Friday, August 21, 2009

Interview - Dawn Tan

Artist Dawn Tan in her VCA studio space

All illustrations/artworks here by Dawn Tan

Dawn Tan loves sandwiches so much she made this super-cute zine about it! You can buy one here for only $6.50!!

Mmmmm cheese sandwich.

I have to thank gorgeous Ebony Bizys of Hello Sandwich for introducing me to the beautiful work of Melbourne artist / illustrator Dawn Tan! Thanks Ebony!! Dawn's smudgy watercolours with delicate inky outlines are so engaging and so beautiful... and I adore her everyday subject matter - food and commercial packaging! Never has a Neutrogena foam cleansing product looked so lovely!

I also LOVE all Dawn's super-cute responses to my questions below! They made me giggle more than once as I put this interview together... It's not hard to pick up on Dawn's infectious energy and her love of good food! I was so excited to hear that her dream project would be to create an enormous human-height book filled with illustrations of pancakes, sandwichs, cakes, danishes and hot chocolates :) Awesome!

It was also extremely funny also to hear how Dawn's boyfriend tricked her into consuming ridiculous amounts of food during her 'All in a Day's Worth' project, in which she painted every single item she consumed in one day. He did it just so she had to draw more items! Ha ha! Cheeky!

Anyway enough of my babbling... read on for a very entertaining insight into the work of Singaporean-born, Melbourne-based artist and VCA art student Dawn Tan! Also be sure to visit her sweet blog and online shop to nab yourself one of her gorgeous little zines! ($6.50! - Hello!? What else can you buy for $6.50?)

Thanks so much for your time and all the beautiful images Dawn!!

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

Hello! I come from a tiny little country called Singapore. I was doing a design diploma back then when I decided to try my hand at becoming a part-time teacher, teaching art to kids at a little Japanese art studio. I relished the idea of being a designer and having to meet clients and all, but the rushing of deadlines and working in front of a computer all of my day wasn’t exciting me much. Instead, I found my part-time art teaching job to be more fun and engaging! Spending a lot of my time painting with kids, filling my hands with clay, paper collages, etc just made me realize how I really love the whole hands-on physical aspect of art. I spent a lot of time in the studio, just painting and learning from my colleagues who were all established Japanese artists. They taught me a lot when I was there. I was teaching yet learning at the same time! Just the thought of having my hands stained with paints after a long day at the easel, simply made me happy. And everything just kind of took off from there! And soon after, I decided to pack my bags and go for what I really love doing, and that’s to paint. I enrolled and got into The Victorian College Of The Arts/VCA and here I am, in Melbourne, schooling and exploring new stuff everyday, and I’ve been painting ever since!

Your work looks familiar! Where have we seen your drawings before…? (ie which publications, ads or exhibitions have featured your work?)

The wonderful Ebony Bizys from Hello Sandwich did a feature on me before, and so have a few other bloggers around the blog world. The blogging community is awesome! We bloggers share good art and crafts with each other. It’s great that way!

What have been some of your favourite drawings, special projects or collaborations?

It has definitely got to be my ‘All In A Day’s Worth’ project! I basically drew and painted every single item I used in just one day and made it into a little book, which I later turned into a zine! It was oh so super much fun because my boyfriend, after knowing what the project was all about, decided to trick me into consuming so much food, just so to make me draw even more items! It was crazy! Haha. I had to be true to the project and not cheat. So I drew them all! I couldn’t stop painting because of my fantastic amount of consumed items. It was such a silly, crazy but funny project and I had so much fun. So it was all worth it.

PS: You can buy this zine of mine from my online shop over at

Where do you turn for inspiration – nature, travel, books, magazines or the web etc?

Quaint Cafes! I don’t quite know why but I think it’s always the food and smells that inspires me and makes me think harder about more exciting projects. Other than that, I’d say Nature. When I first arrived in Melbourne, I’d walk an hour to school each day and back, and along the way, I’d pick rocks, twigs that came in funny shapes, leaves, just tiny nature bits really. These sort of stuff serves as an inspiration to a lot of my work. And I really like going to the David Jones Food Hall, just to look at beautiful food packaging. I love packaging!

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire?

Catherine Campbell’s sweet girls never fail to make me smile. Sarah Mcneil’s fantastic pencil drawn girls and animals, Laith Mcgregor’s biro men, and of course, Edward Ruscha’s text works. But you know what’s my all-time favourite? Quentin Blake! He’s my favourite!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I spend most of my weekdays in school, in my studio working on my own self-driven projects. I am the sort who likes having 7 projects on the go, all at the same time. I’d spend some time on each and hop from project to project. This way, it helps me to make sure I don’t get stuck on one project for too long, which is not a good thing because I get bored and my ideas run dry.

What would be your dream creative project?

To be able to create a giant (human-height) full-coloured illustrated book! Filled with all the food, pancakes, sandwiches, cakes, danishes and hot chocolates, I’ve tasted from different lovely cafes around in Melbourne. You see, I really love just sitting and painting in cafes. There’s always something new to discover, be it the people, smell or even new items on the menu!

What are you looking forward to?

To start on my dream-creative project after I finish my current project. Haha! I’m in the midst of making a tiny tippi tent out of fabrics patch-worked together. And also, I would really love for the day to come when I start showing in Melbourne galleries. Or galleries around in Australia would be awesome too! I’m hoping a chance would pop up soon! Just the thought of it excites me!

Melbourne Questions

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

I get most of my supplies from Senior Arts Supplies at Degraves, just because it’s near, the staff’s friendly and it’s on Degraves street (My all-time favourite street in Melbourne! ) I sometimes pop by Art Spectrum for watercolour book blocks. They have the best there!

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Over the weekend, my boyfriend brought me to Melba at Langham Hotel for a ginormous buffet meal. We were so stuffed at the end of it all. It was fun and the flatbreads that were made on the spot were Delicious with a capital D! But if you’re thinking of something more affordable, try Fandango in North Melbourne. They have one of the yummiest flatbread wraps around. I keep thinking about going back! PS: I like flatbreads!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

At a quaint café having brunch! I try and make it a point to explore new cafes/places every week. It’s fun and makes Melbourne even more exciting!

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

There’s this little push-cart waffle stall in Degraves Street. It’s at the entrance to the subway and I think a French guy runs it. They sell wraps too if I’m not wrong. It’s a push-cart + tiny corner sort of shop. I love the waffles there and the guy’s always so friendly and polite. He greets you with this huge ‘Bonjour!’ when you arrive and ‘Merci’ when you leave. It’s really sweet! And they have this wall at the side, all plastered with notes from all over the world. It’s kind of … kitschy in my opinion. Don’t know why, but it’s funny. Haha. You should go visit and buy yourself a yummy waffle!


  1. Loved the interview and I also knew her drawings but had no idea of who was the author.
    Now I know, thank you:)

  2. I love getting insight into illustrators and the story about how Dawn's paint-stained art classes inspired her was really heart-warming. I hope she manages to make her gigantic food-based artwork, after all! What a lovely interview.
    Lee Tran
    PS I wish I was in Melbourne to try that waffle cart.

  3. Little Lucy! So happy you love Dawn Tan too! I really enjoyed reading this interview and finding out more about her!
    Love Love
    Hello Sandwich

  4. yay for eating! yay for creativity! what a loss to kids that dawn is no longer teaching art, she sounds like alot of fun, as is her art.
    and note to lee from inside out, you really need to get to melbourne and sample the crepes from the cart. tres magnifique! x

  5. Lovely interview! And yay to Dawn for being a creative talent from our tiny but very pragmatic country :)

  6. oh how cute is she! i love how much she loves food! i love food that much as well hehe
    im definitly heading to the waffle cart :)

  7. Thanks Lucy for this wonderful opportunity! : ) And thank you for reading it and leaving lovely encouraging comments! I hope to keep teaching kids. And am still looking for opportunities here in Melbourne. To teach/organize art classes/workshops for kids. Haha. I'll never give teaching up! : )

  8. dawn is just MY FAVOURITE!

    I have the sandwich zine and it is just wonderful.

    great first photos and lovely interview~!!!!

  9. so charming and sweet! dawn is such a sunny spirit or at least thats what comes through in her creativity and in this interview. so glad you did this one. it was lovely to find out a little more about dawn x

  10. I love her drawings! they are "großartig" - like you say in german. Greetings fom bavaria! C*

  11. She's amazing!!...=D
    Love her illustration& blog

  12. Great interview, thank you Lucy!
    Dawn's work is amazing, really playful, positive and vibrant. Every time I come back to your blog, I know I'll be discovering new artists or places to visit, thank you for the daily dose of inspiration!

  13. Great post, and pics too, thanks for that. I have always loved Quentin Blake! I was very excited to see the new "Time for a Rhyme" feature in the September Storybox book, illustrated by non other than Quentin! The new feature "Time for a Rhyme" presents a read-aloud celebration of poetry and art for children and publishing these pages, StoryBox supports the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) , a non for profit organization working to defend every child's right to read.