My interest in illustrating began at a young age. Illustrating was—and is—my escape from the real world. It enables me to interpret my imagination visually. I find inspiration in a variety of sources: pop culture, classic video games and cartoons, to name a few. Growing up, I drew Dragon Ball Z characters in Microsoft Paint. I spent hours trying to replicate the anime style (with my own little twist). It required a steady hand and a lot of time and patience. Not much has changed since then. I still enjoy creating recognizable illustrations with my own unique style, only now I use more advanced software.
When I create an illustration, I wear my inspiration on my sleeve. I want viewers to recognize where it came from and discover what inspires me as an artist. They should feel as if they are transported back to a simpler time. To me, getting to work on something personal is exciting, because it’s an opportunity to reveal a piece of my personality.
This piece was part of an assignment I did back in college. The objective was to create a product and design its packaging. I created “Suki Suki”-flavored condoms. The inspiration came from a Japanese cartoon style known as chibi. Chibi usually consists of short characters with oversized heads and huge eyes. My reinterpretation is a play on chibi-styled art paired with a mature subject.
This second piece was inspired by video game character and Nintendo mainstay, Toad. Growing up, I never had a Nintendo of my own. I did, however, have lots of cousins. Each family owned a different game console so there was always something different to play. We spent hours gathered around the television sharing the controller.
I learned early on that inspiration can come from anywhere. Something as simple as sitting at a coffee shop and looking at the wall, for example. I remember seeing a picture of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam and thinking to myself, how can I recreate this image using the same idea of giving life to another. That is how I came up with this third illustration of two cartoon characters Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. I wanted to depict the influence The Simpsons has had on cartoons (and pop culture, in general).
My work usually consists of mature subjects stylized in childlike imagery. I achieve this look by using simple shapes and coloring to portray a youthful-looking cartoon. I like to think of my work as being a fable or a fairy tale—providing viewers with something more than just an image. The audience should view my work in two ways: one as a child and the other as an adult.
All images © Tom Duong
Characters of Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson © Fox Entertainment