This week we are fortunate enough to have Emerson Tung for Robot Envy’s Artist Spotlight!
Emerson Tung is a professional concept artist/illustrator born and raised in Malaysia. He studied Illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and graduated at the end of 2010. His recent clients include Hasbro, Volta and Applibot on intellectual properties such as Transformers, Warhammer, Star Wars and Galaxy Saga. His guilty pleasure food is fried chicken.
1.) When did you get interested in illustration and art?
I’ve been drawing since I was 5, and loved everything entertainment art related, from comics, cartoons to videogames, as I was growing up. I can’t exactly pinpoint the time when I fell in love with illustration, but I do remember robots, monsters and superheroes from comic books and Saturday morning cartoons sparking my imagination and giving me inspiration to draw. I would buy artbooks, comics, graphic novels, how to draw books and basically anything that had art on it. I even bought Magic: The Gathering cards just because they had awesome illustrations on them. To this day I still don’t know how to play Magic.
2.) What are your biggest inspirations, both style and artist wise?
I watched a lot of Japanese robot animes and read a lot of comics growing up, and I feel these are the strongest influences in my work today. Nature, history, culture and science are also great sources of inspiration for me. Sometimes I would look at video or picture of a crazy looking sea creature or insect and think to myself, “Is this really real?” The more you know about the world around you, the easier it is to create a world in your mind. Ancient architecture, vehicles, art and fashion – especially armor – are always a sight to behold for me, and is usually what I use as a foundation which I build my art upon. Mythology is also something I go to often to pull out stories to inspire the characters and worlds that I create.
As for artists, my biggest inspirations are Iain McCaig, Anthony Jones, Ashley Wood, Yoki Shinkawa, Dice Tsutsumi and Jon Foster.
3.) What were some of your favorite projects to work on in your career?
Back in 2011 I was contacted by Hasbro to work on a Transformers project. It was definitely a childhood dream come true. Growing up I had a lot of Transformers toys and I loved watching the cartoon. To actually be doing work for the company that made them was just unthinkable at the time for me, and you can bet I enjoyed every moment of it. Working on illustrations for Applibot was also pretty fun as they gave me a lot of artistic freedom.
4.) Does your cultural background affect the style of your work?
I would have to say yes. Hailing from an Asian country and getting my art education in the United States have somehow played a part in shaping the way I approach my art. Some have pointed out that my works feel like hybrids of Eastern and Western design influences.
5.) How do you keep the creative juices going?
I believe having several personal IPs going on helps a lot with that. When you have stories you want to tell, you’ll always be constantly thinking them. When I’m not doing anything I would usually daydream about the characters and locations that I would want to create and plot points in my stories. This helps me constantly have a source to pull from whenever I want to paint or draw something. Reading, watching historical and scientific documentaries, and basically any knowledge seeking activities definitely help too. There’s so many surprising and amazing things from our world that are stranger than fiction that could inspire you to create.
6.) What’s one of your favorite movies?
Memento is hands down my all time favorite movie. It’s still one of the most brilliant thrillers till this day in my opinion. I’d also like to add Pacific Rim totally knocked my socks off.
7.) Describe a typical day for you?
On a typical weekday, I work my full-time day job as a game artist from 9am-6pm. I come home, have dinner, then begin working on either my own personal work or freelance until I head to bed around 1-2am. This probably sounds like I do not have a life, but there are days every now and then where I would hang out with my closest friends for dinner, drinks, or a movie.
8.) Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring artists?
As cliche as it sounds, I’d say always be true to yourself. Draw what you are truly passionate about and don’t try to be someone else. It will show through in your art and define who you are as an artist. Quoting Iain McCaig, “Draw what you are passionate about because that is what I will hire you for, for who you are.” Always practice your craft because any time you’re not working hard at it, someone else is. When you think you’ve tried hard enough, try harder.
We want to thank Emerson again for letting us feature his artwork and for anyone who is interested in more of his work you can check out all his art shenanigans here: