Artist Spotlight: Iris Chen

Being still relatively young, Boomslank is still learning and growing a lot with every new endeavour. One of the things we have been fortunate to pick up is a stronger appreciation for artists, and the passion they put into their work. There aren’t many better places to see this on display than the artist alley. The alley is great not just because of the work that is on display, but also because of the fascinating individuals from whom’s mind those creations sprung. This past week I had the privilege of speaking with one such artist.

I met Iris Chen, aka Deathful, at the 2013 Anime Expo in Los Angeles, CA, where I purchased the print below.

Her day job is graphic design for a large corporation, but her passion is for art. Though she is very versatile, her art is often identified by original characters in dynamic poses and elaborate costume design. Every piece seemed to jump off the page in the way they seemed to draw one into the scene. When asked to describe her style….

“....from the beginning, I wanted to take what we consider to be an "anime style" and lift it to something even more ephemeral and influenced by fashion and design. I can't say I feel like it's always been one thing- but it's a culmination of everything I love and admire in other artists, stories, film, and life.”

Having studied in the design school at North Carolina State University, she was exposed to many art forms. She was able to benefit from the structure of a formal education, while still preserving and cultivating her own identity.

“It's hard to maintain your own style in school, because they are holding you to a standard that is completely decided by each teacher. That can unfortunately crush your style a bit- but I always sketched and did my own work on the side…..Splitting up what I learn in school versus out is a bit difficult. But I would say that the one thing school really teaches you is to meet a deadline.”

I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

With the obligations of life, Iris has not been able to get to as many Artist Alleys as she would have probably liked, but don’t let that fool you. She got her first artist alley table in Animazement in Raleigh, NC when she was 14. She also worked with Animazement to organize their artist alleys for years before she moved to California. That said, she has some strong opinions about what artist alley was, what it is now, and what it should be.

“I think Artists Alley, at the root, should be for the artists. To promote and expose new talent and be a medium for change and to be a real art movement. Currently, it is definitely a market place. It's closer to what a dealers room is than what it started as. I think the problem isn't just with the artists though, it's with the consumers. If consumers ONLY support those who do fanart, then you have artists (suppliers) who have to make fanart to break even or make a profit. But if we took out the promise of high profits from Artists Alley, I think we'd get back to that pure and ideal state of what it would have been and could be. The promise of profit and money has brought in a lot of people who are there to make money and the art is secondary.”

As you have probably already gleaned, Iris has a strong preference for original over fanart. For obvious reasons, we at Boomslank really like that about her.

“Fanart has a lot of pre-set boundaries. You have to make the characters recognizable, you already have things that you can work with and mold or tweak to your own style.... For me, that's too limiting. It's just not as exciting as doing my own thing, because I never know how a drawing I start will turn out. But with fanart, if I choose to actually do it, I want to do the best job I can. If I don't think I can do it justice, I won't do it.”

Having been doing the artist alley for 3 years now with, we understand the pressure that is on artists to create fanart for popular series. Iris believes the consumers are equally as responsible for the direction the artist alley has headed.

You can learn more about Iris on her personal page, where you can also see an extensive gallery, and purchase her work. You can also follow her on Instagram at , where you can find her daily sketches. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to this very talented artist, and fellow anime fan (her favorites include Cowboy Bebop, Tekkonkinkreet, Mononoke (not Mononoke Hime), Shin Sekai Yori, Mushishi, Aoi Bungaku,  Gankutsuou, House of Five Leaves, Guilty Crown, Iria, Petshop of Horrors and more). We hope to continue to enjoy her brilliance for years to come.

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