Creative Futures 2012: Day 1 Part 3: Karen Cheung

Karen Cheung

Karen Cheung is an illustrator and animator with a quirky style, dark sense of humour and a particular interest in animal characters and dead things that probably stems from her being so awesome that she went to Cambridge to do zoology. (Seriously. That’s awesome!) She then went on to do foundation art, then did a second degree in an arts subject.

Enter competitions- you might just make it!
Headache Hotel runner up in a BBC competition
Won the Macmillan children’s picture book prize, but failed to get published
You don’t have to make things for children that are colourful or beautiful – but it will make it harder for you to get published.

After graduation:

  • Contacted by an agent (Jelly)
  • Every agent has a different set of target audiences
  • Try to keep your portfolio trim, don’t include everything you’ve ever done
  • Don’t just sit around waiting for them to come to you
  • 12foot 6; fitted the house style
  • Going it alone(ish)
  • Sometimes they will reject you
  • Dorling Kidersley (Educational Children’s book)
  • “A bit of a tart” illustrator means you pay your bills
  • MEET DEADLINES (Tight deadlines)
  • Be polite

Positives of having an agent:

  • They deal with the money and client; you don’t have to
  • Good if you’re shy
  • Good if you don’t want to spend time looking for work yourself

Negatives of having an agent:

  • They take 30% cut
  • Security? What if they drop you?After university:
  • Be brave
  • Persevere
  • Work even harder
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Self promotion
  • Websites and blogs
  • Selling work
  • Take part
  • Turn up on doorsteps!


The main thing that I took away from this talk was just how uncomfortable I would feel working for an illustration agency. Yes, there was the benefit of having regular work and so regular pay, and that’s not worthless and I’m not going to pretend to be willing to be a romantic starving artist. I don’t want to advertise cars, or sportswear, or  other things that I actually know nothing about. I would do advertising for charities or organisations that I support, or products that I actually think are important for people to have if they can (e.g solar panels, chicken coops) but to be honest, how often is that going to come up? We’ll see how many months or years of being a romantic starving artist it takes to change my mind!

This entry was published on March 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm. It’s filed under Creative Futures, University, What I Learnt Today and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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