Let’s just take a moment of time to smile for a while. Take a look at these gorgeous whimsical and happy children’s book illustrations that have been lovingly created by up-and-coming young master of children’s book illustration, Eason Ko. Already Eason has become a multi-award winning artist and he’s only 24 years of age! He has illustrated more than 20 books from around the world and collaborated with many authors and publishing companies. His drawings are spectacular with great empathy, poetry, humour, colour, texture, movement, balance and energy! I’m so thrilled to have discovered his work and this opportunity of to share it with you today.
Through his illustrations and books, Eason has a natural ability to take us into other worlds of wonder, happiness and freedom. I hope you really love this interview with Eason as much as I have. Its a privilege to share with you, the incredibly beautiful artworks by this very special naturally gifted artist Eason Ko.
Interview with Eason Ko by Cindy Wider
Q: Please tell us your preferred art name year of birth and Country of origin
A: I was born in a small country called Taiwan, on 12 September 1997. Taiwan is a lovely country, just close to China. People in Taiwan are friendly and Taiwanese foods are pretty delicious!!
I grew up in Taiwan and got a good education here. After I completed the bachelor of arts degree, I applied for a master degree of illustration in the United Kingdom in 2020. Originally I planned to go to the UK to study last year, but it was delayed by the virus.
Now with more and more people receiving vaccinations, the situation of COVID is becoming more stable these days. So, I am going to study at the Cambridge School of Arts (ARU) the programs of MA Children’s Book Illustration in September 2021. Honestly, I never went to other countries before! So it’s my first real time leaving Taiwan! I can’t express how excited I am!!
Encouraged by his Mentor
Q: Eason could you tell us when you first realised that you enjoyed creating art as a child and were you supported in your decision, if so by who?
A: I have been creating art works since I studied at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan, but I learned the basics of art skills like sketching and watercolor when I was a kid.
Honestly, I did not really like to create art when I was young because most teachers and parents did not encourage their children to develop their skills in the field of arts in Taiwan. Unlike the European or American countries, the older people in Taiwan always think that if their children want to be an artist, he/ she will definitely die, including my parents of course. I told my parents that learning art could be very successful and art cannot be replaced by any technical things, but they still objected to it.
When I studied at Dong Hwa University, department of arts and design, I met a children’s art teacher, she had been teaching children’s art for over 40 years and she is 71 years old this year and she provided me with a part- time job. One day, she asked me: “Eason, what is your dream? ” I told her that I wish I could be a successful artist and also want to use my ability to help the underprivileged Groups around the world. Initially, I thought she would laugh at me or think I was kidding, but she didn’t. She said: ” I am so proud of you, and I believe you will definitely achieve it. ” I cannot express how touched I was, I thought no one was willing to support my decision.
Afterwards, I started to study and create art fairly hard as well as participating in many international art competitions to prove myself.
Q: What journey have you been on as an artist. For example when did you first begin to create art as an adult? Did you study at all and if so where?
A: I began to learn basic art skills since I studied in senior high school in Taiwan, but I started to create personal artworks regularly when I studied in university. After graduating from university, I started to work as a professional freelance illustrator and I am ready to go to study my master’s degree in the United Kingdom this year. So, I think I could say that I began to learn art when I was a kid?
In terms of the experience of learning arts in Taiwan, just like I mentioned, it would pretty frustrating and difficult if you want to be an artist or illustrator in Taiwan! On the other hand, majoring in the art fields in Taiwan still has some positive things which I’d like to share with you. For example, you will learn how to be an independent person because you have to think of many ideas for your school projects by yourself, and you are also required to be a great time controller as you need to deal with many school projects, essays and reports at the same time.
I think if you want to be an art student in Taiwan, you have to learn how to get used to such a busy life.
Motivated to enter competitions and proud to represent his country
Q: What is the primary motivation for why you create art?
A: The biggest motivation for me to keep creating art is that I hope my parents can understand what I am doing, so I have to do harder and harder to prove myself! Money is therefore also a motivation to keep creating art.
Additionally, I create artworks because I like to enter into international art competitions. It is difficult to describe but when I first won an international award, I cried from my soul and I was so proud that I could represent my country to stand out in the world!
In fact, I think it is a tough question because you have to sell your art or take on some projects to support yourself if you are working as a professional artist or illustrator, but sometimes I would feel terrible if I would earn money from creating art.
Anyway, it is quite difficult to get a balance between art and business, and I am still learning it.
Using negative feelings to create positive artworks
Q: What goes through your mind while you draw/paint, is there a calm silence, do you listen to music or do you experience doubt, fear or any emotions at all?
A: Usually, the inspiration for my artwork is coming from my feelings and emotions, especially from the upset feelings. Many people fall in love with my art because they like the warmth in the colours and the lovely characters I create, but actually these all come from my sadness.
For example, my graduation project for bachelor degree was ‘Homesickness.’
‘Homesickness’ is a project which is a collection of 30 illustrations, and all of them have depression and negative stories behind them. This series of works were inspired by the relationship I have with my family and hometown.
Along the way as I grew up into an adult, I found many things that are changing; parents get older, the environment is polluted. I found time is precious, but we can never let time go back to the past. I tried to record this kind of upset emotion and it is a good method to release my stress as well.
In my point of view, I think if we could all use negative feelings to create positive artwork, then the world would never appear as ‘bad emotions.’
Keep a sketch book with you to record ideas quickly
Q: How do you make time to include art in your life, do you have any suggestions to help others manage their creative lives?
A: Well, for me, I think art is my whole life, so I do not need to make time to include it, haha! I am an illustration artist, so the main job for me is to draw. On the other side, I am working as an art tutor, and I wish I could lead my students into the art world.
I suggest that if you want to include art in your life, the first thing you can do is start, you will never succeed if you do not do it. And I highly recommend to buy a small sketchbook if you are trying to combine art and your life. Once you have a sketchbook, you can quickly draw done and record anything you see, any place you visit and the ideas you think of at the time.
In addition, developing a habit of sketching is good practice for the skill of observation!
Q: Is Drawing and creating artworks your only profession or main business. If not, what else do you do for work?
A: Honestly, I think I cannot do any other job except art, haha! The only thing I think of is teaching.
I started to teach art when I studied in university. At the beginning, I taught children’s art in kindergarten and cram school. I quite like to see how children express their feelings through drawing and love to play with them as well. When I draw with kids, I always can get plenty of creativities and imaginations form them. Sometimes, I would even think that they are teacher rather than I, because they let me know how to enjoy in drawing without any pressure from the reality.
Apart from teach children’s art, I recently hosted an online digital art courses for adults. As far as I experienced, teach children and adult is totally different, I like both but if I am forced to choose one, I would prefer to teach adult. The reason for me it that I am more like to share knowledge and skills, and it is proud to see how the adult students improve after they take my courses.
Compare to adults, children have their own world, so we don’t need to give any our “adult ideas” to them.
The key to success is colour sense
Q: Do you have any special unique advice or skills to share with other artists who are learning to create artworks at this very high standard that you are working at?
A: In terms of traditional hand drawing, I prefer to use acrylic gouache, colour pencil and soft pastel!
I think the most important key to success for people who want to be an artist is colour sense. Once you are good at colour, you can select the exact colour to use and make the work more clean as well as develop your own style!
If anyone wants to learn more about colour sense, I suggest you buy some textbook of chromatics, it would be helpful to the beginner to develop their basic skills of colour sense.
Furthermore, you can also go outside and observe the colours from life. When the weather is different and the season changes, the color is always changing. Anyway, practice makes you better and I believe this is the only way to improve your art skill. I am still practicing as well!
Winner of over 20 art awards!
Q: Eason please tell us about any significant awards you have won or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life.
A: Well, I have won over 20 art awards in the past few years and I think every award and all exhibitions are pretty important to me! But, if I had to pick one to share my experience with you, I would definitely choose an International Competition called Japanese Illustration Competition where I won an honorable mention in 2018.
The Japanese Illustration Competition was sponsored by Adobe and CLIPS STUDIO in 2018 and this is the first time I have won an international award. Although I just got an honorable mention, but I can’t express how excited I was. I will never forget how elated I felt the moment I saw my work, my name and my country’s name displayed on their website! Although this is not a well-known competition, it gave me such a huge confidence boost and it let me know that maybe I am much better than I thought. After this experience, I started participating in the other international illustration competitions as hard as I could, and I won the 3×3 International Competition in 2019, JIA (Japanese Illustration Award) in 2020 and won first place in the Pixarra International ‘Childhood’ Digital Arts Competition in 2021.
For me, participating in the competition is a way of proving myself and to help build my confidence as well as a good way to promote my artworks.
A Major goal to help more children who are living in poor environments
Q: What major and significant goals and influences do you have for your art if any?
A: Initially, I chose to major in arts because I wasn’t very good at other subjects, but I’ve realized many things since I started creating art. For example, I began to notice my feelings and the relationships that I have with others and I started to be more positive about life because I wanted to spend more time enjoying the art world!
Currently, I can earn enough money to support myself from doing arts, but I wish I could use my ability to help more children who are living in poor environments. I was also born in a not wealthy family, so I know how anxious and difficult it is if you don’t have any financial support from your parents.
My dreams and goals are to create or support an organization that helps all poor children gain a good education, especially for the children who love art. To achieve this big goal, I have donated some income to a Taiwan Fund for Children and Families, not much, but I am so glad that I can use my ability to help them, and I believe I can help more in the future!
A desire to become a professor in Taiwan, to help improve illustration and design education
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to tell me about your art journey so far?
A: I wish I could be a famous children’s book illustrator and author. I also want to be a university professor in the future. In my opinion, a children’s book illustrator and professor are doing kind of the same job; telling stories.
To be a children’s book illustrator and author, I will need to improve my skills of writing and storytelling. This is one reason why I chose to study the program of children’s book illustration in the United Kingdom! I personally think that I have enough skills for Illustration, but I must strengthen my writing skills and learn how to express the stories behind the pictures I create.
It’s much easier to be a professor in Taiwan. In my country, you can be a professor if you have a master’s degree certificate, so I decided to get a master’s degree in the United Kingdom. Once I complete my study, I hope to bring the knowledge, techniques, capabilities and experiences I have learned in the United Kingdom back with me to Taiwan. Through methods of education and sharing, I want to improve what is lacking within Taiwan’s illustration and design education at the present stage, as well as to improve the quality of Taiwan’s illustration market.
Be a dreamer of the future!
Q: Is there anything that you could say to summarise your success so far Eason?
A: In fact, my art journey is not very well. As I just mentioned, my parents cannot understand what I am doing. They didn’t even come to my first solo exhibition.
My father once told me: “ Why you are so selfish? I feel like that you are not my child. ” I didn’t cry in front of him, but I cried when I back to my room. I tried harder than others to prove myself , but they still not really know what I am doing.
Fortunately, I can feel my parents are starting accept me to be an artist, although sometimes they are still says something to frustrate me, but I think that because they hope I can be better than what I am.
To sum up, although my art journey is not pretty smooth, but I still enjoy it, and I cherish all I experienced in this route. I believe I can be a great artist, illustrator and dreamer in the future, and so can you!
Books illustrated by Eason Ko
(Press the book titles below to find these books)