About

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Hi. My name is Mimi Chao and this is my personal/professional blog. I freelance in illustration design (story and character creation, children’s books, surface pattern design, commissioned drawings, etc.) and also have my own characters and products over at mimochai.com.

Quick Backstory

I have always loved drawing but you could say I took the long route to my current station. As with many children of Asian immigrants, my well-meaning parents discouraged me from pursuing art seriously. So I started my career in law. I went to UCLAw and worked as a corporate attorney at a big law firm for four years. While I will always be grateful for the experience, I came to terms with the fact that for me, the nice office and salary didn’t make up for lack of passion and purpose. I also realized being in a positive, creative environment was very important to me as a person.

When I finally made the daunting decision to do something about it, I started with a foray into strategy and management at a digital design studio. There I became familiar with the world of graphic design, FE/BE development, branding, marketing, analytics, etc., which continues to be very helpful. At the same time, I was unexpectedly growing my reputation in illustration and in March 2015 decided to take an even bigger leap of faith to enter the world of freelance and indie makers.

That’s where I am now, and I love it. It’s strange to think that growing up, I didn’t even know there was such a career as “freelance illustrator.” But drawing and telling stories that matter has always been my dream. For a long time I just thought it was a pipe dream. People often ask, “Do ever you regret it? Either going into law or leaving law?” And the honest answer is no, never. Looking back, each step has led me to where I am today, even if it didn’t look like it at the time.

Why Blog

It’s a scary but exciting time. In some senses I’ve come a long way, but I still have a very long way to go. I hope to document some of my thoughts, inspirations and learnings on this blog. I’ll try to not just focus on the success and joys but also the fear and failures. I’ve found hearing other people’s experiences to be such a source of inspiration and reality checks, so hope to pay it forward as best as I can.

I also just want a place to share some of my interests. Sharing into the abyss has always been a part of me—I had a Xanga way back when! I love contemporary art and all sorts of design, from graphic to architectural to industrial. I’m also very interested in travel, nature, technology, animation, geek culture, books and philosophy. Oh, and DTLA. I love my home, DTLA 🙂

Side note: I realized this all comes off as rather heavy. Let’s just also acknowledge that I also draw comic donuts, use emojis in almost every communication, and often respond to humans with animal squeaks.

You can find me on Instagram @mimochai.

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12 thoughts on “About

  1. Well first I found you in instagram and finally it leads me here. It’s kind a suprising to read your biography. Being attorney in the past, with what you’re doing now is completely different. How to build the courage to do things like what you’ve done? It must feels like throwing everything that you had and start everything from zero. It must be really hard to do things that you love. It must be hard also to explained it to your parents. But I always amaze to peoples who have courage to do the things that they want to do in their life. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Irma, thank you for your thoughtful comment 🙂 I have definitely thought long and hard about all of these issues. A quick backstory only takes a few sentences to tell, but it took me years to reach the decisions I did. Answers to your questions are too long for a comment reply, so I’ll try to share them in a blog post soon. I touch upon some of my thoughts in the Make Believe Reality post (e.g. Fear and Self-Determination). The short answer is that it’s hard, but a little perspective and a lot of planning help. Parents are a whole other story, but I am happy to say even my dad (typical Asian parent) finally came around and is supportive of what I’m doing now.

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  2. Hey Mimi, it’s very inspiring und motivating to read about your past and how far you’ve come to be where you are. I am kinda in the middle of it right now, about to quit my job after three years, trying to follow my passion even though I can’t see where exactly I’m headed at the moment. I really get it when you’re saying that all the things that happened, all steps you went through made sense in the end. I’m starting to see that, too, although my journey is just about to start. Reading your story gives me some extra courage and hope to keep following my dreams. Thanks so much for that and keep doing what you do! I would love to read a longer version of your backstory, warmest greetings from Germany.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts Lai, I’ll try to share more soon. And that’s great to hear about where you’re at. That’s already something few people can actually say. To be honest, when I took my first step I didn’t have a clear destination either. I just knew the general direction and headed there. Even now, I continue to iterate where I’m going, and realize there may never be a final destination. I think each step builds on the last, and in a way it’s good in the sense you that you keep challenging yourself to grow and to be open to what comes your way. If you haven’t read The Alchemist, I highly recommend it for perspective on this. Good luck and best wishes! 🙂

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  3. I absolutely love your drawings! Thank you for sharing your talents and inspirations with us. I’ve been thinking about making my own blog to document all the highs and lows in life because I want to share with others the joy I’ve received from my friends and families as well as the painful lessons that I’ve learned. Your blog has definitely inspired me to really start making my own blog and I’m so excited to begin this journey 😀

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    1. Thanks so much Gigi, I really appreciate your note. I definitely encourage you to blog. Even if you are the only person who reads it, as long as it’s about things you care about, I find the process of synthesizing your thoughts into a blog post is a very helpful practice in reflection & critical thinking. And you never know who you might affect with your words 🙂 Have fun!

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  4. Just felt like saying hi. I’ve been following you on IG for the longest time, and I just reached this page through your e-mail newsletters. Wanted to say hi because 1) was glad to find out that you’re a bruin also, 2) i was too shocked at the fact that you used to be an attorney. Anyways, I used to work in legal field (as a paralegal, and not my thing at all), and now am a freelance videographer/photographer. Kinda similar, except that i’m not as successful as you are, and that I’m planning to do this only until I get into accounting field… i don’t know why i’m writing all this, but.. just to say hi. I love your works btw, especially the donut series!

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  5. This is very inspiring, Mimi. I really love when Asians do something in arts and it’s not everyday you see them doing it. I saw you in When 5 fell and loved every bit of it. I hope you do great in your life and success kisses your feet.

    Just a quick question: When is your birthday?

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  6. I never write comments on blogs but I have been following your work for a few years now and to me, you’re an incredibly talented illustrator that is unique and true and kind. I know that it might be scary when you publish work (actually I don’t because I’ve never published work lol) but I can relate to the feeling. I get that feeling when I turn in a design assignment at work and say to myself “Damn I could have done that so much better, I need to get better, this is not good enough” etc. I read your post about your new work relating to Autism and how you felt as an Illustrator and I wanted to tell you that from the outside looking in YOUR WORK IS PHENOMENAL. Its so magical and beautiful. Keep going girl! You inspire me so so much. – A girl from Miami 🙂

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  7. This is such a touching comment to receive, thank you ❤ I really appreciate it. I know we're our own worst critics but I try to keep it motivational rather than discouraging 🙂 That's great that you are in school for design. I imagine with you, I would also tell you your work is great but would also totally understand how you feel about "I could have done better I need to get better!" Keep it up, the world needs good people to rise to the top. Wishing you all the best and thank you again.

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