Evyn Fong is a young artist living in Maryland, USA, with experience in costume design and an interesting combination of studies on her resume. With diplomas in fields like illustration, fibers, experimental fashion, garment design and concept art, her job couldn’t be more exciting: she is creating new worlds, with every illustration she makes.
The fact that Evyn is still at the very beginning of her career makes her perhaps the best candidate I could interview about costume design (especially since generally I know nothing on the subject): she has that enthusiasm and fresh approach that reveal those interesting facts that you usually never think of, nevertheless think to ask someone when interviewing them. She is constantly learning and experimenting with new ideas – and some of them she shares in this interview!
I fell in love with being able to transform yourself into someone completely different, or a fictional character
You are an illustrator with an obvious passion for costume design. Tell me a bit about that, what is the story there, how did you decide to learn about costumes?
Well! Back when I was a wee little munchkin, I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I was utterly and completely obsessed. I would, like, sit on the top of the playground with my flute and just play songs from the game nonstop.
I first started sewing so that I could make myself Link, Zelda, and Saria costumes when I was 10-11. I fell in love with being able to transform yourself into someone completely different, or a fictional character.
At some point, you were an intern for the California Musical Theatre. What was your job there?
Yup! I worked as mostly a free-roaming stitcher, helping out with whatever needed an extra body. I got to work on a lot of shows, but I think my favorite was The Little Mermaid.
We got to use official costumes from Disney – the puffer fish maid dresses took three people to lift out of a box, they were so heavy! I loved seeing all the crazy work that goes into rigging a dress for the stage. You wouldn’t think that Ariel would need seven tails, but that’s how many we made!
Are you a freelancer now?
I’m currently a senior Fibers/Illustration double major at Maryland Institute College of Art. I do freelance work, though, so I guess I am! Actually, a project I was working on recently for Runyon Saltzman and Einhorn won an advertising award, so that’s exciting!
Congrats! What project was that?
Thank you! It was a project to raise awareness of mental health and well-being in children by telling the stories of kids who had grown up with issues like depression. It’s available at http://walkinourshoes.org/ if you’d like to see! I’m really honored to be part of this project. I drew Lucy, the basketball player!
What if there was a world that was like feudal Japan – only, it’s actually Atlantis and all the battles occur underwater?
You have studies in illustration, fibers and experimental fashion. How did that influence your work, what are the most important things that school taught you?
Oh man. Well, I guess the first thing I learned was that double majoring results in your college experience being that of an… emotional sweatshop, hahaha. I never ever ever stop working. But, being around so many talented, creative geniuses makes that totally okay.
The main way my different studies influence each other is actually in the inspiration I get from one to the other. Making characters makes me want to make garments for them, and making garments makes me imagine the characters they go with. An ouroboros of work!!
Indeed! Your character designs are fascinating though – and their costumes are quite complex. What inspired you to create them, what did you have in mind?
Thank you very much! Well, I’m usually inspired by the idea behind a person or a situation. Like, what if there was a world that was like feudal Japan – only, it’s actually Atlantis and all the battles occur underwater? I’m really impressed with people who can create entire worlds in their heads – people who do tabletop gaming, and write stories. That’s a crazy gift.
I first get the idea for a person or character I want to create. Then I sketch out about a billion designs and make all my friends look at them.
What is your working process, when starting to create a new costume? What steps do you follow?
Huh! Process… Well, I guess I first get the idea for a person or character I want to create. Then I start thinking about how their circumstances and environment would change how they look, what they wear, and how they act.
Then I sketch out about a billion designs and make all my friends look at them. We end up choosing the strongest ones, and I start planning out how to make the design come to life.
It’s like architecture, really; you have to think of the body as a form that you’re creating a cover for. Usually, my designs change as I sew and get other ideas and influences.
[Tweet “Usually, my designs change as I sew and get other ideas and influences.”]
One of my personal favorites is the mermaid girl sitting in a tub. What is the story of that drawing?
Thanks! That’s actually a painting for Light Grey Art Lab’s Great Personalities exhibition. My character’s name is Fawn, and she’s a “method actress” that recently got a role as a mermaid and is using her daily life to learn how to… well, be a mermaid. I loved doing that piece!
Do you draw digitally, or traditionally as well?
I do a digital tonal sketch, sketch that out by hand, scan the sketch to do a color study, do a final graphite drawing, and then put color over that. So I guess it’s very mixed!
I do want to learn to paint better both digitally and traditionally, however. I’ve been looking at Alexandre Diboine recently – someday I hope to be that great! I know there’s a lot of pressure coming from MICA (ed. note: Maryland Institute College of Art) to not do “flats”, but I feel like it’s best to have a wiiiiiiide range of skills!
Tell me more about the part where you do the color study. What does that involve, for you?
I wish I could be more precise, but usually it’s just me pulling out some photographs or books that have color schemes I like, and throwing on tones until I get something that looks nice enough, haha.
Color really frustrates me, to be honest. I never took any art classes or lessons til I got to college, so I always feel like I should know more color theory! Gotta hit the books on that once I have some free time…
When we watch an animation, the “little” things the characters do are often what helps us connect with them the most
You also create environments. What is different about that, what do you need to pay extra attention at, when creating environments?
Ohhh, environments! What a love/hate relationship we have. I am obviously much more focused on the human figure and relationships, so environments are hard for me. I really love when an environment is done well, though – which for me happens when an environment has as much “character” as a, well, character does.
I try to focus on the specific things that give a place its emotional content and atmosphere. It’s a preference for me to make things look “lived-in”, too. I’m not too good at that yet, but I’ll keep working!
“Lived-in”, that is very cool – would that be something like leaving marks on the ground, or objects left behind?
Yeah! Or just the way something is hung askew on a hook, a pair of pants in the middle of the floor, someone’s socks being mismatched… I mean, when we watch an animation, the “little” things the characters do are often what helps us connect with them the most. Like, do you remember that scene in Spirited Away where Chihiro taps the toes of her shoes on the floor after putting them on at the furnace scene? Things like that really make drawn or made-up things seem real.
In your bio, on your blog, you mention “dreaming of creating a world of your own”. What is that like, what would Evyn’s world look like?
We-ell, right now it would look like a giant hole filled with pillows, endless supplies of snack foods, good books, and nothing to do but sleep and relax. Sigh!!
Just kidding! I guess my dream world is.. well, to be honest, it probably looks a whole lot like a ghibli movie feels. Lots of beautiful places, happy and friendly inhabitants, and adventures for all! I love the ocean, too, so lots of water. Oh, man, also anyone who hasn’t seen it before should google “Wat Rong Khun” right now. Now THAT is a beautiful place.
What are your future plans?
I would really love to try out work in four industries – concept art, freelance illustration, garment, and costume. I’m going to send my portfolio out and about into the world after I graduate, and see who will take me!
I’m also creating a line of ready-to-wear garments for my thesis, so those will be out in the world soon. I’m creating a whole lifestyle brand around these garments, so that’s what I’ve got up on photoshop right now!
Can we have a sneak peak at that?
Sure! I’m always updating my tumblr, but here are some images as well.
I think that 99% of illustrators are great, friendly, and all-around good people. We should all be friends!
If you had one advice for aspiring illustrators, what would that be?
Heehee! It’s funny you ask that, since I consider myself an “aspiring illustrator” seeing as I’m still a student. I guess, do what makes you happy would be my biggest point!
That, and keep an inspiring group of people around you at all times. In fact, you should email me so that we can exchange critique and ideas and tips! I think that 99% of illustrators are great, friendly, and all-around good people. We should all be friends!