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Meet Terence Tang of Tinlun Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Terence Tang.

Terence, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When I was a kid, I always excelled at art. I loved watching Bob Ross and spent free time experimenting with different styles and mediums. Fast forward to high school and college, and at the time, everyone wanted to work for Pixar – including me. The problem was that there weren’t any programs for animation at the university I wanted to attend, so I landed in the film program. When I graduated, I knew my demo reel wasn’t going to get me into Hollywood, but I had taken some web design classes as electives and actually had decent work to show for it.

From there, I got a web design job at a bank and then moved on to doing graphic design for a healthcare system. I learned a lot about the intricacies of working for a large corporation, but creatively I was starved and I wasn’t improving as a designer. Finally, a new employer sent me to a small design conference, and my life changed. I had no idea there was such a massive, tight-knit design community around the country because the Houston design community doesn’t really make a ton of noise. I also re-discovered the joy in analog art, as I had been doing digital every day for about 8 straight years at this point.

From there, I was inspired to attempt starting my own business. I started and ran a lifestyle brand based on my lettering art for a couple of years and it became apparent that it wasn’t going to grow at the rate that was necessary for me to put full-time effort into it. I got hired at an agency, and it just completely wrecked me in just 6 months’ time. I had never worked that hard in my life – the pace, workload, and pressure were just too much. My family life was starting to really suffer, and the employer still felt I was underperforming, so that’s when I figured it wasn’t a good idea to continue working there.

Now, I’ve been freelancing for about 6 months. It has been really fun and I’ve built some great relationships and worked on some fun projects, but it’s definitely a struggle. But my big takeaway from the past 6 months is that I’m most passionate about storytelling, whether it be through branding, photography, video, or lettering. I’m now starting the search for a full-time position again, and I’m also launching a spinoff business called H-Town Chalk ( It occurred to me that Houston doesn’t seem to have a go-to chalk artist who specializes in lettering, and with the massive restaurant scene and more chalk walls popping up everywhere, I thought it was a good opportunity to fulfill that niche.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been the craziest, bumpiest road ever – especially the past year or so. Finding the balance of time/energy between work, family, health, and passion projects have been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. If I take time to go to the gym, then I’m either sacrificing time/energy for work, or for the family. If I spend more time working to bring in extra income, then I’m sacrificing time with family. If I spend time with family, then I seem to get behind on everything else. It’s extremely frustrating.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
The best way to describe my business at this point is that I’m a multi-skilled artist. At first, I was known for hand lettering and calligraphy – that’s what sort of got me noticed on Instagram and in the design community. Then I shifted and made myself known for making physical products like shirts, hats, pins, etc. But then I had to shift again and go back to doing some design, but with the other stuff still mixed in here and there. And now I’m also starting to bring back the photography and videography side of things.

I think what I’m most proud of is that I’ve somehow been able to inspire and help people in some tiny way. People have messaged me and told me that I’m one of their favorite designers and it just blows my mind. Whatever it is that I’m doing to spark a little bit of positivity in this world, I hope I can keep doing it.

I think what sets me apart is that my business is built on my own unique values and unique perception of the world. That’s basically what makes an artist an artist, right? But also, I place a great deal of emphasis on maintaining authenticity. I’m not one to pretend I’m something I’m not, and I think my audience knows that about me. I wear my emotions on my sleeve – I can be too intense at times, and I can be too sensitive at other times. I’ll speak up if I come across something that I feel is wrong. This has even basically gotten me fired, but at the end of the day, I’m genuine about who I am and I have no regrets about that.

What were you like growing up?
Oh man, I was a weird, quiet kid. I was extremely introverted and super sensitive – if people laughed because I did something amusing, I always felt that they were laughing AT me. I hated being the center of attention. I loved to draw and I loved reading Calvin & Hobbes and comic books – but not because the content was super engaging, but because the art was so cool. I spent a lot of time trying to recreate some of those drawings, and then eventually started to create my own characters. It wasn’t really until senior year of high school that I began to come out of my shell a little bit. Looking back now, I thought I had come into my own in college but I really knew nothing about anything. I really sound like a parent now, don’t I?

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