Interview - Chopsticksroad

For my first interview in a terribly long time, we have the lovely Teressa Ong of Chopsticksroad talking about her beautiful illustrations and some of the inspirations behind them. 


Your work has a fantastic, distinctive aesthetic to it, how did you initially get in to illustration? And how do you think your style has developed over time? 

I’ve been drawing pretty much my whole life but I started trying to do more ‘proper’ looking illustrations when I started the animation course in polytechnic school because we were introduced to this important thing called ‘portfolio’. Such an uncool way to get into illustration though. :B My style has developed a lot from being in an animation course, I pay attention to character posing, colours, shapes and a bunch of other things which I never did before. I’ve always been very easily influenced by other artists’ works so I’ve never felt that I have my own style but I think I’m putting more of ‘me’ in my works now.  

Do you prefer working more in digital or with paints? I love the brushes that you use in photoshop too, did it take you a long time to find the perfect ones?

I definitely prefer to work with paints or traditionally in general, I feel a deeper connection with what I’m painting if it’s done traditionally And I like getting to stick my face close to a painting, to see the paint strokes or colour pencil markings and getting my hands covered in paint. I only found a process of working digitally that I like not long ago so I’m starting to do more digital work nowadays, plus it’s faster to get an idea down with colour. I’ve been in search of the perfect ones since high school, haha! I’ve tried making my own a few times and I actually made one which I was happy with but the day I tried Kyle T Webster’s pastel palooza brush, it was such a magical moment! I’ve been using his photoshop brushes ever since


You seem to post quite a number of collaborative pieces of work, what is it that you enjoy about working with other artists? And how does it compare to working solo?

I really enjoy exchanging ideas with another artist to start a collaboration piece, there’s always moments where we start throwing out silly ideas. I love the fact that I’m working on something that another artist (I hope) also enjoys working on and it is really interesting to see the mix of different styles. We’re each working in our own style/way, away from each other and in the end, despite how different our work looks, when the final piece feels right somehow, it’s such a satisfying feeling! I do things a bit differently or bring myself a little out of my comfort zone when I’m working on collabs and I pay more attention to every thing I do. Not that I don’t do that when I’m working on my own but because it’s a collab piece, there’s a sort of need to make it different or special, while still having fun of course. 

What has been your favourite collab piece of work so far? 

I think that would have to be the most recent sailor moon piece with Abigail and Krystal! I love both their work and they are such incredibly lovely people which I still think it’s insane I get to call them my friends. I thought of a silly collab idea and I didn’t expect that they would want to do it but they did and drawing food was involved. (I’ve recently realized I like drawing food to amuse myself) I think I had the most fun working on this collab piece. 


As you work as an illustrator — is there a particular person, company, show, that would be your dream project to work with?

Working at Laika will always be my dream! I love everything they’ve done and I’ve always hope to get a chance to be part of a stop motion project. 


All of your characters are so beautiful and charming, if you were given the chance to illustrate a copy of any book, which would you choose and why?

Gosh, this is really hard to pick! I think I would love to illustrate “The One Hundred and One Dalmatians” the most. I only got around to reading the book for the first time last year I think but I’ve wanted to read it for a long time because ‘101 Dalmatians’ is my favourite disney film. I love both the book and film the same, not to sound cheesy but they hold a special place in my heart. There’s more characters in the book and personalities of some of the characters are different from the film, story is kinda different too so it would be all sorts of awesome if I could illustrate the book. 

What has been the most precious piece of feedback you’ve received about your work?

I can’t remember the exact line but it was feedback from one of my lecturers in school & it was something along the line of “Add the white highlights to the eyes, it will make the character look alive”. It’s just 2 white dots added to the character but it makes so much difference. 


Also, the most valued bit of advice given to you about making art, or your own work?

That would be to ‘keep things simple’. It wasn’t only said to me but it’s been said by a number of people. I’ve always kept my work pretty simple because I found doing detailed pieces really hard but sometimes I get caught up in trying to make a piece ‘impressive’ that I forget that keeping things simple is the best. I’ve been told a few times my work is too simple though, so, a tricky one that I’m still trying to find a solution to.

You do lots of beautiful art swaps and gifts on tumblr, how did that begin and which have been some of the most memorable? 

I think it all began when I painted a postcard piece for Brian Ignacio back in polytechnic school as a thank you because he’s work was a major inspiration for me. When he said ‘Why are you so awesome?!’ & was alright with me sending it to him, it was so surreal and one of the happiest moments for me. It makes me super happy when my work makes others happy. Plus, it makes me feel like Santa which links to one of the most memorable art swaps I’ve done and that is with Matt Hayton! We’ve actually traded art a couple of times because we kept painting for each other as thank you’s, haha! Getting mail from him always feels like Christmas. An art swap with Paul Harrison was really awesome as well, he gave me a piece right out of his sketchbook which is nuts since I consider sketchbook pieces to be the most precious. Another is not really an art swap but it was sorta a swap, I painted cats for a lovely lady called Diana and she sent me a whole box of German snacks in return! All the art swaps, giveaways etc are all memorable, I don’t think I could ever stop doing them. 


Finally, are you working on any big projects you could give the readers of the internet a sneaky hint at? 

I’m not working on any big personal projects though I wish I am :B But I’m working on a graphic novel/motion comic thing at work, titled “The Abominable Norman”, it’s the biggest project so far, plus I’ve never really drawn comics. Hopefully people will enjoy it when it’s done! 


It was so wonderful getting to learn more about Teressa and some process behind her work, I would buy a illustrated book of hers in a heartbeat! You can see more from her below. 


By Ágústa Sveinsdóttir, in this industrial, contemporary collection of jewellery from a graduating student of the Iceland Academy of the Arts, the whole collection features dust as a vital element. Making the viewer consider the value that we place on materials and transforming waste to something precious. 

By Ainslie Henderson, this haunting video was created for the British band James' song Moving On — the animation is a stop-motion creation made from yarn and is one of the most emotional animations to feature as a music video that I've seen. Touching stuff. 

By Bjarke Ingels Groups (BIG), such a visually impressive architectural maze constructed in the National Building Museum in Washington DC. The concept with the maze, has you enter from the outer edge with a restricted obstructed view, that gradually becomes clearer and easier to navigate as you progress toward the centre. 

By Nava Lubelski, working with the idea of destruction and restoration, tearing and cutting stained areas of a painted canvas then carefully repairing them with embroidery. The web-like structures over the larger holes are beautiful and embellish the repair work in such a precious way, the contrasting colours on the final image really stand out for me too.

By Zim & Zou, this extraordinary window display for a Hermés store in Barcelona is entirely made from paper and leather. Made wholly by hand ‘The Fox’s Den' is a complete habitat with stunning details like paper-cut pictures on the wall of the fox's life.


By Shaun Bloodworth, this is one of the most stylish, and beautiful short films I have had the pleasure of watching in a long time. Ernest Wright & Sons is one of the last hand-makers of scissors in England, and boy, are they good at what they do — my own trusty fabric shears are made by them, and this film shows off their traditional craft perfectly!


By Alban Guého, situated near the entrance to a hotel in France this strange, tactile installation is an abstract interpretation of an ancient Greek myth, the work is titled ‘Medusa’. The long wool fibres look so tempting to walk through under the installation, lovely stuff.


By Nastaja Duthois, these wonderful embroideries some huge scale that manage to fill large space, and other smaller intricate pieces—all work with negative space in a brilliantly effective way, and I especially like the black thread images. 


By Tara Donovan, these wonderful installation/sculptures, each one made out of one easily produced material are beautiful accumulative pieces of work that have such a huge effect on a empty gallery space. The towering columns are my favourites by far. 

‘because the surfaces of my work do often shift and follow the perspective of the viewer, there is a perceptual movement that coincides with a person’s physical movement within the gallery space.’