Celebrating a 20 year reunion

My old high school reunion happened the other day, with the class of ’97 from Meriden celebrating at a local cafe. As a gift to a bunch of 20-year old friendships, I decided to draw a reunion picture of everyone, using a style I haven’t tried before. It’s a soft watercolour look, which is a first for me – most of my other work has very strong colours. This went for deliberately soft and feminine.

This is a cute, super cartoony style which I thought my friends would like, which they did. I used some tools I haven’t before, namely a Uniball-eye pen from Mitsubishi (ultra-micro). This claims to be a waterproof and fade proof pen, and I used it probably because I was hoping to use watercolours for this picture.

I ended up doing digital water colour, using warm colours like yellow and pink. This was done in Clip Studio Paint with its watercolour function, only the second time I’ve done it (I normally use the airbrush function of Photoshop CS2). The results were nice, which was unexpected – I’ve not done any soft watercolour I’ve liked before, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of this colouring thing. I also worked from very loose sketches – as seen below.

Colouring Tests: Fabled Kingdom Chapter 1

I’ve been doing some colouring tests, with the goal of moving towards doing colour comics. Despite having drawn comics for almost 20 years now, I feel that my biggest weakness has always been my aversion to colour. After drawing manga-style black-and-white (or greyscale like The Dreaming) for so long, I think I’ve done all there is to do on that style of art, and it’s time to move onto something else.

For this reason, I’ve been looking to build a colour palette I’m comfortable, and learning to use it. I started colouring Fabled Kingdom art from Chapter 1 as practise, and so far, it looks surprisingly good. Each took 2-3 hours at the most to do – I deliberately limited myself to the amount of time allowed since colouring is about speed as well as quality.

In the end, I’m actually looking for a more simple colouring style, so my colour comics will probably not look like this. I’ll probably aim to change my drawing style to something more cartoony and western to suit a two-tone colour palette, unlike this one which has 3-4 tones for each colour.

Bizarre Note: I’ve shown my colouring to a number of people, and while most agree that the colours look beautiful, some openly preferred the greyscale version. Interesting to see why they do that, but hey, everyone has their preferences. At the end of the day, what matters is the story and characters.

VR Painting: Using the HTC Vive

Just wanted to show off a doodle I did in Google Tiltbrush, a virtual reality painting program. This was done at Mod Productions at Suite 25, Level 2, 647 George Street Haymarket Sydney NSW 2000. You can book them to do virtual reality sessions (hourly).

Painting in 3D is really a different thing completely to painting in 2D. I’m not sure there is much application for comics in this space, but I’m interested in 3D modelling in VR, especially because 3D modelling on a computer screen is a nightmare. I’ll be going back to Mod Productions to play around with the VR headsets more in the future!

“Fabled Kingdom” v1-3 is Done!

Hi all! Having spent the last few months just racing to the finishing line for “Fabled Kingdom“, I haven’t had much time to blog or do anything else. So here is so updates and new doodles professing my love for the anime “Mob Psycho 100″.

Fabled Kingdom News: I just got the edits for the last chapter of “Fabled Kingdom” v3 back today, and there’s no major changes. There’s about 2 more pages I feel I need to add to bring some closure for 2 characters that will make the 3 books feel more self-contained, so I’ll look into doing that. Hopefully I’ll get those copy-edits sorted, and then the book test-printed in the next few weeks. I’ve also started to write book 4, but I’ve decided to take a year off to produce a “World Bible” for “Fabled Kingdom,” so I can properly flesh out the religion, politics, clothing/building designs, map and history of the continent before I continue, since book 4-6 happens partly in the Kingdom of Westerwick.

Art Evolution: After I’ve finished “Fabled Kingdom,” I started drawing with biros for no apparent reason. I was stunned by the freedom I have with the linework – here’s some Mob Psycho 100 fanart that I did just to test out different biros. I’m liking it so far!

I randomly found some highlighters, and decided to draw this picture of Mob.

Ritsu was just stretching when his brother approached from behind. Mutual observation?

Lord Reigen gives Mob his “Sorcery Crush” massage, but hits a bit too hard. Reigen, Mob’s a teen, you don’t need to give such a strong massage.

Fight for the last takoyaki. Who will win? (ANSWER: Dimple licks it, and no one wanted it after that)


What I’ll be doing for 2017:  Experimenting with more biros. I’ve got 2 other shorter projects in the works, one of which the script is already complete. That one is the second half of “Short Ghost Stories“, which has been nagging me at the back of my mind since 2013. I’ll get these other stories done, so I can get this out of the way permanently. The other is an experimental graphic novel, which is the first of the kind I’ve done, though I’ve got to iron out the script first. Lastly, the “World Bible” for “Fabled Kingdom” will be the background project.

Fabled Kingdom: Art Exhibition + BentoNet Launch

Hi all! Many exciting things happening this month, namely the launch of The BentoNet and my first art exhibition at ArtSHINE gallery, called “Celebrations” that is a joint exhibition with a group of Sydney Comics Guild artists.

Event: Art Exhibition + BentoNet Launch
Where: ArtSHINE Gallery, 3 Blackfriars St, Chippendale, Sydney NSW 2008 (15 min walk from Central Station, Opposite UTS)
When: 25th June, 2016. The exhibition is from the 25th June – 20th July, 2016
Time: BentoNet presentation is from 1:30pm-2:30pm on the 25th June

I spent some time preparing my Artist Statement and Artwork Statements, and my approach is particularly unusual, especially when compared to the kinds of artists who exhibit in art galleries.


Queenie Chan: Artist Statement

As a practitioner of the ‘ninth art‘ (comic strips), I am interested in bringing the narrative of comics – rather than just the art of comics – into art galleries. My approach makes me unusual among comic book artists, but I have always considered myself a ‘writer who draws.’ As such, I come with a unique viewpoint in how I regard my art, and the place art has in my work.

I’m interested in stories, and the ideas, symbols, archetypes and social critique that can exist in them. Comics involve art, but is really a medium for story-telling; the essence of the form is best expressed through sequential arrangement of a series of images and a blend of words and pictures. What is the best way to bring this into a gallery space? How can one distil the base ideas of a narrative into a form that is digestible on a gallery wall? These are all questions I want to ask.

Based in Sydney, Australia, I have been published both nationally and internationally, and had my work translated into multiple languages. I also run a start-up company called ‘The BentoNet,’ which has the goal of being an infinite bookshelf for independent book stores.

The following works are in a series, numbered 1-4. The series title is “Fabled Kingdom”, and apart from them being in a sequence, they are also tied to my “Fabled Kingdom” books in ideas and thematic content.


Artwork Statement: Fabled Kingdom Series #1/4

Title of Work: Red Hood: Primal Archetype (#1 of 4)
Medium: Pen and Ink, Digital
Dimension Framed (HxW): 400mm x 300mm

Little Red Riding Hood is one of the most well-known fairy tales, but its heroine is a blank slate. She wanders through a series of surreal events that makes little logical sense, but which is abstract enough that we insist on investing our own ideas and emotional baggage into the narrative.

Red Riding Hood is always nameless, but her journey through the woods is often interpreted as a naïve, young girl stalked and eventually consumed by a wolf-like representation of male sexuality. It’s seen as a lurid story of innocence debauched, but it also has sexist connotations – the fact that Red Riding Hood is never depicted as a boy is very telling. However, because she is such a cipher, she has also unwittingly become the most widely-recognisable female archetypes in our pop-culture landscape. Her red hood is literally visual shorthand for “young, female, and a victim.”

But is Red Riding Hood doomed to such a fate? If her red hood is so widely-recognised that it’s become iconic, need it remained tethered to a narrative that always ends with her ravaged? If you remove her from the woods, and place her (and all she represents) into a different environment, how would that play out?


Artwork Statement: Fabled Kingdom Series #2/4

Title of Work: Out of the Woods (#2 of 4)
Medium: Pen and Ink, Digital
Dimension Framed (HxW): 400mm x 300mm

Red Riding Hood’s encounter with the wolf in the woods is always depicted as a threatening scenario of an innocent girl about to be led astray. This part of the story is so well-known that the outcome is a foregone conclusion – either rape, or temptation.

When I wrote “Fabled Kingdom,” I decided to subvert this outcome by altering the relationship between the wolf and Red Riding Hood. By revealing very early on that the wolf is Red Riding Hood’s father, the lurid threat of male debauchery that the wolf always represents is effectively neutered. You can see me depict this in the panels – the wolf’s gaze is more sad than lustful, and its pose is neutral.

In my story, the wolf instigates her journey out of the woods, and away from the original ending of her story. As such, the wolf almost takes on the role of a “wise old man,” opening up a world of possibilities for Red Riding Hood. Instead of becoming a sacrificial lamb, this archetype of “young, female, and virginal” now has a chance to find a better ending.

This is significant. Traditionally, the reason why the role of women has always been tied to home and hearth is because they were forbidden to travel long distances. Since we live in a different world now, the only modern outcome for Red Riding Hood’s story is to literally expand her horizons and have her embark on a Hero’s Journey.


Artwork Statement: Fabled Kingdom Series #3/4

Title of Work: Into the Halls of Power (#3 of 4)
Medium: Pen and Ink, Digital
Dimension Framed (HxW): 400mm x 300mm

“Fabled Kingdom” is a fairy-tale mash-up, but for deliberate reasons. I’ve established that Red Riding Hood is the embodiment of “young, female and virginal,” and nowhere are those traits more valued than in traditional depictions of female royalty, whether in fairy tales or in real-life.

In my story, Red Riding Hood leaves the wild, untamed woods to seek her true parentage in civilised society, the pinnacle of which is represented by cities, castles and royalty. Instead of being ravaged, she discovers that she is a princess of sorts. At this stage, it’s easy to forget that princesses, despite being promoted in our society for their beauty and frivolity, actually serves an important purpose – they were originally political figures, and stood close to the centres of power. In this story, power is not defined by physical beauty but by political, cultural and economic influence – all of which are attainable by a female political figure if she plays her cards right.

The halls of power are filled with no less danger than the woods, but it’s a different kind of danger. In the woods, Red Riding Hood has no recourse but to be swallowed by the wolf because she’s the symbol of “young, female and virginal”, but in the halls of power, these very qualities could become useful tools that will make her a power player. At the end of the day, power is about projecting an image, and Red Riding Hood’s original story was also about projecting images – the image of a female victim, as our society tends to view it.

But need it be that way?


Artwork Statement: Fabled Kingdom Series #4/4

Title of Work: Manufacturing the Black Virgin (#4 of 4)
Medium: Pen and Ink, Digital
Dimension Framed (HxW): 300mm x 210mm

Being a visual narrative, comics has the potential to challenge existing beauty ideals. Fairy tales are a global phenomenon, but its origins are still very Germanic, and therefore lily-white. Despite the best effort of Disney and other media companies, their efforts to create princesses that are people of colour have been awkward at best.

Since it’s been established that Red Riding Hood is a symbol of “young, female and virginal,” it’s telling that she is always depicted as pale-skinned. Our society subconsciously equates purity with whiteness, a visual hierarchy that is played out daily and across the globe, in mass media and advertising. There’s no denying that dark-skinned black women are more frequently depicted as hyper-sexual, if they’re depicted at all, and their sexual exploitation is seen as less of an outrage by the same exploitation of pale-skinned women.

Which is why I went out of my way to create a dark-skinned emissary in my story, who hails from a kingdom full of people who revere dark skin. I did this with the goal of expanding representation of dark-skinned women, which is only just beginning to happen in our mass media culture. To show that the narrative of black women is still evolving, I have deliberately left the background to this picture blank, and framed it differently to the other pictures. Hopefully in the future, symbols of female beauty, purity and virginity will include women of all skin tones.