Jess Chen


Artist/Graphic Designer

So firstly, how'd you get started as an illustrator and a 'professional cat doodler'? What's the best thing about it? 

So I've always been into drawing ever since I was a kid, and from the get-go I always knew I wanted to be involved in art as a career in one way or another. I was very lucky that my parents were very encouraging in my passion as they nurtured my creative side by sending me to art lessons after school, and it was my mum who suggested I go into graphic design as a career. As for cat doodling, it actually really came out of nowhere... I started drawing cats as a subject and I have so much fun drawing their form and just kept going. The best thing about it is drawing all these slightly overweight felines in food-related situations and seeing people enjoy the final result as much as I do!

What's been your favourite medium to use for doodling? Why? 

Watercolour has always been my go-to weapon, but I love using the Procreate app on my iPad... it's so intuitive and it feels like the real thing except I can actually use the undo button. 

And of course, we've got to ask... why cats? 

They are such delightful subjects to draw! A round but slightly compressed head, two little witch hats for ears, a small triangle for a muzzle, and an elongated sausage for a body with smaller sausages for limbs... and they can get into odd postures and still look right. 

You have a pretty good following of 2.3k on your Instagram and post all of your work there. Do you have any tips and tricks for a budding illustrator who's looking to start their own gram?

Post post post! Just keep posting, keep going and don't stop. Follow other artists that inspire you and comment and like their work, and tag art-sharing instagram accounts in your work, in which they will share to their accounts. Eventually you will gain traction and a following... it will be slow and start off small, but it feels so great to see people from other parts of the world love what you do. 

As an instagram user and etsy seller, how do you view the role of social media in an artist's practice?

I think it's really important, and in order to do this really well, you really have to take advantage of it and be savvy businessperson without coming off like you are treating it like a business. I'm in no means a pro and I'm very much still learning even after being in this for 4-5 years, but having an Instagram for an artist is a must as it's like having a small, portable gallery in everyone's phones. 

It's so cool to see that you've made all sorts of things like stickers, enamel pins and prints for your online stores. What's been you favourite project or work so far?

I absolutely love seeing a zine come together! Concepting, drawing it out, then printing on my trusty ol' HP, fold and binding it and choosing a washi tape from my vast collection to tape the spine... it's very time-consuming, but when people pick my zines up at markets and start laughing and calling their friends over, my heart sings with joy. 

What does the future hold for you? Any cool projects coming up that you're looking forward to?

I would love to create a 2020 wall calendar by Christmas, some new zines and enamel pins, and new collaborations! I'm also looking at a second solo show sometime in the future, and I would love to release my own children's book someday! 

And final question - do you have anything you want to share with the world? Could be random shower thoughts, something deep or just a quick ramble.

It's okay to take a break. I feel like we don't hear this enough, and as ambitious young people we want to keep doing our best, some of us want to keep making something to leave our legacy, but I know many of us work on our passions so much that we forget to rest and we burn out, and the moment we do rest, we feel guilty and lazy. I want to validate everyone and tell you that you are doing your best, but you're also human and without health (whether that is mental, physical, emotional) you can't do anything. So listen to your body and heart, you're not being lazy by taking a week, or a month, or even a year off from your art or passion... you can always come back to it when you want to, your passion won't grow legs and walk away, it's going to wait for you patiently until you are ready to come back. You'll be refreshed, inspired, and bursting with ideas. Trust me, because I've been through this very recently and it works.