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10 Questions with… Etsy Artist Nicole Dong

Kylie King

Senior Nicole Dong balances her academic achieving status while pursuing her remarkable illustration talent on Etsy. As an entrepreneur, she paves the way for young aspiring artists who thrive in art and consider taking their art to the next level. Her process from the drawing board to the final sale demonstrates her unique feature as an outstanding student.

Tell me about when you started your art journey. When did you realize you enjoyed art?

I always like to draw and I’ve been drawing since elementary till now. In elementary, I usually drew My Little Ponies and Pokemon. When we had recess indoors I would draw using the art book that the classroom had because it was relaxing. 

What artist do you admire the most?

There are a lot of artists that I admire, especially on Twitter or X as it’s called now. If I had to pick my favorites or the ones that I remember their usernames, it would be Mogoon, Askziye, and Yoneyama Mai.  

What is your favorite type of medium (Drawing Tool)? Why?

I love sketching with the mechanical pencil. It’s super convenient and I like how smooth and sharp the lines are. I also like doing digital art ever since I got into it which I think was in 2020. Digital art is very intricate, and you can make cool effects with the software. I think it also gives the artist more freedom because they can use many layers, they can always erase and undo, thousands of brushes, and a lot more. The biggest game changer is probably the layer system. You can lock, clip a layer onto another layer, change opacity, change layer mode, merge layer, and more. Digital art I find is just more convenient, though nothing can beat sketching with a pencil in your sketchbook.

Tell me about your process of drawing.

First I choose my canvas size, somewhere around 2500 x 2500 px and 300 DPI. I usually have a reference for my subject if it’s not an original character, and start with the pose. After I like the pose, I start sketching on its clothes. If it was for a customer, most of the time I would do multiple sketches. Sometimes I get sloppy and have to sketch the sketch. Then it’s onto the line art, I would turn the opacity down for the sketch and make a new layer on top for the line art. After [that], I would make multiple layers for base colors. Then, I would start shading, clipping multiple layers onto the base color. For final touches, I make a new layer on top of everything else and add highlights or hair strands. I draw pretty slowly, so each drawing probably takes around 8+ hours. 

How do you handle creative art blocks?

When nothing looks good for me, I would try to get inspiration from Pinterest, or just simply do art studies. If I can’t even do that, then I won’t fight it, I’d probably just hop onto Roblox. I try drawing every day though. A lot of people think that’s a lot, but even 5 minutes, you can get a quick drawing done. Some people can sit down and draw for the entire day while I struggle to draw for an hour without looking at my phone. Now, if I’m working on a commission then I wouldn’t have much of a choice, but usually, art block doesn’t last that long. We are not machines, but don’t be afraid to discipline yourself.

Any Tips about drawing Anime?

If you are just starting, just draw and copy art that you like. You should treat anime characters as a 3D object, yes anime is in 2D, but to get proportions right and improve, you should try to imagine the basic 3D shape underneath. Use a lot of references, and when you feel ready, try drawing it from memory, go back, and make corrections. If I were to start over, I would focus on drawing the body, then the clothing, and shading. Order doesn’t matter all the time, but for example, you can’t draw the clothes folding over the body if you don’t know what the body looks like underneath all the clothes. Pinterest is a great source for references and Twitter is a great source for anime artists.

When and what inspired you to start an Etsy?

My sister, Shiryln, said I should start selling my art online. I think she got the idea from seeing artists on Instagram or something. So on June 28, 2021, I started an Etsy.

How is your experience on Etsy?

Overall I had a positive experience. My account got disabled one time and I was scared because I was working on a commission. I was able to contact Etsy and got my shop up and running again, it was an error on their part. The people who commissioned me have been nice and decent. I’ve never met anyone rude. There were some stressful moments when the drawing wasn’t turning out the way I wanted, and it wasn’t like I could quit halfway because the drawing was not for me, but for someone else who already paid and was excitedly waiting. There were some times when I hated what I drew, but just pushed through it and, usually, it wouldn’t be as bad as I initially thought. Getting an order is always super exciting, and when the customer is really happy with the art, it is the next best feeling. 

Any tips for anyone who is thinking about starting an Etsy?

When you start, you should first compare yourself with other people making similar art as you. Look at their pricing, their terms and conditions, their workflow, and how they display their craft. Be kind and honest with your customers and communicate with them. For me, I display how long customers are expected to wait, what I can and cannot draw, how they must confirm the sketch for me to work on the line art, and so forth, give email so I can send the final and no refunds. I never take a commission that I am not comfortable doing, even if they are willing to pay. Respond within 24 hours and always state your appreciation for their patience.

What are your plans after school? How does art stay in your life?

At first, I wanted to attend art school or get a degree in art. However, after some consideration, I decided that I’d be doing accounting instead. I heard accounting is a stable job, and it isn’t the most difficult thing in the world. Maybe if I really tried, I could’ve gone with the art route, but my art is nowhere near where I want it to be, and I didn’t focus on growing a social media platform. So, the plan is to get a stable boring job and have art as a hobby or even a side hustle. If one day I was making a bunch of money from art alone, I’d quit my job and fully commit. Seems like it can only be a dream, but that is the goal; to be a freelance artist. 

What is an art dream you have?

I want to be a freelancer like Sam Does Art and Ross Draws. I want to make videos on YouTube and be able to have an income off of that. Maybe one day, I will start a Ko-fi or a Pateron, sell an art book or merch. But above all, I want to draw as well as the artists I follow on Twitter and be able to support myself on top of that.


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