Jiaqi Wang’s illustrations use vibrant colors to bring the everyday to life
Jiaqi Wang owes his career in part to Crayon Shin-chan, a Japanese comedian retracing the escapades of a mischievous five-year-old boy; and in part to her mother’s exasperation: Wang was sent to art school on the weekends when cleaning up her constant doodling on the walls of their house got too cumbersome.
Originally from Suzhou, China, Wang’s illustration and animation first brought her to the London College of Communication, where she completed her graphic design degree in Shanghai with a postgraduate animation course. It was there that she fell in love with the discipline and later traveled to Turin, Italy, where she worked as a full-time motion design intern before landing a job as an illustrator at the Los Angeles Buck production company in early 2018.
“At that time, I never thought I was going to be hired as an illustrator – I always saw 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 on a daily basis”.
Now still in Los Angeles and working as a freelancer specializing in 2D motion pictures and motion graphics, his clients include Apple, Google, Spotify, Nike, BBC, Muji and more. The best clients, she says, are those who give her both clear direction and creative freedom with room for visual experimentation. “Sometimes I send sketches, and the client sees the potential and pushes me to do a better version – I really like that – it’s more like a collaboration than just a job,” she says.
She loves creating anything that involves characters. “I really like drawing all kinds of people, especially sports people,” she says. “I can have a lot of fun with movement and rhythm.”
Wang’s work is characterized by bold, vibrant flat colors and crisp lines, drawn using a Wacom Cintiq and edited in Illustrator and Photoshop. His people are often drawn without eyes, but expressive in their gestures and movements. The skillful way in which 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 about storytelling and storytelling from graphic novels. They have motivated me to step out of my comfort zone and maybe one day do my own graphic novel,” she says .
One of Wang’s big orders from last year saw its partnership 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 around the question ‘where are you really from?’, which is all too often directed at people of color. The aim of the campaign was to “defend belonging”, according to Droga5.
“The interview was about his childhood, his experience of moving from Singapore to Clear Lake, Houston, which he really calls home,” says Wang. “He mentioned things that helped form who he is today, like the art museum, the teahouse, the vinyl store, the Asian grocery stores. So I tried to keep it authentic and to showcase his childhood memories in a mosaic-like poster. It was a huge honor to see the picture of him holding my poster.