Who said hours of watching cartoons, playing video games and doodling during class was a bad career decision? Every one of your teachers? Well, shame on them.
Because for Coquitlam's Betty Kwong, those things defined her identity and inspired her to become what she is today - a professional artist.
The term "starving artist" should be a thing of the past as Kwong is looking to the future by working in the digital landscape, with her latest venture involving doing the animation, character design, 3D artwork and, in her own words, "almost everything" for a new interactive story phone app.
"We started around February  doing the concepts, and I worked closely with the director to get the right look," she said. "I experimented with a lot of different mediums: sculpting with clay models and papercraft, and a variety of sketches to get the right look for the characters."
What would take her months and months of work produced the Bramble Berry Tales: The Story of Kalkalilh. It's a new phone app available on various platforms, including the App Store as well as Google Play for android users.
The story takes the reader on a journey based on a Squamish First Nation story, following the characters Lily and Thomas as they go through adventures and learn valuable lessons.
"As the Squamish language is endangered, we hope that this combined use of technology and great storytelling will play a small part in helping to preserve this language and story for future generations," a press release states.
Inspired from a local Squamish story and read and translated by Chief Ian Campbell in collaboration with Saulteaux writer Marilyn Thomas, The Story of Kalkalilh is as Canadian as it gets and just brimming to the rim with local history.
Kwong used Thomas' description of the story, mixed it with her own vivid imagination and started to bring the characters to life, finishing with a product that has been given the Editor's Choice sticker on the App Store and is now featured in more than 22 countries.
Kwong owes her success to her talent, passion and hard work, inspired by none other than animated cartoons like Animaniacs, or popular Pixar films like Up. There's also a wildly popular video game series she tips her hat to.
"The Legend of Zelda - I loved those games," she said. "I've played almost all of them."
But Kwong isn't going to slow down any time soon. In fact, by the time the Tri-Cities NOW spoke with her, she was already working on the follow-up to the app, entitled The Great Sasquatch. It's another interactive story following the same two characters on another adventure.
When Kwong isn't being paid for her art, she's doing ... well, more art.
She has a webcomic series called With A Cherry On Top, and is slowly developing it in her spare time, which, she admits, isn't as often now that she has full-time employment.
But that can't stop her from dreaming.
"Of course, I would love to do my own cartoon," she said. "I would like to take my personal work further and create my own brand maybe - if that happens. I'll try to work hard to make it happen."
She describes her own art style as a mix of everything she's drawn to.
"Video games, cartoons, French animation - I draw inspiration from everything that like," she said.
But what sparked her love of drawing? "I think it's fun and you get to draw whatever you like, so everything comes from your imagination," she said.
"You can draw things that don't exist in real life. I think that's what I like about it, because I can express myself through my artwork."
Kwong's work is at www.bettykwong.com, as well as bettykwong.deviantart.com.
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