Supersonic Selects: Sachin Teng

September 01, 2013

Thoughts spoken outwardly and those ingested internally often share a distinctly opposite language and placed beside one another can often seem like some complex code waiting to be broken.  Thankfully Sachin Teng has a knack for solving these riddles, combining the two - one over the other - to reveal the beauty that awaits. Zach Tutor (Supersonic Electronic) asked the New York City illustrator 10 questions about various topics recently:

What obstacles do you face daily as an illustrator, particularly things you wouldn't usually think would be problems?

My calendar. You're always on vacation but you're never on vacation. I'll have dry spells where I get no jobs at all then be booked solid for months at a time. I had a two month period with no jobs and decided to take a vacation for one week to see my family and that's when the jobs came in and I ended up working the whole vacation. I even did my Pacific Rim piece on my birthday, haha.

You say you think more like a designer when doing your work, how would you define this point of view?

In design there's no room for ego. Form follows function. If you forget about the function the design will turn on you. And people will notice. The best design is the kind you don't feel. You never notice when a bus seat is designed well but you will notice it's designed badly if you get off the bus with a backache.

You also say that you're more interested in the "artifacts" that people leave behind, does this mean you're something like a historian as well as a designer?
More like an explorer I guess. I love traveling and digging into hidden gems and secrets, stumbling into interesting places. And ideas, stories and history are like worlds in themselves. Places I can discover things.

What is the most important thing to look at when not looking at the most important thing?
After you see all the things that are done right, make sure to look at the things that are done wrong. Often people who don't make mistakes start to plateau. To be creative you have to be willing to look ugly. Ironically the best work out there, if you look close, has a little ugliness in it. Look for the imperfections in great work. They aren't there by mistake.

How does the nostalgia of video games and pop culture make it's way into your work?
It's my childhood and my life outside of art. It's as important to me as my art itself because without it I'd have a voice without anything to talk about. My subject matter is just what I talk to my friends about and we talk about stuff like how kids right now don't know what the save button is actually a picture of or why it's called 'rewind.'

How did you develop the discipline needed to do what you do?
Being broke is a really good teacher for that. Top Ramen for dinner and toothpaste in a glass of water for mouth wash is pretty good too. The best one is rent though.

The divisions/separations that your subjects often experience, what are you trying to say there?
Everything is more than the sum of its parts. There's always hidden parts inside the objects we own and the people we know. This isn't just a stick of gum, it's the brand of gum I had on my first date. This isn't just a gun, it's the gun that shot Abraham Lincoln. I try to depict the things you don't see.

What are some of the most beautiful things you've seen?
A few beers with friends and any view.

Do you have any hidden talents?
I dance a bit. Back when I was still young and had stamina I did a lot of breakdancing. I could stick windmills and flares, the whole nine. In my day the Harlem Shake was a very different thing. Now I'm old and slow haha. Dancing is a young man's game.

What's the worst advice you were ever given?
"Art school will prepare you for a real art job"

Interview by Zach Tutor of Supersonic Electronic

Follow him at @supersonicart