An Interview with Michael C Hsiung

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael C Hsiung about his ultra cool illustrations:

1. Tell us a bit about yourself…

My name is Michael C. Hsiung and I’m an artist living in Los Angeles, CA.  I was born in Chinatown, Los Angeles, raised in the San Fernando Valley, and went college in San Jose (English Lit.) before returning Los Angeles in 2007 where I started drawing and making art.   I’m just an asian bum with a mustache.

2. Did you study art or are you self-taught?

I guess I am a self-taught artist, although I’ve only taken two art classes – figure drawing when I was a teenager, and a 3-D art class in college.  I always grew up drawing with my older sister, Pearl, who is now a fine artist, but I didn’t really take my scribblings to seriously and found myself in college undecided for a few years before choosing English Literature.

3. Would you say that you have your own style? If so, how would you describe it?

People always tell me I have a certain style, and I guess it’s sort of evolved that way.  I tend to draw obese curvy characters and I like to use semi-circles, draw hair, and with minimal colors.

4. I find that your images are mostly black and white with very limited colour; do you think colour is overused in art today?

I really love color in art and wish I actually used it more, but I sort of ended up drawing mostly in black and white because pens were the mediums I was most comfortable with. I’ve occasionally made attempts to utilize more colors – red, green, blue or whatnot –but not nearly enough.  Sometimes for me working in color makes me have to think out my drawing and design differently and that’s something I’ve got to get use to.  I used to just tell people I was color blind, which seemed to work for a bit. Haha.

5. Do you use digital or traditional methods to create your work?

I always draw my stuff first using pen and paper, or ink, but that’s just the way I can do it.  I’ve tried using a stylus to draw but I haven’t really mastered that at all.  I just end up using it as a mouse or for signatures.   I’d love to get good at it, just seeing it really as another tool in an artist’s arsenal. But I generally use the computer to clean or add color to artwork that might be used for shirts or print.

6. Should an artist’s work be constantly evolving, or should they create what sells?

It should always be evolving, and if you get caught up in thinking about what sells . .

Personally I just try to draw something that I enjoy or find entertaining or beautiful and just hope that folks who see it find it enjoyable whether they want to buy it or not.  I don’t think one should focus on what sells because it’s not the kind of success I think an artist would want.  You start to feel like one-trick pony maybe?  Anyhow, I think each artist should do what feels right for his or her art/career. I’m not going judge.

7. How do you come up with concepts for images? Do you have a particular process and where do you start?

Sometimes my characters or concepts just come from sketching out shapes and various ideas I might have had while laying in bed; sometimes, I will draw something perhaps I talked about or read or saw in a movie which my unconscious has picked up; sometimes I’ll have a clear narrative or idea that I’d like sketch out i.e mermen, but my process of sitting down in front of blank paper never changes. Hah.  I’ve had this one drawing on my table for quite a while, and although, it has a clear sketch of what it may be, I often find myself adding things to the very end. Sometimes they come out totally different from what the original sketch was going to be.  Some drawings I just get stuck on, until I finally get to a point where I’m like oh yeah I’ll add this and that. . . done.

8. I think almost all of the characters you create are men, something which I find quite refreshing in an art world that is populated by the female form. Are there any particular reasons for this?

I tend to draw more male characters, although it originally wasn’t completely intentional.  I mean I drew not even thinking of the sex or race of a character, but when I started fixating on hair and so forth it just seemed natural.  However, I do want to represent more female forms in my artwork because they are unrepresented in my world.  Most recently I’ve drawn some bearded women in the style of my men, rotund, hairy, and  ambiguous – I think it would be cool to have both female and male characters who are not entirely distinguishable.

9. I find that your images have an undertone of mythology and storytelling within them. Is this the case and are there any particular messages that you are trying to portray through your art?

Definitely, although my stuff often is humorous or perhaps comical, I’m always sort of drawing or interested in mythology, albeit something I’ve read or come across.  I like to hark on the pagan world as well, which I find to just be more alive and magical.  I’m not sure if there’s a particular message that I’m trying to portray, other than, trying to live out these mythologies or create ones with my characters and what not.

10. Who and what inspires you and how do you stay motivated to keep creating images?

Friends, family, artists, and supporters all inspire me to stay motivated and create art.  I think, while I draw things for myself, it’s always nice to have support and folks encouraging you to keep going, pushing you to progress.  The art world is tough; and artists can easily get discouraged or find them selves giving up for several reasons. Sticking with it through the hard times and all the ups and downs that come with it is the toughest.

11. What is our favourite image you have created and why?


That’s a tough one. . . but I guess my new favorite image recently has been this drawing I’ve did of 8 characters riding a long skateboard.  There’s something ridiculous about it and I also had a fun time creating each character.  But it’s a favorite I suppose simply because it makes me laugh every time I see it more than my other weird drawings.

12. How do you determine the price of your work, especially at a price, which people can afford?

This is a tough one for sure. When I had a gallery, they really were the first ones that helped me figure out a price range I was comfortable with at the time, but nowadays, I try and price my stuff as reasonably as possible. But price of a work can be determined by how much went into, how much I might feel sentimental about it, as well as size, but I really try and price each piece individually versus a sweeping price.

Whenever I have a show, I really try and have a nice price range so that anyone who wants something could potentially get one.  I also will make silkscreen prints and stuff like that as well for folks who aren’t willing to bust out the giant check.

13. Who is your favourite artist and why?

I’d say my sister is my favorite artist because I’ve really seen her develop and just make the coolest stuff. I mean when I was in high school, she’d draw superman and super villians on my door and Zorlac graphics by Pushead, which I’d put on my folder, and pretty much she can do anything!  She’s a big inspiration.

14. What kind of music do you like to listen to and does it influence your work?

I listen to a lot of stoney metal music and classic rock, which helps me when I’m drawing little body hairs or patterning weird beards.  Sometimes, I draw in silence too.

15. Other than the internet, how do you market your work? Do you think that too many people rely on using the internet to build up an audience for their work?

Well it seems like everything enters the internet at some point, but I do participate in something my wife, Rachel, help start called Bitchcraft, which is kind of like a really fun clothing art food event she holds locally.  Pearl and I decided to collaborate on something for the events, under the name Fight To The Death.  We make a special, limited collaborative print and have shirts and stuff like that for the event.  It’s really fun and you get to chat and meet various folks in person.

16. Which gallery are you represented by and how long did it take you to find the right gallery for your work?

I’m not represented by any gallery anymore. I’m just showing art here and there these days.

17. Have you ever collaborated with another artist? Is collaborating important?

The only artists I have collaborated with at this point are my sister Pearl and my wife Rachel.  When I started with Pearl, I think our two styles were pretty distinguishable, but nowadays we are able to trust each other and vibe ideas into something that is really harmonious, in terms of our styles.  Rachel and I recently have been working on collaborations that have been really fun, and those collaborations are special to me.  I get a lot of collaborations sent to me from various artists, which I try and work on but sometimes things flow more than others.  It’s a balancing act for me . . .I like collaborations to feel natural, not too forced.

18. Do you know of any illustrators that you would recommend to be featured on this blog?

Sean Morris, Luke Pelletier, John Malta, Pacolli, Mildred, Paul Windle, Philip Morgan . . . many more I’m missing but I these folks stuff.

19. Do you have a question that you would like me to ask the next artist I interview?

Do you have any good weird stories about any artists you might have met?

20. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and illustrators?

If you mess up an eye, then put an eye patch on it.


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