Levin's Philip Sue knew he had to work twice as hard as everyone else.
The son of immigrant market gardeners, he felt the pressure and expectations to become a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. However, his NCEA results weren't great, and it was a surprise to his parents that he wanted to become an artist.
"I began with a one-year course at UCOL that led to a Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging (since replaced by the Bachelor of Creative Media). My classmates had been drawing all their lives. Yet here I was, just starting. I began to question myself. I started to fear and ask myself if I was on the right path."
"I knew that if I was going to be any good, I had to do more. If other students would do three hours of study, I would double that or more." He laughs as he recalls, "I'd stay so late that the security guards would kick me out of the building. Then I'd go home and continue to work until 2 am, or 3 am anyways."
Philip says another key decision to his success is that he decided early on to document every bit of the process behind his artwork in his visual diaries. Soon, his illustration grades started to rise from Bs to As.
In 2016, Philip was named the Top Visual Imaging Student. The following year he graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging, with a major in illustration and a minor in graphic design. Soon after, he secured work at Horowhenua District Council as an in-house Graphic Designer while also doing freelance illustration projects for clients.
"It was a journey filled with discomfort and excitement. I eventually became overwhelmed as my workload from my own freelance business continued to increase," said Philip. "I realised I needed to leave my day job and go full-time as my own artist. I was a little worried at first because not only are there many uncertainties being an artist but also as an entrepreneur. I also feared disappointing my parents because of the difficulties of securing a full-time job as a graphic artist today, let alone back in their day when artists would starve and struggle to find work. Although I enjoyed my job and loved the people I worked with, I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone and take this step forward to grow truly."
So, to chase his dreams, Philip resigned in 2022 after five years of employment to fully focus on his business full-time, and the mahi has paid off.
Today, the 27-year-old has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram and more than 60,000 followers on TikTok.
He has over 10,000 subscribers on YouTube, where he posts his art timelapse and process videos. He also has over 500 subscribers on his Patreon account, a platform where he creates tutorials and resources to help aspiring and seasoned artists alike in their creative journey.
"Now I work to my schedule. I get to spend more time with my loved ones and can fully focus on doing what I love at my own pace. I'm still in conflict with time, though, as the majority of my clients and audience are overseas, my online meetings and deadlines can happen in ridiculous hours of the early mornings."
The illustrator has worked with various creative industry heavyweights - Disney/Pixar, Sony Music, Adobe, and Awaken Realms. He also works with creative studios on games and animation projects. To further diversify his portfolio, he creates custom art for writers and musicians for their books and music album covers.
"My work depicts experiences, imagination and emotions through the form of visual storytelling."
One night, an agency working with Disney/Pixar contacted him through his Instagram account to work on an official illustrative poster for the new Lightyear animated film - a childhood dream was about to come true.
"At first, I was like, is this a hoax? It took a while to convince me that it was real. When they sent me their official non-disclosure agreement contracts and invited me into their Disney file sharing platform, I knew this was real."
Philip advises those starting out to build good strong habits, keep up with new trends, experiment, dream big, and do what they love.
"You never know when the next big opportunity will present itself. Keep putting yourself out there. I understand it can be hard for artists - we're often a bit quiet, and because our work is from the heart, it might feel quite personal, and the fear can sway us from wanting to share it with the world - but the world needs more of this. Remind yourself that discomfort brings growth and being vulnerable is part of being human and an artist."
Recently, Philip relocated to Auckland and is branching out with his art, preparing to participate in art and anime conventions selling his prints. You will find him at the Auckland Armageddon in October 2022.
You can follow Philip’s journey here: