With an impressive list of clients in her portfolio, including Adult Swim, The New Yorker, and Spotify, Chinese artist and illustrator Qieer Wang stands out for her stretchy, fluid characters that move in bright, clashing colour palettes.
Creating a range of looping gifs, animations and editorial illustrations, Wang grew up in a world full of art and expression. “My uncle and mom were both fine artists for a while, although neither of them chose to pursue art as a serious career,” say Wang. “I grew up reading comics, watching cartoons and anime like a lot of my peers.”
It wasn’t until her sophomore year of her Game Illustration undergrad degree in Chengdu that Wang started to experiment drawing with markers, coloured pencils and pastels in her diary. “These few years provided me with the most important knowledge and aesthetics. A year after my undergrad, I decided to quit my job and move to the US to pursue grad school in illustration,” explains Wang. “During these two years I had the chance to attend an animation workshop and started to make shorts right afterwards. I learnt puppet animation and built up my digital animation skills from there.”
The creative now calls New York her home and it’s the dynamism and appreciation of the arts there that made her stay. “What impresses me most [about New York] is people’s perception of art in this city,” she says. “It’s a supportive and nourishing crowd, which is ideal for an individual artist to be in.”
Both Wang’s personal and commissioned work is typically flowing, vivid and often improvised. “I’m inspired by and rely on my visual memories very much,” she says. “It’s not always possible to relate it to reality, but if it resonates well with the emotion I’m aiming to draw out, that’s the perfect kind of expression to me.”
Citing Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Allison Schulnik as references, Wang’s work carries a surrealist edge to it, which gives her editorial work a freshness.
When working on a commercial or editorial project, the illustrator often takes it back to basics by writing and sketching out ideas before discussing the direction with the client. “Most of the commercial work I do is digitally oriented, so I find a good balance by drawing on paper,” explains Wang.
With her personal projects, there’s a sense of freedom Wang can’t help but come back to, however she acknowledges how both have shaped her practice. “The commercial work has provided me with valuable perspectives from my clients, that in turn have helped me build up a solid artistic voice, which I’m always grateful for,” she says.
Combining illustration and animation (sometimes in the same project) allows Wang to express feelings and narrate stories in a deeper, more personal way. “I enjoy capturing moments that carry the most energy through illustration,” she says. “But I also love playing around with time and movement when making gifs. Short animated films have a very personal touch that I’m in love with.”
Rather than focusing on what she’s creating, Wang is more driven by who she’s working with and how she’s able to work. “For commercial projects, I love working with a disciplined team or individuals because the process can be very joyful when we all know what we’re looking for,” she explains. “I tend to propose one experimental solution in almost every project because I prefer to have the option of the unknown.”
As such, her advice for someone starting out in illustration and animation is simple: “Be brave with experiences, and then narrow it down to what your true passion is.”