Tou Her (Studio Tou)

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Artist Name: Tou Her

What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other?

I consider myself to be a Jack-of-all-trades.  I like it all and wear many hats.  Each has its own set of challenges, but the one thing that I enjoy most is the connections it brings to people when they view the art.

What kinds of work do you currently do or what kinds of projects have you done in the past?

Right now, I’m working on a variety of things.  I get commissions from realistic portraits to cutesy illustrations.  I also do character designs and work on my own IP’s when I can.  It’s a lot to juggle but it’s all worth it.

Could you talk about how you got into art or doing what you do today? What’s your story? What made you want to pursue this path? Were there any challenges you had along the way?

As a kid, I liked to draw a lot.  Although I wasn’t ever good at it, I enjoyed trying to redraw my favorite comics and cartoons.  I never really considered a career in the arts until my senior year in high school. I think this was the first time I didn’t listen to my parents and went to art school instead of trying for a different career path.  I was just full of optimism and knew that I had something to contribute to the world.

I didn’t really have a grasp of what it took to make it in the real world but I was willing to try it.  Going to art school with zero experience was really difficult.  I thought about quitting many times that first year because I was way behind skill wise.  I worked super hard during college trying to make up and often felt like I wasn’t good enough and didn’t know enough.  This self-doubt really hurt my growth and outlook and it took a long time to overcome this feeling.  I still have these feelings today, but I’m in a much better place now that it doesn’t scare me as much anymore.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune

This quote is the absolute truth to artists everywhere.  Fear kills more artist then bad art.  Fear made me stop doing art for a long period of time and my growth stagnated for a long time.  It wasn’t until 3 years ago that I started growing again.

Did you attended art school or majored/minored in Art or Design in college? If so, what were your experiences with it and did you think it helped you become a better artist? If you did not attended college or attended but did not majored in anything art-related, what helped pushed you to pursue art or improve your craft?

Yes, I attended the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.  I have a BFA in illustration and also studied a little 3D at the Art Institute.  I have mixed feelings on this topic.  Art school can be good for networking and learning time management.  I met a lot of good people at college and learned a lot. But if I had to do it again I wouldn’t go.  Instead, I would go to an Atelier and learn that way.

Today, there are a lot of free resources that can replace a traditional college without the cost.  I personally like Schoolism and Brainstorm.  There’s also tons of info on SkillShare, GumRoad and YouTube.

Social Media helps me to push myself to improve.  When I see good art that excites me I don’t say “I wish I can do that.” I ask myself how they did it, and try to break down their process and replicate it in my own work.

How do you balance art with work and life? How do you make time for art?

Balance is a hard thing to do.  I know my wife and kids get the short end of the stick but I’m glad they understand. Most of my work gets completed at night after the kids go to bed or during free time at my 9-5 job.  I always have a sketchbook around to doodle in or make notes on my phone.  Another way to make time is to block it out in a schedule.  Make sure you are in an area where you can focus and just work without distraction.

Do you make money from your art? If so, how?

At the beginning it was just commissions, but now I’m slowly getting into the printing world.  It’s been quite a learning process because I’m doing everything myself.  Right now I’m just selling original paintings and prints, but I hope to branch out to apparel and home décor soon.  You can get some of my stuff at

Where do you get your ideas from?

My ideas are usually from history, movies, and books.  I have a variety of interests so my ideas are usually a mashup of all those things.  I have a couple ideas out there for some children’s books and comics.  I even have a story outlined in the LitRPG genre.  All of it is tied to what I am at the core, I’m Hmong, I know Hmong stuff, so I incorporate Hmong into my work.  “Do what you know.” Isn’t that what they tell us?

What kinds of tools do you use to make your work or what is your typical artistic process like?

I have periods where I only do digital stuff.  Then I switch it around only do traditional stuff for a while.  There really isn’t a limit today and that’s a good thing.  I use whatever works and am still trying to streamline the process to speed up my output. My process has been pretty steady lately; thumbnails, rough sketch, tight sketch, base color and render.

Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring?

Old masters like Sargent and Bougereau.  Contemporary artists are Casey Baugh, Jeremy Lipking, James Gurney and too many to list. I also enjoy a lot of concept artists work; like Craig Mullins, Jaime Jones, John Park, and too many to name.

Do you have any favorite books, apps, movies, resources, or art tools that you recommend?

I like using Croquis Café and for figure drawing. Drawing in public is also fun and challenging because you have to work fast and discreet.  Study your favorite artists by breaking down their work and try to duplicate it. Get out of your comfort zone once in a while and you will see improvement.

Is there any advice you would like to give to young artists or people just starting out?

Don’t give up.  Art is a skill and not a talent.  Anyone can do this with practice.  Just do it. You do you and it will work out even if you suffer for a little bit.

Who would you like to collaborate/work with or work for, if anybody? Could be a person, another artist, or company.

I’d like to work on an animated movie someday.

What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)?

I’d like to finish my own IP’s someday.  If I can leave something like that for my kids, I would be happy.

Are there any current projects that you’re working on or in the near future that you want to tell us about?

For the past two or three years I’ve had an idea kicking in my head.  Its only recently that I completed writing the story and just need to break it down and illustrate it.  The title is “The Borrowed Years” and is based off a Folktale my mom told me.  Hopefully I can focus on it after the April Hmong Arts & Crafts Fair.  I have set a goal to finish it in 4 months, so wish me luck.

What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work?

I’m on Instagram @studiotou and FB.  I’m also on Artstation and DeviantArt as Studiotou and have a shopify store that just opened up: