Interview with Marcos Chin

We continue our Illustrator Interview series—in which we ask contemporary illustrators to share their experiences. Today’s guest is Marcos Chin.

© Marcos Chin

© Marcos Chin

Where were you born?

I was born in Mozambique, Africa.

When did you realize that drawing could be a living?

Around 2001 and 2002 was the first time that I believed I could draw for a living because I was receiving steady commissions. This was 2 years after I graduated art college and when I had the courage to quit my job in retail that I had been working in for the past 5 years.

Where did you go to college?

Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).

After college, what was your first work-life experience?

This is a tricky question to answer. If you mean when was the first time I moved out of my parents’ home and was responsible for paying my own rent, then it was when I was around 26 or 27 years old, but I wasn’t working full time as illustrator. Working (i.e. having a job) has been a part of my life since I was ten years old. I’ve been paying for most of my large/significant purchases on my own since I was a kid: back to school clothing, books and supplies, my undergraduate education, rent and now mortgage. I come from a working class family, and my father was laid off when I was sixteen years old, making my mom the bread-winner of the family. So work, money, and life have always been entangled; life was work, and work was life. (Sorry if my answer sounds drab, it’s not meant to be, only truthful).

How did you get your start as an artist?

I signed on with an agent in 2001 and this is when I started receiving regular commissions, they helped put my work in front of clients during that time. However, the opportunities that arose after this were a combination of many different things, with help from many different people.

What was your first start in children’s books?

My first start with children’s book was in 2015 making illustrations for “Ella,” written by Mallory Kasdan, and published by Viking Books. I worked directly with the art director, Jim Hoover at Penguin Random House.

Did you have an agent for the book?

No agent—I negotiated my own contract with the help of a copyright lawyer.

Care to share two career highlights?

One career highlight was creating the illustrations that branded LAVALIFE, an online dating service, because it gave me a glimpse into what illustration could be and the reach it could have. This happened two years into my working professionally as an illustrator and most of the work that I made during that time was rooted in magazines and newspapers. This campaign lasted for about nine years and it afforded me a life that I never knew could be possible for an illustrator.

Another career highlight is when I was asked to participate as a jury member for the AIGA Worldstudio Scholarship. This collaboration provides scholarship money to minority-identified students studying art and design in US colleges and universities who are economically disadvantaged; the awards consider social and environmental give-back to the larger community.

What insight can you provide about being an illustrator that you think all illustrators should know?

Speaking from my own experience:

1) Being aware of the times when you’re most productive is important. I used to have a tendency to work all day and night, seven days a week, to the point when I’d often burn out and feel miserable. This doesn’t happen as often anymore. I’ve learned that my most productive (working) time is between 5 and 10:00am. Around noon I can feel myself decline, and after 5pm I’m pretty useless, unless I have a pressing deadline—then it’s a lot of coffee and sweets that get me through the night.

2) Staying in your lane. Focus on the work that you’re doing as opposed to coveting other illustrators’ careers. The time you spend trying to be like someone else can be spent developing, resolving, and refining your own work.

3) Share. This refers to sharing information, which is very important because it maintains fair business practices and pricing for everyone in our industry. Also share your work with others even if it’s not entirely developed yet, especially to receive feedback from people who you believe are discerning—those people whose tastes/expertise you trust. Doing this will give you some distance from the project(s) you’re working on, which will hopefully help to make your work stronger.

We want to thank Marcos Chin for his insight. If you think this interview would be helpful to illustrators, please share it using the button below.

Be sure to visit his website here. And, thank you for reading!