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The Q&A: Sally Deng

By Peggy Roalf   Monday February 19, 2018

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [ your current locale ]?

A: I was born and raised in the eastern part of Los Angeles. I haven’t moved far from where I was born—my studio is literally only about a 15 minute drive from the hospital. I don’t know if it’s cliché to say this but I really do love how diverse LA is. The mix of people and culture are always a source of inspiration. If I’m feeling particularly misanthropic, the ocean and the mountains are only a short drive away.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: I have a notebook where I sometimes take notes or do quick little thumbnails but I don’t really keep an “artist’s sketchbook.” I tried to be cool like my friends who fill book after book with amazing drawings but I just couldn’t.

My art is at least 95% analog (if not more).


Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: My laptop. How else will I procrastinate? Second would be my scanner.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?

A: This may be too arbitrary but I know it’s finished when it feels “right.” Like many artists, I’m super-critical of my own work. I’m extremely nitpicky and my eyes are always trying to find things to fix. If I find myself stopping for a second and actually be able to appreciate the piece as a whole, I know it’s at least close to finished.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? And what is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: My feel-good book was All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. I read that book the way some people might re-watch episodes of their favorite TV show. A friend recently introduced me to The Wheel of Times series by Robert Jordan. I’m not a big fantasy reader but I’m really enjoying it.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: Acrylic paint.


Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: After college I started being more active and began surfing, running, hiking, and camping. As a result, I think my body is thanking me by allowing my brain to come up with better ideas for my art.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art?

A: Jay Defeo’s Pigeon will always have a special place in my heart. That painting made me realize how powerful silence is.

Q: What was the strangest/most interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice, and what changed through the process?

A: I haven’t been at this business long enough to come across anything strange but I’ve recently been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write and illustrate my own children’s book. It’s really interesting to see the differences in the publication world vs. the editorial world.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Guo Qiao Mi Xian, loosely translated as Crossing the Bridge Noodles, which is a rice noodle soup from Yunnan province in China. I love rice noodles. I remember one summer where I had rice noodles for lunch every day.

Sally Deng lives and works in Los Angeles. As a child, she used to play in the back room of her family’s small restaurant. This somehow led her to wanting to become an artist and she is now doing that full time. Along with publishing illustrations, she also exhibits her work in galleries.
Website: www.sallydeng.com

Instagram— @sa.deng

I will have a children’s book published by Nobrow Press this year, tentatively set for a June publication date. 

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