Character Development

Under the influence of illustration

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.

Suki Suki condoms
Suki Suki condom characters

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.

My take on Nintendo's Toad

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).

The Creation of Peter

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