The Illustrious Wendy Ding

By Filip Terlecki

I first met Wendy Ding at a Toronto Fashion Week show when I snapped a photo of her eclectic 20’s inspired outfit. Fashion shows are as much fun for the styles on the runway as they are for the curious people that attend them. Wendy definitely stood out. That’s her, right here (on the right)…

Subsequently, I learned that Wendy is an illustrator and I became fascinated with her work.

Born in China and raised by her grandparents, Wendy’s childhood was filled with drawing, cartoons, picture books and stickers. Later, she lived for a period in Lancaster (UK) where she was introduced to Barbie and picked up a British accent.

In 1995, the Ding family took flight for Canada and Toronto has been her home since. Wendy’s love of art and drawing persisted and she attended Sheridan Institute’s BAA Illustration program.

As a specialist in digital illustration with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, she’s worked full-time as an in-house designer as well as a freelance artist. She’s been invited to sketch portraits at special events such as LOULOU magazine’s Shop Til You Drop Spring 2012, TIFF 2011, and Rethink Breast Cancer’s fundraiser gala Boobyball 2011.

Most recently, Wendy’s been developing an illustration portfolio that embodies her other loves: fashion and music.

“If I could do things differently, I would have kept my British accent,” Wendy confesses. “Due to the culture shock of a new country and wanting to fit in as a child, I got rid of it.”

Accent or no accent, here’s my Q&A with Wendy:

What inspired you to be an illustrator?

It’s something I’ve loved since I was a child and the one thing I’ve remained unconditionally passionate about. I also feel it’s the most authenticate and meaningful way to contribute myself to the world.

How would you describe your illustration style?

I would say it’s fun, colourful and cheery.

What work/project are you the most proud of?

It’s so hard to choose! I guess as of now it would be my Food Girls series as that’s what most people know and remember me for.

Is there an illustrator that you look up to?

There are many! Off the top of my head I would say Jessica Hische is a great role model. She’s young yet super professional and seasoned. I love that her once-pet project Daily Drop Cap became the launch pad of her successful typographic / illustrative driven body of work.

Not only is her work impeccably elegant and pretty, she also provides practical business advice in a humorous tone on her blog, shedding light on information that’s all too important. Her infographic Should I Work For Free? and The Dark Art of Pricing are two of my favourites.

If you could sketch anyone in the world who would it be?

The first name that came to mind was Lady Gaga. Because A: her face has some amazing angles. B: it would be amazing and so much fun! And C: it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll wear.

You recently did an illustration inspired by the music of the band MGMT – can you tell me about it?

I once read a magazine quote likening their sound to being “filtered through a kaleidoscope”. That conjured up such a rich visual so I aimed to capture their psychedelic essence. Being a fan of their music, it’s no secret I created the illustration to the soundtrack of their albums as I wanted to fully drop myself in MGMT-land.

I looked up photos of music instruments, the view inside the kaleidoscope and researched recent photos (or as recent as the Google search went) of the band as they’ve officially gone from a duo to a quintet. Process wise, I started with a pencil sketch on paper then created the final in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

I hear that now you’ve got you artistic crosshairs focused on MIA? Why her and what can we expect?

Artistic crosshairs, I like that! There’s something about her choice of lyrics, raw energy, schizophrenic fashion sense and attitude that I find so irresistible. She’s very vibrant and I’m attracted to colour so she’s the perfect muse. I haven’t started brainstorming the illustration yet so I don’t know what we can expect. I did an illustration of her in my Fashion Journal series.

What’s the best/most difficult thing about being an illustrator?

The best thing is the freedom to choose your own projects, clients and schedule. There’s almost nothing better than that in the working world. At the end of the day you feel fulfilled, refreshed and proud of your work.

The most difficult is keeping a steady stream of work. There are busy periods and dry spells so it could be a challenge at times to make a consistent living. The important thing is to keep making new work and reaching out to an audience. That way your portfolio stays fresh and the world doesn’t forget about you. I touch upon the topic in my blog post Life as a Freelancer.

What’s on your vision board?

I don’t actually keep one, I should. I started a digital one a while ago which I haven’t put much on either. From what I remember there was a pair of shoes Alexander McQueen designed for Lady Gaga, Jeanne Beker, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and pictures of ice cream, sushi and a tropical beach.

What’s your dream illustration assignment?

My most long-running dream assignment is to create imagery for a major fashion brand in a campaign. Would love to see it on billboards, package design, commercials and magazine spreads. It’s nice to know brands such as Tokidoki, Escada and L.A.M.B. use illustration in their products.

My new dream assignment is to go on tour with a band as their official illustrator. You always hear of official photographers but not illustrators. It would put a new spin on how a band is captured on stage and candidly. And with all the practice I’ve been getting at my portrait gigs, I think I’m now confident enough to take it on the road.

What illustrator do you think the world need to know about?

My friend and fellow Toronto illustrator Selena Wong. Her work is oh-so-beautifully intricate and tiny. I think she once showed me one of her paintbrushes and it literally had the tiniest brush bristles I’ve ever seen.

If you could have dinner with 5 historical figures who would you invite?

Coco Chanel, Josephine Baker, Gil Elvgren, Alfred Hitchcock, Queen Elizabeth I.

 Look out for Wendy’s profiles of her favourite designers and illustrators on in the coming days.

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