Jiaqi Wang owes her career partly to Crayon Shin-chan, a Japanese comic following the escapades of a mischievous five-year-old boy; and partly to her mother’s exasperation: Wang was packed off to art school at weekends when cleaning up her constant doodlings on the walls of their home got too much.
Hailing from Suzhou, China, Wang’s illustration and animation took her first to London College of Communication, where she followed her graphics degree in Shanghai with a postgrad animation course. That’s where she fell in love with the discipline, and she went on to travel to Turin, Italy, working there as a full-time motion designer intern before landing a job as an illustrator at Los Angeles production company Buck in early 2018.
“At that time I never thought I was ever going to be hired as an illustrator – I’d always seen myself as an animator,” she says, adding that it was “worth trying to become one for the role: there was so much inspiration and motivation every day”.
Now still in LA and working as a freelancer specialising in 2D moving image and motion graphics, her clients include Apple, Google, Spotify, Nike, the BBC, Muji and more. The best clients, she says, are those that simultaneously give her clear direction and creative freedom with room for visual experimentation. “Sometimes I send over sketches, and the client sees the potential and pushes me to make a better version – I really like that – it’s more like a collaboration than just a job,” she says.
She loves creating anything involving characters. “I just really enjoy drawing all kinds of people, especially sports-related,” she says. “I can have a lot of fun with the movement and rhythm.”
Wang’s work is characterised by bold, popping flat colours and crisp linework, drawn using a Wacom Cintiq and edited in Illustrator and Photoshop. Her people are often drawn eye-less, yet expressive in their gestures and movements. The deft way she illustrates everyday life and busy, crowded scenes makes her work perfect for editorial illustration.
Having grown up reading the likes of Peanuts, Tintin, Doraemon and, of course, the aforementioned Crayon Shin-chan, today, Wang is obsessed with graphic novels. “I can learn more about narrating and telling stories from graphic novels. They motivated me to jump out of my comfort zone and maybe one day make a graphic novel of my own,” she says.
One of Wang’s big commissions from last year saw her partner with Droga5 and the Asian American Federation to create a poster for their interview with Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan. The interview was part of a series of Asian-inspired travel posters based around the question ‘where are you really from?’, which is all-too-often directed at people of colour. The aim of the campaign was to “champion belonging”, according to Droga5.
“The interview talked about his childhood, his experience moving from Singapore to Clear Lake, Houston, which he really calls home,” Wang explains. “He mentioned things that helped form who he is today, such as the art museum, tea room, vinyl shop, Asian grocery stores. So I tried to keep it authentic, and feature his childhood memories into a mosaic-like poster. It was a huge honour to see the photo of him holding my poster.”