If you are a fan of art and browse the internet for more than 10 minutes a day, chances are you will run into Siyu Chen’s work. Working as an illustrator, Siyu was born and grew up in China and went to Tsinghua University in Beijing studying graphic design. Afterwards, Siyu went to New York to attend MFA illustration at The School of Visual Arts. Quite impressive if you ask us. A perfect candidate for the Creative Spotlight, Siyu makes illustrations for books, magazines and newspapers and draws with brush and ink and colors digitally. Read below for the full Q&A…
What was the biggest culture shock studying in both the United States and China?
Siyu: I studied graphic design for 6 years in China. But I realized, actually, I could draw much better than design, and I had much more passion to work as an illustrator. So I came to New York, studying MFA illustration at School of Visual Arts. I felt I was lucky, because at that time, there wasn’t such a major as MFA Illustration in China. The study was completely new to me. I was very impressed by my teachers. From them, I saw a true respect to arts and artists, which encouraged me to decide to work as an illustrator for my whole life.
Working with both traditional and digital methods, what kind of advantage does this give you as an artist?
Siyu: I draw with brush and ink and I color with photoshop. Sometimes I would try watercolor, oil paint, or color pencil, but I always go back to my favorite style: brush, sumi ink and photoshop. Coloring with computer gives me more freedom to choose color, and helps me work more efficient.
In turn, how do you achieve balance when combining mediums in a piece? What is the desired look you are going for?
Siyu: Perhaps, it’s because I have no interest to draw “normal stuff”, I always try to mix some elements of dreams in my drawings. I wish my drawings could be full of strange things and funny, like “Through the looking glass”, the story from Lewis Carroll. I also try to tell stories with my drawings. A special story, a special drawing, that’s my goal.
Give us an overview of the activities you do regularly to keep up with marketing yourself?
Siyu: I can’t say I’m good at marketing. This is always difficult to me. I sent promo piece to art directors, I put my work on Curioos and Artflakes, and recently I just build my blog.
What prompted you to move to Germany?
Siyu: My husband works in Germany, I moved to Germany to get married.
How has Europe influenced you thus far as an artist?
Siyu: I’ve been here for two years, the quiet environment and regular, slow pace give me more time to think, what I really want to draw? The biggest influence to me is religion. I became a Christian after I came to Germany. Now I would love to draw something for heart, rather than something only for eyes.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
Siyu: I love Miyazaki Hayao’s film. I watched all of his films. I particularly like “Sen and Chihiro’s Spirited Away” and “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”.
How has the illustration field changed since you entered it, aside from there being more technologies to create illustrations? What do you think the climate of freelance illustration is like?
Siyu: I’ve been in this filed for 2 years, but I still feel I’m new. The market is changing and illustration could invade into many other creative areas: games, webs, toys, housing stuff etc. I check the illustration web, and I see more and more talented artists coming. It’s competitive and also very excited. Though working as an illustrator is not easy these days, there are so many young artists willing to enter.
What upcoming projects do you have in store for 2013?
Siyu: I write and illustrate a children’s book, it will be published in China this year. The story is about a fishbowl cat taking adventures. I posted two pages of this book on my blog for a brief look.
Any advice for illustrators looking to break into this field?
Siyu: Read more books, watch more films, collect information from your daily life and keep imagining, you will find the inspiration from everywhere.
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