Duration: I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator for one year.
Location: New York, New York.
Education: MFA in illustration as visual essay, School of Visual Arts (SVA), New York, New York; BFA in illustration and graphic design, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland.
Career path: From an early age, drawing images was my way of interpreting the world around me. I was an only child, and my parents—both microbiologists—were very busy. Since my mother was an avid book reader, I was always left with many fiction and fairytale books, along with some paper and colored pencils to entertain myself. Inspired by the stories and characters, I started to draw creatures and elements from the imaginative narratives on paper. This process satisfied my curiosity for fantasy, but also brought me a strong sense of pride and fulfillment.
In my culture, art is not considered a normal nor a viable career path to pursue. Despite the pressures of academia and the constant rigorous examinations in school, I aspired to make a living by creating images that tell stories. This became an uphill battle of trying to convince my parents of my passion that did not align with their expectations of me. But, before I began my art journey in the United States, my parents gave me their support.
Now, using both traditional media and digital tools, I create illustrations for newspapers and magazines, such as the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ Bulletin magazine, Newsbreak and Spectrum. I also make New York–related art projects, some of which have run across the 1,700 LinkNYC screens in all five boroughs. My paintings have been exhibited internationally and across the country. Currently, I am collaborating with SVA to work on a series of illustration tips talking about how to stay motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Favorite projects: Red Hands, an art book project I worked on during my time at SVA, which is composed of a series of illustrations using acrylic and soft pastels. The story behind the art came from my personal experiences of experiencing chronic pain for many years, which had brought me many challenges and struggles as an artist. In order to both bring peace to myself and restore my courage, I decided to make this therapeutic book to not only share my own stories, but also to speak for those who had or are having hard times in their lives.
The Monday Motivation Series, my series of illustration tips for SVA on how to stay motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a foreigner living alone throughout the quarantine—like many others—I’ve had no choice but to face the endless waves of questions and challenges of the past months: How much stress can my mind and body handle? How do I behave when I’m facing true loneliness? What is my deepest fear? What is it that I most value in my life? What is love? The months of solitude have left me the time and space to analyze my strengths and flaws under a microscope.
As an SVA alum and visual storyteller passionate about connecting with people through my work, I felt honored to be able to work with Brian E. Smith, the design director at SVA, to share those quarantine stories and positive vibes in the form of art.
Approach: I majored in oil painting and have been practicing Chinese calligraphy before coming to the United States. While I was studying illustration, I was also concentrating a great deal on graphic design courses like poster design, typography, hand lettering and branding. The many fine art, illustration and design courses I’ve taken so far have helped me see the connections between different forms of art. I feel comfortable playing with rich and distinct artistic languages in my work.
Aspirations: I’d love to have my own art studio and create artwork of which I am proud. I also would love to collaborate with talented artists and work on more packaging and stationery design projects that feature my illustrations. It would be a dream come true to walk into a major retailer store and see a display of all my illustrations on various kinds of products.
Philosophy: To stay present, and be humble and persistent on what I’m passionate about at this moment, which is working professionally as an illustrator, a painter and, ideally, an art educator in the future.
I love to make plans, and it’s always good to have a clear future goal for my life. However, I think people play different roles throughout their lifetime. Some may take the majority of life in different stages and will change as time passes by. My answer for this question now may be different than the one I will have three months later. As long as I keep learning, staying open minded and being honest with my inner voice, I’ll have less regrets and achieve something that fulfills me, no matter how big or small.
Anything else? I focus on creating illustrations that bring joy to people, as well as speak to colorful voices outside my social circle and beyond my own perspective. I look forward to working with both a diverse array of clients and talented folks on all kinds of exciting projects.