Woman Crush Wednesday.
We love to celebrate female movers and shakers who are successful locally, nationally, internationally, and most importantly, personally.
This week, we are so excited to highlight Tao Nyeu, the critically acclaimed creator of Wonder Bear, Bunny Days, and Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always.
.We asked her to share with us her story and her thoughts on success.
How did you get started in your field/career?
There was a day at work when my task, as a web designer at an advertising agency, was to look through portfolio submissions to find a suitable illustrator for a project. That is when it dawned on me that people could draw for a living. I’m still puzzled by the fact that it hadn’t seriously occurred to me before.
That moment was the first step of the journey towards applying to illustration grad school at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. From then on my goal was to be a picture book illustrator. I’d never stopped looking at picture books and I realized that I would love to create books for the rest of my life. That idea made me so excited. A future in advertising did not.
It took two tries to get into school. Although it did not feel so good, I’m glad it happened that way. There’s nothing like rejection to make you appreciate a good thing when you finally get it! In school I created a picture book for my thesis project, which eventually became my first published book Wonder Bear. I never expected the project to get published. My only goal was to have a portfolio that I could be proud of and shop around to publishers after graduation. It was after our thesis show exhibition, which was open to the public, that my work was seen by an art director from Dial Books. Much to my surprise they were interested in developing it into a picture book. It was my dream come true!
After graduation I also reached out to an agency that I admired, Pippin Properties Inc. I sent them a link to my website and also invited them to out thesis exhibition. After that, they extended an invitation for me to come meet them. It was a good fit and we’ve been together ever since. No doubt, they were an essential part in getting me started.
One thing I learned when I got started, when I was in school, and that I relearn every time I start a new project is that you have to be genuine in your work. It’s a super cliché statement, but so important and sometimes easy to forget. I can lead myself astray trying to satisfy what I think other people would like in a book and the result is inevitably bland and generic. It’s only when I really focus on what I think is important or interesting that I can create something that is worth sharing. That is not to say I don’t benefit from constructive criticism! But the core of any project has to be personal and from the heart. Oddly, sometimes the more specific the idea, the more universal it feels.
Tao Nyeu is the critically acclaimed creator of Wonder Bear, Bunny Days, and Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always. She won the Ezra Jack Keats Award and Golden Kite Honor for Bunny Days, and the Original Art Show Founder’s Award and Marion Vannett Ridgway Honor for Wonder Bear. Her latest book is Squid and Octopus: Friends For Always, a New York Book Show award winner and one of Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books of the Year.
She lives with her family in Southern California. You can learn more about Tao at www.taonyeu.com.