Freelancer: Nini Sum

This week's featured freelancer is Nini Sum, well-known illustrator/designer, and 2009 winner of the Shanghai Cut & Paste live design contest...
Nini Sum is a freelance graphic designer/illustrator from Nanjing, now living and working in Shanghai. She has worked for local and international clothing and branding companies, and does web design, toy design, and oil painting -- a bit of everything. She's well-known for her pencil drawings, and for winning the Shanghai Cut and Paste tournament in the 2D drawing category. Nini has also just started her own screen-printing business, Idlebeats.

So tell us about your background. How did you become an artist/designer in Shanghai?
I've been drawing crazily since I knew how to grab a pencil -- used to draw my mom's face with a weird cabbage-looking hair on the wall of our dinning room and drive her insane. So later on my parents suggested that I to go to an art high school where I could spend 2 afternoons a week to practice the basic sketching skill.

For college, I decided to do something more than just drawing, so I picked a design school called Jiangnan University in Wuxi. About one year before my graduation, I woke up and heard a sound echoing in my ears "you should paint". I didnt think too much but just followed the instinct. I went back to Nanjing immediately and stayed there for about a year just working on oil paintings. Eventually, I went back to school with 14 oil paintings and threw a solo exhibit called 'Parallel Universes' as my graduation project. That might be the most important decision I've made so far.

What would you say your specialty is?
I love lots of art mediums; other than oil painting I also do portrait drawing, figure (vinyl toy) design, graphic design, and now: screen-printing art. It's very hard to say which one is the 'specialty'.

What kind of jobs have you had so far?
I've worked for both local and international companies as a freelance graphic designer/illustrator. My clients/employers include the government museum, an Australian T-Shirt company, an American card design company, a Shanghai designer clothing brand etc.. I also did some personal illustration projects and participated in several exhibits.

Which project are you most proud of?
The project I love the most is an album art creation for a US band 'Chris Kasper' Chris, found my oil paintings on Flickr and contacted me. After listening to their music for months, it ended up becoming an oil painting cover with a 10-page pencil drawing booklet.

What is the most challenging part of freelancing in art/design in Shanghai?
I read something online earlier says '10 tips for anti-social freelancers', LoL. Have to admit, lots artists and freelancers, including me, are not very social or just too shy to show off. I used to think that an artist should not talk too much but just spend his/her time on art. More and more I realized the importance of communication -- that's how the whole society works. Also sometimes great ideas and opportunities appear during normal conversations. So I suggest the arty freelancers communicate to the crowd more, but also focus on what they are doing and try to develop better skills.

How do you promote yourself and your work?
I usually publish my works and news on my website also other SNS websites like Flickr, Facebook, Myspace, Neocha, Douban, etc...

Sometimes I participate in group exhibits - both online and offline, also events. The Cut&Paste design contest I won last May was amazing, and I got a chance to go to New York for the global championship. Meeting cool designers and artists from all over the world was just fantastic...I also put some stickers around NYC, yeah.

What's the next step in building your career?
For IdleBeats, we just launched the website. Next would be throwing events, participating with other artists, and creating more art. We hope to start a screen-printing club in the future where people can just get-together, learn how to screen print and create their own art.

Personally, I have been dreaming to have a real solo-exhibition, with my paintings, figures, drawings, prints and all kinds of crazy creations, in a room set up like a weird outer space. It would be really fun.

To contact Nini Sum or view more of her work, check out her main webpage here.

Natalee Blagden

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