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Featured Illustrator

Esther Goh

November 2018

Gif obsessed? How did you animate before you even knew what animation entailed? Well Esther Goh, Illustrator and art director, utilised powerpoint (🤣) working through every transition to create awesomeness for her school projects when she was young — we looooove this! Esther fills us in on her journey to where she is now and some awesome tips on starting out and developing your own style.

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

I grew up with strong interest in creating things. In my teenage years I spent most of my time drawing, designing brochures, t-shirts, funfair tickets, banners and websites for school, making animations in powerpoint (using every existing transition), and obsessing over animated gifs and digital painting. I knew early on that I wanted to be an artist, but didn't realise at the time that what I loved doing also involved design, which is an entirely different field. When it came to tertiary education, I was torn between visual communication design and interactive media design; but having considered the prospects, I eventually decided on the latter.

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

As with many people, I first began with crude attempts at drawing directly from references, which taught me about forms, anatomy and lighting. Over the span of a few years I had learned to paint realistically and found creative ways to compose my images. Rene Magritte and MC Escher were among my first artistic influences, so the ideas of surrealism and illusion have always stuck.

By the time I had the chance to integrate illustrations into my digital designs at my first job, at local design agency Kinetic, my style has evolved into a mashup of psychedelic colours, as seen in the project Maki-San. I also love discovering hidden details and finding humour in an image, so I guess it reflects a lot in my work.

I think illustrators can further develop their own style by broadening their minds and moving away from their current inspirations to study other types of work that they don't normally look at, be it by traditional or contemporary artists. Also, experimenting with colours, composition, scale and perspective is another way their style can evolve.

What do you look for in a great client?

I love working with clients who respect the work we do. They are the ones who are most likely to be open to suggestions, are not hell-bent on approaching things only in one particular way and trust that I produce illustrations that meet the brief and work for their brand. After all, besides my skills, they are also paying for my creative input and years of experience.


Be sure to offer something unique because that's the only reason discerning clients will pick you over everyone else.


What does a typical working day include for you right now?

My schedule varies from project to project and can be very irregular, but I frequently start work in the afternoon. Half the time I would be clearing emails, making artwork revisions and updating existing clients as well as working out quotations to send to potential ones. I would occasionally check on my work-related finances, manage invoices and log payments and bills on spreadsheets.

As for the illustrations, once I'm done with the tedious admin tasks, I like to have an uninterrupted stretch to work on them, usually through the night. The process can take days or weeks, and it involves putting together moodboards and references, brainstorming, sketching layout thumbnails, filling in colours and trying out a bunch of colour schemes to find the right one. When I'm happy with the colours, I proceed to add details and textures, but of course with the client's approval during the various stages.

What advice would you give students starting out?

  1. Figure what you want in your career, plan the necessary steps to get there and work relentlessly towards it.
  2. Put up only your best works online. Spend lots of time promoting and establishing yourself on portfolio websites and social media platforms.
  3. In commercial illustration it's best to be versatile in terms of style, but don't blindly copy whatever is popular at the moment. Be sure to offer something unique because that's the only reason discerning clients will pick you over everyone else. And these are the clients that you want to keep.

Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

Professionally I would like to work on more global projects and self-initiated illustration series, reinvent my illustration style and experiment with more mediums. Personally I aim to check off items on my bucket list and go backpacking more often. Parts of my professional and personal life tend to overlap, so I guess for both aspects working and living in new cities will be a welcome change too.


Instagram: @esther.goh

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