Long Live The Artistic Reign Of Illustrator Carson “Chairman” Ting

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by Grady MitchellCarson “Chairman” Ting has seen some crazy shit. Most of it appeared in his head, and thankfully for the many people in Vancouver and beyond who enjoy the work of this illustrator, he’s committed nearly every wild idea that pops into his mind to paper. The notions that started as doodles have gotten him named among the 200 Best Illustrators in the world by Lürzer’s Archive Magazine and the top 5 most creative people in Canada by Marketing Magazine. They landed him senior art direction roles at agencies in Toronto and Vancouver, where he’s done work for Microsoft, the 2010 Olympics, Canon, Honda and more.

Successful today, Carson’s beginnings were a little less auspicious. He failed Grade 1 (which is arguably more difficult than passing Grade 1) and had to take Grade 11 Math four times over. School never interested him as much as the stacks of comics that rapidly climbed towards the ceiling of his room. Soon he started emulating them, inventing his own superheroes (Leaf Man!) and devising their backstories. He says over his childhood he created far too many to count.

After high school he went to the Ontario College of Art and Design, but rather than study illustration, which seemed the obvious choice, he chose advertising. “Advertising taught me how to be much more conceptual,” Carson explains. Suddenly his drawings and paintings could carry a message, communicate something more than his daydreams and imaginings. It also let him dabble in various mediums other than drawing, like photography, video, design, and copywriting.

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Carson is that rare breed of creative that established himself in Toronto before coming west. After working for many years as an art director at large firms in the big smoke, he relocated here to work at ReThink, an agency he’d long admired. Although the clients and budgets were smaller, he was given more freedom to try out unconventional ideas. In a campaign for Science World, for example, to demonstrate how much area just 2 oz. of gold could cover they wrapped that amount around a billboard (then had to place a security guard by it day and night for protection).

His new west coast lifestyle also allowed space to step back and relax. He undertook more personal and freelance side projects as Chairman Ting, the studio he now runs full-time with his wife Denise.

Whether it’s a campaign for a major company or a personal experiment, Carson always makes a point to document the process behind his work, from the earliest moments of conception to the final stroke of the brush. It’s part self-promotion, part connection, Carson says. It turns the interaction between him and the viewer from a statement to a dialogue. In the process it also demystifies the artist’s approach; rather than seeing an immaculate final product Carson lets viewers in on the dozens of decisions, missteps and redirections it took to get there.

These days Carson is working on an illustration for TedX West Vancouver, as well as commissions for Canadian Tourism and the Vancouver Economic Commission and a project for Mercedes. While he’ll be buried deep in his studio, wreathed in a mist of paint fumes, you’ll be able to keep track of his progress by visiting his website.

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