draw, I used to try out whatever I thought was cool. Oil painting, fashion and room designing was in 2011-2012, manga and anime was in 2013-2014 and portrait drawing is what I’m currently loving. It took quite a while, even though I wasn’t looking for a style. Try out everything and start drawing with the style that makes you feel comfortable doing, not the one you think will catch people’s attention. Because in the end, you’re really just drawing things because you love it.
How do you feel about the state of fashion illustration today?
I don’t know much about fashion illustration, but I can tell you that I love it. People will draw the models in their own style, which makes every artist stand out in their own way. I also love how simple it can be, too.
Any other mediums you’d like to explore?
I would love to give oil painting another try if all my brushes weren’t dried up; I have a bad habit of not washing them after I use them. I would love to work with water colours, try sculpting with clay and make models out of paper. I love crafting and making things with my hands. I don’t have to worry because next year I will be taking a course at school called Art Foundations 11 and I will have the chance to try out everything!
Nada Abdul Ghaffar