7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #598:
Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amber Ma

h1 August 5th, 2018 by jules


Good morning, one and all. It’s the first Sunday of the month (August already? WHUT), and that means I have a student or newly-graduated illustrator visiting today. In this case, it’s the latter. I welcome Amber Ma today. I love to pore over her detailed, beguiling artwork, and since she tells you about it below, as well as generously shares lots of art, let’s get right to it.

Thanks again to Amber for stopping by today. …


* * *

Amber: I am Amber Ma, a New York-based artist and illustrator, originally from China. I received my MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts last summer.



When I was little, I liked drawing all the time, but I used to think it was just a normal skill for every kid. Before I went to college, my mother asked me which major I really wanted to study and what my dream job was. The first word that came to my head was: Drawing. After some research into majors related to that, I finally decided to study animation, because I like Miyazaki’s animated films. Also, when I think about a story or a plot, the movement of the characters and visions of the settings immediately fill my head. So, I thought Animation as a major would be a good fit at that time.



After four years of study, I felt that college didn’t give me enough knowledge. I wanted more from art education; I felt my life and the world I saw every day was so flat. I asked my mother about taking a gap year to go abroad and to think clearly about what I wanted to do. I decided to switch to the Illustration major in 2011 and started studying illustration in the School of Visual Arts in 2012. When I studied in the School of Visual Arts for the BFA and the MFA, I think I learned so much about art — learning about mediums, visual storytelling, etc. This opened another window for me and showed me a different layer of human life. I realized that stories and inspirations come from everywhere; you just need to pay more attention to them — and respect them.




I normally work in pen and ink. In the past two years, I started using watercolors to draw and feel as if I’ve found a unique voice in it.



(Click to enlarge)


My inspirations come from dreams and observing life. I can remember my dreams really clearly, both the good and bad ones. They are a part of my inspiration library.

Wooden Bird (watercolor and ink);
“I dreamed a weird dream last night. A cage and lots of colorful wooden birds sitting inside. Lovely but creepy. I smelled the damp smell. The door was slowly creaking open. Who put a new bird into the cage?”


Broken-Glass Bird (watercolor and ink)


This below is from an accordion book, Dream Walker (pen on a Moleskin Japanese album).


(Click each to enlarge)


Observing life also gives me lots of ideas to create stories and build up my fantasy world. Lots of my strange characters are from life. Normally, I like sketching the real building/objects first, because when you start drawing the objects, you can understand and know them. And then I will take elements of those that I like and combine them with my characters or my story.

This below is Little Diver and his weird friends, traveling different worlds. …


(Click each to enlarge)


Puffy Fish Building (ink/pen)
(Click to enlarge)


Welcome to Frog City (pen and ink);
Amber: “Inspiration here comes from 8th Street / St. Mark’s Place in New York City,
as well as from the Kowloon Walled City

(Click to enlarge)


Explode Airship (pen and ink);
Amber: “This is from a real experience of an earthquake I had in New Zealand.
I suffered about a hundred aftershocks. I was so scared, and since then I always imagine what it would be like if I were sitting in the bathroom and another earthquake came.”

(Click to enlarge)


Below is Abandoned Park (watercolor on BFK paper). This comes from a playground from my childhood. It was near an apartment where I used to live, a place that always impressed me. But it has since disappeared.


(Click each to enlarge)


This year, I had the opportunity to work with veteran screenwriter Anne Opotowsky for an epic graphic novel, The Walled City Trilogy: Book 3 from IDW/Top Shelf/Penguin Random House. Here are some sample pages:



All illustrations used by permission of Amber Ma.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) My very VERY favorite musician, Sam Phillips (as in, I’ve been a fan for over 30 years now), announced an upcoming new album, live album, and film of a live show, all coming in mid-August. BEST NEWS THE VERY BEST NEWS.



2) This episode of Song Exploder with Neko Case.

3) Learning that Song Exploder even exists. I have some archives to explore.

4) Author Jason Reynolds sharing this poem

5) Totoro tees for my daughters for the start of a school year. Now I’m jealous and want one.

6) Oh, and finding a Squirrel Girl backpack.

7) Amber Ma’s dreamscapes.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #598:
Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amber Ma”

  1. Hello, Amber Ma! I love the Wooden Bird illustration. I think dreams would be a fertile ground for art.
    Jules, the Jason Reynolds poem is evocative. I can’t believe for school are happening. Weird to think I don’t need to prepare.
    My kicks:
    1. The coast for two nights.
    2. Walking.
    3. Decompressing.
    4. Planning.
    5. Writing.
    6. Summer Poetry Swap.
    7. Buster dog on my lap.
    Have a great week.

  2. Hi Imps!

    Hi Amber! Cool colours (and watercolours!) and style. Thank you for sharing!

    Hi Jules! I read your first kick and thought, “Congratulations!” I know that feeling, when you enjoy someone’s work that much. Yay! Also, you should treat yourself to the Totoro shirt if you want one (or if you can borrow one of theirs!) Is the Squirrel Girl backpack fuzzy? Does it have a tail? Are y’all going to watch the new animated series which includes her? I haven’t read her books yet, but I’d like to.

    Hi Jone! Hi Buster! Decompressing is a great kick and a great thing.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Jamming
    2) Singing
    3) Prepping
    4) Executing (fairly well)
    5) Enjoying episodic storytelling
    6) Shaping
    7) Naming

  3. Wow. Beguiling is the perfect word to describe Amber Ma’s gorgeous art.

    Jules – Yay for being so excited about new work from Sam and yay for new work from Sam. That Jason Reynolds poem is gutting.

    Jone – sounds like a great week, especially being at the coast and time spent with Buster dog.

    LW – love kicks 1 and 2, and 6 and 7 especially this week. Kick 7 puts me in mind of a favorite book – “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia McKillip. Naming is important.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Making it to the end of a particularly packed work week.
    2) A surprise visit from my oldest friend (we’ve known each other since we were 11/12). She didn’t think there’d be time for us to get together, but thanks to happy circumstance we got to meet up at Music on Main, where we enjoyed live Zydeco, snacks and cocktails.
    3) Binge watched the last season of The Americans this week. Great show, and perfect ending to the series.
    4) Latest house project finished on Friday and I love it!
    5) Finished “P.S. I still love you” by Jenny Han.
    6) Watching the family of finches at the birdfeeder this morning – there are 6 of them.
    7) Daisy pushing me out of the hammock again. My dog is a hammock hog. I love how funny she is and how often she makes me laugh.
    7.5) Gearing up for another busy week, feeling pretty lucky and thankful for how full my life is.

    Have a great week Imps!

  4. Jone, I bet it does feel weird to not have to prepare for a new school year, but I’m glad you seem to be enjoying all the time off!

    Little Willow in charge! (executing). What were you jamming to?

    Rachel: “Gutting” is right. The content is not kick-like, but the fact that he write IS kicky. … So cool that you got to see your long-time friend. … A good friend of mine the other day was telling me to watch The Americans and was just stunned I’d never seen it. Adding it to the list … adding it to the list! … Love your very last kick. Ain’t that the truth.

    Have a good week, you all!

  5. Hi Rachel! Hi Daisy! I have heard of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, but I have not read it.

    Jules: The new Chrvches song Out of My Head, among other things. The track features Wednesday Campanella, a group I hadn’t heard prior.

  6. LW: I heard Chvrches the other day and thought of you.

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