Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to become an artist?

My name is Debbie Fong. I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs, went to college in Boston, and moved to NYC in 2012 to start my first real job as a graphic designer at a small company making digital products for kids. I had always loved art and loved drawing, but I never really considered it a possible career path when I was younger. (For my traditional Taiwanese parents, convincing them to let me study graphic design was already a stretch!)

While working in NYC, I decided to go with a friend to check out a local comic festival (MoCCA Fest), not knowing anything about indie comics at the time. Instantly, I fell in love with the idea that artists could publish their own work on a small scale (in the form of minicomics and zines) and sell it directly to people. And, of course, I was amazed at all the different kinds of comics that were being sold – most of which looked nothing like the superhero comic books I was familiar with!

From then on I started exploring zines and comics as a format for my own work and found that I loved being able to create small and self-contained stories that were easily shared. I opened a small online store called POMMO Press to sell my zines and began tabling at zine fests and comic shows around the country.

Pommo Press: comics, charms, stickers and more by artist Debbie Fong

As my store grew I began to dream about taking on bigger projects as an illustrator/cartoonist, and eventually, I left my graphic design job and decided to pursue freelance full time.

 

How do you start your day?

My days usually start with me taking my dog Cooper out for his morning walk. Then, while Cooper and Murray (my cat) have breakfast, I make myself tea and sit down at my desk to start working. In the mornings I like to focus on administrative things and/or maintaining my online shop. Often I’ll have orders to pack up, which is a nice task to ease into my day since it doesn’t require much thought! During this time I’ll also plan out social media posts and answer emails. Generally, the real art-making begins after lunch and extends into the evening!

Artist Debbie Fong's office assistant, her cat Murray

 

What does your workspace/studio look like? What aspects of it are most important to you?

Artist and graphic novelist Debbie Fong's workspace

My partner and I share a home office in our Brooklyn apartment where I have a desk, workbench, and many storage containers full of inventory (prints, zines, enamel pins, patches, etc) and shipping materials. My desk and the surrounding area has gotten very cluttered with treasured objects over the years, but I like the feeling of being surrounded by things that bring me joy. It definitely helps to have a lot of art inspiration all around as well.

In terms of my workflow, my most precious tools are a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet, my iMac, and a label printer for shipping labels. Recently, I’ve also started to incorporate my iPad into the equation, using Procreate to thumbnail/sketch comic pages and sometimes to ink as well. It’s definitely nice to be able to leave my desk and spend a few hours sketching in the living room for a change of scenery now and then.

 

What’s your favorite medium, and why do you love it?

I do all my drawing digitally, but my favorite print medium is risograph! It’s a very popular print method among indie cartoonists who self-publish their work because it’s cheap, fast, and the overlaying of the transparent inks can give you wonderful color effects along with a very tactile print texture that resembles screenprinting. These days I print most of my posters and zines at SVA Risolab in Manhattan.

When you’re feeling “artist’s block,” what do you do to get “unblocked”?

This is still a tough one for me! I’ve found that the best way to reinvigorate myself and gain new perspective on a project I’m struggling with is to talk things out with fellow artist friends or to go to an industry event like a book release or networking night, since seeing what other people are working on always motivates me. The challenge for me is to actually make the plans to do these things, being a socially-awkward introvert!

 

What’s a favorite project that you’ve worked on so far in your career? What did you love about it?

How To Be A Person by Catherine Newman, illustrated by Debbie Fong

My favorite project to date is also the biggest project I’ve worked on so far: a 160-page middle grade illustrated book called How to Be a Person (out on May 26th).

From the outside, this book is a handy and fun field guide for navigating all sorts of adult skills, like doing household chores and how to wisely save / spend your money. But my favorite parts of this book are the chapters devoted to teaching compassion and thoughtfulness and generosity, which I feel like are such valuable and crucial skills these days.

How to Write a Condolence Note from interior spread in How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman, illustrated by Debbie Fong

How to sweep the floor from interior spread in How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman, illustrated by Debbie Fong

How to bring a little sunshine to older folks from interior spread in How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman, illustrated by Debbie Fong

 

As an illustrator, the most satisfying projects to work on are ones where you are 100% behind the content of the work, and that was certainly the case with this book where I felt honored to be able to bring the pages to life with my drawings. I’m very excited for this book to be released and get into the hands of kids.

 

What is your dream project in the future?

As an avid player of many delightfully-illustrated modern board games, I would love to someday be hired to do artwork and design on a tabletop game.

 

What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

Don’t be so worried about sticking to a well-defined artistic style! Let yourself evolve where your tastes take you.

Luchie Innovations illustration by children's graphic novel artist Debbie Fong

How do you balance work and art with personal life?

I’ve found that the best way to maintain that balance is just by sticking to a set schedule even though I work from home, so I can have at least a few evenings free every week. I’ll admit I’m not always the best at this, but time management is key.

 

How do you maintain your art career? Either in terms of marketing yourself, or developing multiple income streams?

For me, my goal is to make a certain amount of monthly income from my online shop while also working on long-term projects. Thankfully this means that my work varies a lot and encompasses a lot of different activities and projects that keeps things interesting! Besides working on books I also divide my time between product design, production and manufacturing, risograph printing, exhibiting at festivals, social media marketing, and more.

Pommo Press online shop logo by Chinese-American illustrator Debbie Fong

Debbie Fong comics festival table with products from Pommo Press

 

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the manuscript and art for a new story which will hopefully be my debut graphic novel! Stay tuned 🙂

Sample art from Debbie Fong's middle grade graphic novel, When We Get There

Connect with Debbie Fong:

www.twitter.com/debbiefongdraws
www.instagram.com/pommopress

Read Debbie Fong:

How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman, illustrated by Debbie Fong

See more art by Debbie Fong!

Contact Me About Debbie