Illustrator Xiao Hua Yang on the value of technique

Working for clients including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Yang reflects on how finding his style has allowed him to inject feeling, detail and dimension into his works

For Brooklyn-based illustrator Xiao Hua Yang style used to be something he contemplated regularly, and in the early days he found himself switching and changing things often. But over the years he’s “grown to give it less thought” and instead finds a piece resonates with him more when it emerges from a personal experience or a commission that grants him freedom.

“There is a unique language in them, one that I struggle to put into precise words but is distinctly felt. I would say presently I am putting less emphasis on technique, resulting in my work getting ‘rougher’, and more painterly,” Yang notes. “However, I still value the importance of technique and do sit still to sculpt a few fine details when necessary.”

There’s a filmic quality to Yang’s work and through his use of colour and shadow, he manages to create mesmerising scenes packed with feeling and ambiguity. “Many would say there is a surreal, dream-like quality in my work. To me, it encapsulates a sense of longing, indifference, and hope within an enclosed dimension, seemingly cropped off from reality,” he reflects.

All images: Xiao Hua Yang