Inspired by memories of Taipei, David Huang’s illustrations are a colorful and expressive delight
David Huang is a Taiwanese American illustrator based in New York. With clients such as The New Yorker and Quartz, his work is typically colorful, expressive, vibrant and loud.
“I’m a very curious person,” he says. “So naturally, my illustrations vary in material, subjects and colors. I’m interested in exploring different approaches to expressions by playing with size, shapes, texture and composition. Regarding the subject, I like to build stories by drawing characters that interact with fun, living environments and including objects that I would find throughout my daily life.”
David graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2017 and has now been freelance for five years. But his love of art and his desire to create go back much further.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve drawn and built worlds out of lines and shapes,” he explains. “Before social media existed as a way to procrastinate, drawing was my distraction from my homework. I had a pile of paper under my bed, and I was going through it like a wildfire burning through a pile of matches. .That’s what gave me the idea to pursue art.”
His view of the art world at the time, however, was narrow. “I thought that in order to have a successful artistic career, I had to paint realistic vases, figures and landscapes for galleries,” he explains. “I applied to RISD [Rhode Island School of Design] as a student of painting, thinking that was the path I was headed for.”
But then, in first grade, when he took a class called “Introduction to Illustration”, his teacher encouraged him to draw in the way that made him most comfortable, rather than academically and regimented. “I suddenly feel like I could be a kid again, going through that pile of paper under my bed,” he enthuses. “From then on, I fell in love with illustration. It freed me from all the limitations I had imposed on myself before.”
During his senior year of college, he landed a few editorial jobs and got a taste of working with clients and art directors. “I loved working with clients and the collaborative effort to find a visual solution with each item,” he recalls. “So I decided to go freelance, focusing mainly on editorial illustration.”
His client list today is impressive, but it took time to get there. “I didn’t have a lot of jobs at the start: it was a bit sad how calm it was,” he recalls. “I was sending a lot of cold emails with no response, which I think is a very common thing that happens to everyone.”
But he didn’t give up or stop working. “Whenever I have free time without homework, I would go through my portfolio and find out what was missing,” he explains. “Then I would give myself a personal mission that would fill in the missing void. It also allowed me to experiment more and mature my own voice in illustration, so when I get a breakthrough and I’m contacted by a client I want to work with, I would be more ready than I have been.”
Alongside his client work, he continues today to create personal works. “In my non-commercial work, I draw inspiration from childhood memories of growing up in Taipei and snapshots of my travels, having passed through many cities and bonding with a diverse group of friends,” he says.
And there’s a lot to learn. “Growing up in Taipei, I have a lot of memories riding the busy subway and walking the busy streets on my way home from school,” he says. “I would stop at a fried food stand and order a few snacks with the remaining coins in my pocket. The street was busy and lined with giant banyan trees that hung up to my head height.”
“There were sounds of cars honking and people cheering the religious parades passing by,” he continues. “The workers pushed their street carts to sell bowls of noodles or fruit, ringing their bells and shouting the names of the items they were selling. At night, I remember going to the night market at the end of hot humid day and eating kebabs that had just come out of the hot grill. A few times a year my family would drive around the island for the holidays. I have fond memories of looking out the window. out of the car and watch the green hills pass in front of us.
It all now seems like an eternity ago. “Some days I forget how far I’ve come,” he says. “When I first got a job at the New York Times, it was the day before Thanksgiving, and I remember how excited I was. And when I saw my cartoon printed in the newspaper, it was truly a surreal experience.”