From illustrating to screen printing with Toronto-Based artist, Miles Tsang
I am a Canadian-born person of Hong Kong Chinese descent, both of my parents are creative types, so I’ve been appreciating and making art for as long as I can remember.
My style has simply come to me organically through years of practice, there has never really been a moment of discovery or feeling like I’ve “figured it out.” Like many, I always feel like there are things I can do better and am constantly humbled by the kinds of things I see other artists accomplishing on a daily basis. However, some things I do like that I can pick out from my own leanings are my sense of overall emotion, the rhythm, shape, and weight when it comes to linework, and the level of detail often achieved in a single image. It’s satisfying to figure out, pull off, and look at when all is said and done.
My Artistic Process:
It is pretty regimented at this point. Since I’m an illustrator, I usually need inspiration in the form of an idea or text to draw from. Then I research, and loosely sketch out different interpolations of the idea to establish a framework and test compositional and visual possibilities, often on paper or in my sketchbooks since I prefer the feel of pencil on paper when brainstorming. After this, the best ideas are brought into the computer and expanded upon in the digital realm, which is great for its flexibility. The piece is then enlarged depending on the level of detail desired, sometimes just to 50–66% of the final piece so I can go through another level of enlarging, re-drawing and detailing. Then the piece is fully-rendered and usually setup for screen-printing, which is its own thing (printing usually take 2–4 days depending on the size of the edition). Timelines vary greatly depending on the level of detail and the ease with which an idea can be arrived at, but I’ve had posters take anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks from nothingness to a stack of finished prints.
Creating Concert Posters:
I happened into band posters on a whim. I was attending art college in Ohio and signed up to a local music promo company at an internship fair around 2008. Though I began by doing typical office intern duties, the bosses noticed my drawing ability, and they also quickly got me onto doing lithographed commemorative posters for their gigs. Though this was unpaid work, this was the channel through which I was able to build a poster portfolio without “real life” pressures for the bulk of my college years. I eventually learned how to screen print in 2010 and began learning of the gig posters scene and day-dreaming of somehow making this my actual job. I absolutely adored the freedom of the niche and found a fountainhead of satisfaction and joy in the printing process. After college concluded, I was privileged with the opportunity to work in a recently-started local t-shirt shop, where I deepened my knowledge of the screen-printing process from a commercial perspective and learned about how to run a business. I eventually left the job and returned to Canada after my student visa deadline began to loom in late 2012 and settled in Toronto with no job, no professional connections, no studio, and an apartment that was quickly draining what meagre savings I had. Dejected but hopeful from this hard life-refresh, I became obsessed with becoming a “poster artist,” since I had zero other prospects, I didn’t want a day job, and knew it was something I’d do for free but wanted to get paid for (a great career indicator in my opinion). Like a good screen-printer, I learned to work within limitations and just hustled really hard for the next year, emailing everyone I could including bands, blogs, influencers, managers, merch companies, promoters, and venues, and showing up to shows with fully-drawn and printed stacks of posters hoping to scrape some attention and money. I managed to scrounge handfuls of small commissions and gigs and just did my best, drawing to the best of my ability and commuting to a studio an hour away every time I needed to print.
2013 saw big breaks in the form of Black Keys and Kanye West posters, which bolstered my reputation as an artist and printer. I was then able to parlay those profits into the construction of a studio in Kensington Market, where I spent many happy years drawing and printing up posters for some incredible clients. It’s been a long and strange trip, but I feel incredibly privileged on a daily basis to be at the relatively stable place I am now.
Art + Music:
I don’t have a specialized process for blending art with music. It’s generally just based on research and a passion for the band’s music. I often ask myself “if I were a fan of this band, would I like this poster?” And balance however I feel about that against my own proclivities. It’s a bit of a balancing act between what I know I want, what I think the audience will feel, and what should fit the artist’s brand, look, or vibe.
Most of the note-worthy folks I’ve worked with can be seen in the posters I’ve put out. Some of my favourites are probably Gwar, Iggy Pop, Foo Fighters, Kanye West, and Nine Inch Nails. Though a few were achieved via the aforementioned early hustle of simply cold-calling and emailing companies and connected people, many have also simply come to me via positive word of mouth from other clients. No big trick, just do it, be affordable (but respectable) in price, do it on time and be courteous and mindful the whole time. A positive attitude and level of stubbornness and grit (accompanied with style and/or earned talent) begets more work in any industry.
~ Miles Tsang
For more information visit: milestsang.com
Produced/in collaboration with Jeff Gorra: