Healing, teaching, and finding balance with illustrator and animator, The Alice Tsai

Image created by illustrator and animator Alice Tsai.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock/The Alice Tsai.

Ling-Hsiu Tsai — known professionally as The Alice Tsai — has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a schoolgirl with a mind full of stories, she doodled constantly in her classes. “When recess started,” she says, “I would tell the stories I’d invented to my fellow students. But when the bell rang, it caught my story in mid-sentence, so I would continue telling the story in class and often got punished for it.”

Undeterred, Tsai went from drawing comics and manga to studying in oil painting in college. From there, a growing interest in digital art and animation led her from her home in Taiwan to New York City, where she pursued a master’s degree in computer arts.

Now a successful freelance illustrator, motion designer, art teacher, and Adobe Stock Contributor, Tsai sees her progression from one medium to another as a kind of journey of the imagination. “I think it was about bringing my imagination to a completely different perspective,” she says. “With comics, illustration, or oil painting, you kind of create the imagination when you see those still images. And animation can bring it to the audience more vividly.”

Image created by illustrator and animator Alice Tsai.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock/The Alice Tsai .

Using art to tackle personal challenges

When Tsai arrived in New York, she found life in the city exhilarating but also difficult. “It proved to be quite challenging for a young woman to live in a foreign country for education and work,” she says. The financial stress, culture shock, and uncertainty about the future led her to have a panic attack.

“If I could give my younger self advice, I would say to try to feel more, and don't be afraid of any feelings you have,” Tsai says. “When I first moved to New York, I noticed that people liked to focus on work a lot and they don't talk about emotions that much, or have deep and profound relationships with each other. So I was overwhelmed by how different people were in that place. And I kind of condemned myself for having so much feeling for the city, for life in general.”

When she met other international students who faced similar issues, she realized that people need ways to heal themselves. She found that immersing herself in the creative process helped her regain her bearings.

Around this time, she discovered an opportunity to work with the Adobe Stock team. “Whenever you open Adobe software, you see beautiful images and drawings,” she says. “I found out there are collaborations between the artists and Adobe Stock .” She investigated a bit and found that Adobe Stock had put out a call for content related to the topic of healing.

She decided to create illustrations that expressed that theme. “I included three elements in my artwork: women, nature, and compassion,” she says. She submitted her collection of work and was excited to become an Adobe Stock Artist Development Fund recipient.

Image created by illustrator and animator Alice Tsai.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock/ The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/ The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/The Alice Tsai.

The art in her collection has inspired many brands and artists, sometimes in surprising ways. “I got a DM last month — someone told me they’re using my work for an NFT,” she says. “It’s very cool to see how someone uses some elements of my drawings to create a completely different piece. I hope people can find solace, inner peace, and strength from my artwork.”

Creating a signature style with curved lines and warm colors

When asked to describe her style, Tsai mentions the curved line. “It represents the body curves of females that I've been always drawing. And it also shows the sadness, the softness in the artwork.” Still, she sees strength in curves as well. “Just like in nature, there are no absolute straight lines in trees, plants, or mountains. But you can definitely feel the force of strength coming from those forms.”

She begins new projects by drawing freehand in a sketchbook to get her ideas flowing. Then she brings her sketches into her iPad or laptop to color them and refine the details. “I tend to use a lot of warm color palettes, such as orange, peach, pink, and red,” she says. She’ll often post her drawings to her Instagram page to see how people react, and she finds that people respond positively to her warm, gentle tones.

Image created by illustrator and animator Alice Tsai.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock/ The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/ The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/The Alice Tsai.

Tsai believes that the hardest thing for an artist to achieve is consistency. “You can create something very beautiful within seconds or within hours,” she says. “But if you want to keep it up for 10 days or 10 months or even 10 years, not many people can do it.”

She credits self-discipline with her success as a freelancer, and she also credits the fact that she has dedicated part of her career to sharing her expertise with others.

Finding balance as an artist and an educator

Now back in Taiwan, Tsai splits her professional time between creating art and teaching it. “I like to draw, I like to animate, and I want to travel around. So with part-time teaching jobs, I still have time to take on freelance animation and illustration projects. I think it’s a good balance for my life, because I enjoy doing artwork in silence by myself. And when I have some reflection time, I can think, ‘Oh, this is something I can actually bring into class and share with my students.’”

Teaching helps Tsai grow her own artistic skills, too. “In the classroom, I have to find a very good way to explain stuff in a very simple way,” she says. “I have to draw or animate something multiple times before class to see if it’s doable in three hours. So I'm the person who actually learns the most in the classroom.”

Embracing unlimited possibilities

Tsai’s multi-faceted approach to her career has opened up diverse opportunities. She says that, while most of her fellow college students became full-time art teachers in junior high schools and high schools, she’s taken a less traditional approach.

“As I grow older, I find that the path is not linear,” she says. “It’s more like dots, and you try to connect them in a very organic way.

Image created by illustrator and animator Alice Tsai.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock/ The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/ The Alice Tsai, Adobe Stock/The Alice Tsai.

“I came from a traditional art background, then went into digital illustration and digital animation. And if I want to dive into video games or the film industry, I can do storyboards or concept art. I’ve come to realize that I can actually do a lot more than I imagined as a kid.”

View The Alice Tsai’s collection and continue to explore illustrations on Adobe Stock. Find everything from popular drawings, to backgrounds and sihouettes all on Adobe Stock.

Ready to share your work with the world? Create your own Adobe Stock Contributor profile and upload your content to get exposure to top brands and creative professionals.