how the hell I finished the most complicated illustration ever.

FastCompany is one of my favorite magazines. Once I said that to an illustrator friend, he looked very surprised and asked me why I like reading a business magazine.
Maybe it has something to do with my corporate background (I was in corporate PR for 11 years before I went back to art school). Maybe it is something to do with that I constantly think of myself, a freelance illustrator, as a small business, not more so, but as well as being an ‘artist’.

When FastCompany called me for a double page opener, I got really excited. Then I took subway down to their beautiful office in World Trade Center overlooking WTC Memorial for a meeting, and soon realized what I got myself into! It turned out to be, as far as I can remember every editorial job I have done in past ten years, the most complicated piece I would ever end up working on.
I will show you the result first.

The story was about Coursera, an innovative online higher learning which may change the way we think of college education. They wanted a space filled with different students from all over the world listening to a professor talk. Oh boy, what did I get myself into??? But for my favorite magazine, I should just try to do the impossible!

Initial sketch after the meeting. ‘it’s good, but we want more people fitting into the spread’. Oh boy.

So, here is the revised sketch. We decided to slightly distort the perspective, so students are smaller as they go farther away from the professor.
Sketch get approved! Now what? Non stop drawing for days and days.

Here is me drawing. Non stop for days. I have downloaded some college student photos, but I soon ran out of characters, and started filling this out thinking of some of my personality-filled friends and acquaintances.

I cannot thank my studio-neighbor Jungyeon Roh enough. I finished the drawing on Friday, then I had to take off to speak at Illustration Conference ICON7 in Rhode Island. While I was traveling, she helped me as coloring assistant. This was what I asked Jungyeon to do. fill in the basic colors, so I can tweak and fix when I came back on Monday morning.

Here are some details of finish. Every single student here is different. Because I ran out of ideas, I sneak in some people I know, like the red-head beard guy is my current studio-mate Jacob Thomas, and I am the one on the right hand corner with bangs with red polka-dot dress…

And some Jewish men from neighborhood, as well as my friend Sara Varon’s former Olympian boxer husband in du-rag, aged Harry Potter, single mom and maybe even Stefan Bucher makes the cameo.

I cannot believe I finished this! And this is how it looks in the magazine. (They flipped it the other way) What’s cool is I subscribe to the iPad version.

To be honest, I am not sure where I had the energy and stamina to start and finish this on time. But, isn’t it also what I love about my job?: accomplishing something unknown, scary, and not sure if you are able to do it. Then you just do it, and the satisfaction you get from getting it done!

Last but not least, big thank you to Creative Director Florian Bachleda (who has been extremely nice and supportive since I was just starting out) and Art Director Alice Alves. Thank you for challenging me with creativity.
And here is a little extra: the view from Fast Company office! Oh wow.