Illustrator, Letterer and Graphic Designer Ann Shen‘s empowering new book “Bad Girls Throughout History“ is making its debut this weekend. As a graduate of University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Art Center College of Design, this Los Angeles based creative has worked with the likes of Anthropologie, Huffington Post, The New York Times, Papyrus and Mattel. The FIDM Digital Arts team was fortunate enough to interview Shen to gain insight into her unique and inspiring first book.
[FIDM Digital Arts] Tell us the process you went through when creating the illustrations for “Bad Girls Throughout History.”
[Shen] “For each woman’s portrait, I pulled up lots of photos to do studies (if possible, there were some historic women where only one painting of them ever existed!). You can’t paint from one direct photo reference because the photographer owns the copyright to the image. So, I’d sketch from multiple photos, drawing them from several different angles and versions until I felt like I had a good grasp on each person’s face and posture. Then I’d sketch the final version, send that to my editor for approval and proceed forward with painting them in gouache. From there, I’d scan them at high res and clean up a bit digitally before sending them over to the design team.”
Where did the idea of “Bad Girls Throughout History” come from?
“‘Bad Girls Throughout History’ came to be during a school assignment that was very open-ended — we had to make something that we could make an edition of 10. I chose to do a zine. Zines have a root in riot grrrl subculture that was big in the 90s when I grew up, so the idea of doing a zine about women felt natural. I was towards the end of art school at that point, and really struggling with finding my own voice vs. listening to what teachers/peers considered “great” work. So I started reading about women who did unexpected things and made their own paths in all sorts of fields, and that grew from there.”
When women flip through your book, what is the most important thing you want them to feel, realize or know?
“That there are little sparks in all of us, and you don’t have to do a big major thing for it to be a big deal.”
What do you think it means to be a “Bad Girl?”
“Being a ‘Bad Girl’ to me is someone who pursues the fire in her heart and makes her own way; not letting societal standards or patriarchal structures hold her back.”
Any advice to those wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
“Be ready to put in a ton of hours to always be improving your work, and get very educated on the business side!”
The book launch of “Bad Girls Throughout History” will happen at FIDM Grad-owned Shout & About, a stationery and gift card shop located in Echo Park, Calif. Graphic Design Alumna Tamara Houghten started this store just six short months after graduating. Read our interview with her here. Be sure to shop around and check out Shen’s book launch this Saturday, Sept. 10.
All image credit goes to Ann Shen. Check out her website here to see more of her work.