ON VANCOUVER: CARSON TING
After working at agencies for over 15 years, WNW Member and Vancouver-based creative #6643 Carson Ting has ventured out on his own, navigating the freelance world in a city where the freelance community is still getting its footing. While the creative scene may be laid back, there is still a vibrant mix of creative award shows, art shows, creative crawls, and more if you know where to look. Luckily, Carson's here to help.
For those on a budget, this pricey city is fortunately surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Carson tells us that doing something outdoors is valued over the typical post-work cocktail: "It's important to break away from shop talk and actually live a life. As creative people it's important to stay in touch with the outside world. Otherwise, we'd be creating work that only speaks to ourselves."
Carson gives us an inside look into the creative scene and outside world of Vancouver. He also created the series of original illustrations, below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background.
I was born and raised in Toronto (some consider it to be centre of the universe - ha!) and moved out to Vancouver over 8 years ago to work for my then dream ad agency, Rethink. Now I'm a father of a 15-month-old daughter named Audrey - the funniest person I know to date. My wife Denise, whom I met back in Toronto, helps me run our illustration company, Chairman Ting Industries. We've done work for adidas Originals, Microsoft, Kidrobot, Infiniti and more.
After busting my butt for over 13 years as a full-time advertising art director I decided to go freelance so I could mix up the type of work I get. I now do illustration work, murals, photography work, app design and of course, advertising art direction. I love the variety of work I get as an independent and I also feel so much more creative being able to work in so many different mediums and roles.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on an illustration project for TEDx West Vancouver, an illustration project for a Mercedes Benz print campaign with the guys at 123w, a mural for the Vancouver Economic Commission, a mural for a coffee chain in Calgary called Phil & Sebastien, and am also freelancing at DDB Vancouver.
Any dream projects?
My dream project right now is to produce a collection of personal paintings and finish up a mini documentary film I've been working on since 2013. Commissioned projects are great, but I really want to spend more time on personal work so I can stay fresh creatively. I've always believed in the importance of side projects.
What are you into these days? What are you reading, watching, etc.?
I'm not entirely sure. I've been working around the clock for a very long time and the only thing I want to do with my spare time is chill with my family. I wish I could say I'm into some obscure indie drama show from Japan or something cool like that. But I don't watch much TV. I always feel left out in conversations when people talk about shows like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones.
When I'm deep into my illustration work, I usually listen to Radio Lab. It's a podcast series from NPR. It's absolutely fascinating stuff and I can't get enough of it. I'll even listen to reruns when there aren't any new ones.
What's your favorite thing about living in Vancouver?
It's cliche to say this, but my most favourite thing about living here is being surrounded with such gorgeous natural scenery like the mountains and the ocean. The city is also very small, so it's very walkable and convenient. In terms of challenges, I think the advertising and design community is really small, so there isn't a lot of room for creatives to move around - compared to the Toronto market. People tend to stay longer at agencies here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but as a freelancer I would definitely like to see the agency pool expand.
How did you find your way to Vancouver?
Through a recruiter. An opportunity came up to work for Rethink. I wanted to work there for the longest time and had tried to get into that agency for years and when the recruiter called about the opportunity, I jumped on it. I've been living here ever since.
Have you lived elsewhere? Tempted to move and if so, where?
Toronto. I've only lived in two different cities in my entire life. I've always been tempted to live in Amsterdam or Berlin because I hear there's a lot going for both cities in the arts and design scene. I still think about it from time to time, but it's hard to leave Vancouver. Both my wife and I love it here.
...a magical place with a big price tag.
What’s something we'd be surprised to learn about Vancouver?
Favorite neighborhood spots?
My favourite spot has to be Stanley Park and the sea wall. It's just minutes away from my place and it's got one of the best running trails I know to date. I always start running from my neighbourhood in Coal Harbour and go around the sea wall which is almost a perfect 10k distance and swing out of English Bay for a coffee. My wife and I love walking around the west end and chilling out in English Bay.
We're hungry! Where should we go?
My absolute favourite cafe is in the west end called Green Horn Cafe. It's fairly hidden inside a quiet residential area so it's less busy and they also make a killer cortado. The owner is a fellow named Walter. He's super friendly and always loves to chat about his collection of motorcycles. Vancouver has such an amazing culinary scene so naturally, I have a lot of favourite spots. My top three places are Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown (hands down, the best sable fish dish I've ever had), Les Faux Bourgeois, a causal French restaurant in the Fraser area (killer scallop dish!), and lastly, I'd say Don't Argue!, a pizzeria in Mount Pleasant. It's not fancy but I get really excited every time I go there.
Give us the inside scoop: any hidden secrets about the city?
There is this hidden pathway in east Vancouver near my studio. The path goes right through these old train tracks and underneath the Sky Train overpass. The path is hidden because it's a very industrious area and no one ever goes through the area by foot. I love that spot because you'll always find interesting graffiti work on the walls of these two abandoned buildings. It's also a great spot for a photoshoot because you have the train tracks and the Sky Train above you. It's a great mixture of the old and new in one spot.
There's also a back alley by my studio at 1000 Parker where you'll find a collection of the most densely graffiti'ed walls in the city. It's a little creepy at night because there's a mannequin tucked in a corner and another one hung from above.
What is the creative scene like?
The creative scene in general is fairly laid back. There isn't a lot of after-hour get-togethers among the advertising community where ad guys go to hang out for drinks. Everyone here just goes out to do outdoorsy stuff like biking, running, kayaking and etc. I personally much prefer it this way. It's important to break away from shop talk and actually live a life. As creative people it's important to stay in touch with the outside world. Otherwise, we'd be creating work that only speaks to ourselves.
Although the creative scene is fairly laid back, one can still find a pretty active and exciting creative scene if you dig deeper. We have our monthly Creative Mornings talk, Lotus Awards (which came back after a one year hiatus), the annual Eastside Culture Crawl, Pecha Kucha and at one time we had the Cheaper Show (a fun collective art show featuring 200 artists around the world) and of course, there's the popular indie art blog, Booooooom.com that my friend Jeff Hamada runs out of Vancouver.
Any organizations there helping foster the creative community?
My friend Jeff Hamada, who runs Booooooom.com, is always actively fostering the creative community here, whether it's getting a bunch of people together to build tiny boats out of twigs and setting them free on a lake or getting people to submit drawings of stories from their past. Jeff is always thinking of new ways to engage with the creative community. We also have fantastic art colleges like Langara, IDEA School of design from Capiliano University and Emily Carr that hosts portfolio reviews for their arts and design programs.
Any WNW members whose work you admire? Why?
Lara Palmer. I've admired her work for a long time. I remember seeing her work in award annuals since I was in art school and have continued to see her work evolve over the years. I finally got to meet her when she freelanced at Rethink and she's equally as nice as she is talented.