Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Queenie Chan, and I’m a manga-style comic book writer-artist, an investor and a tech entrepreneur with a online book retail operation that runs entirely off print-on-demand called “The BentoNet”. I’ve been writing from a young age, but didn’t start drawing until I was 18, and only out of necessity to have someone illustrate my stories. Thus, I still consider myself a “writer who draws” rather than an artist. I published my first work “The Dreaming” in 2004 with publisher TOKYOPOP, and has worked with best-selling authors Dean Koontz and Kylie Chan on prequel to their series. I’m now working on fairytale inspired fantasy called “Fabled Kingdom.”
Where do you get your inspiration from when you draw?
I primarily see myself as a writer, so whatever I’m drawing, I’m always informed by the narrative behind it. I’m less interested in individual pieces of art than I am in sequential art, the way that you can string together a series of still images to convey meaning, themes, stories and ideas. I like to address universal themes, truths and archetypes in my work, because I’m interested in the things that everyone has in common with each other, rather than our differences.
What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?
Organised, weird, visionary, impatient, responsible
Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?
My first job was as a teenager working for my family’s business, which is a small investment firm I now run. It gave me a lot of business skills that I appreciate a lot more now as an adult. The irony about it is that outside of the family business, I had intended my first real job to be programming, since I have a degree in Information Systems. However, graduating in the middle of the dot com bust in 2002 meant that I ended up becoming a manga-style comic artist before coming back to work for the family firm.
As an artist, what is your biggest frustration?
Not being able to work fast enough! I have a lot of work to do, and I don’t get enough time to write and draw my stories! The story I’m working on right now, “Fabled Kingdom,” is a serialised story, hence the importance of getting things done on time.
Tell us about how you prioritise your art?
I spend a lot of time thinking about my work. It’s what I really want to be doing the most – pretty much everything else I do is done to support that, or to direct attention towards that. Like most people, a lot of my time is taken up with other work, but I set deadlines for myself and try and keep to them.
How do you connect with other artists, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)?
I used to facebook and social media somewhat, but I still find the best way to network is face-to-face communication. Running “The BentoNet” has helped me get my name out there too – it’s interesting how quickly people hear about you when you’re doing something different. Success is hard won in the tech sector, but I’m proud of what I’ve done, and it’s interesting to see what opportunities it will lead to.
Your advice to artist who are just starting out?
Pace yourself. Spend most of your time doing good work rather than promoting, because artists are rarely judged by ONE work, but by a BODY of work. I see a lot of new artists thinking that the way to promote themselves is through constant facebooking or tweeting about their work, but you’re just one voice in millions. Going out and meeting people will leave a stronger impression on others.
Tell us about your up coming SCG Group art exhibition at ArtSHINE Gallery?
It’s my first time exhibiting in an art gallery, so it’s very exciting. Comic art used to be looked down upon, but I take it as a sign of things changing. Perhaps contemporary art has come to the point where its exhausted itself, and people are seeking something new. A wise man once said that when something’s been around long enough, it eventually becomes respectable, which I think is what is happening to comics. All kinds of it.
What is your proudest moment so far?
Too many to list! I’m only 36, but I think I’ve achieved a lot. Graduating with my degree, drawing and writing so many of my own stories, working with famous authors, starting a tech company… all of them are sufficiently different that it’s hard to pick.
Who do you most want to meet and why?
Right now, it’s Bernie Sanders. He argued for worker’s co-ops, which oddly enough, gave me the “seed idea” for “The BentoNet”. I liked his message of sharing the wealth, and “The BentoNet” was formed around that. Regardless, I’d like to meet him and say “thank you.”
What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?
To not take things so seriously. I was always a very serious kid, who took failures personally, and a sign that I wasn’t hard-working or good enough. Now that I’m older, I know that people fail all the time, and that society is nowhere near as harsh as it seems on people who have failed. There are always second chances.
What book are you reading right now, and do you have a book you would like to recommend?
I just finished a book called “The Fourth Turning,” by Neil Strauss. It’s a book that looks at cycles of generations in history, and while it was written in 1997, it’s amazingly prophetic now. I believe in cycles in time, so this book had an interesting take on the subject for me.
Where do we find you and your products?
You can find a list of my books on my website and buy them through my store page at http://www.queeniechan.com/store. You can also buy the through “The BentoNet”! I wholeheartedly suggest buying off “The BentoNet” since it benefits local bookstores too!
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