Yijun Fan is an MA Visual Arts: Illustration student from China who is an Illustrator working as a practitioner of art. She prefers painting narrative images and visualizing stories. We interviewed her just after her Postgraduate Summer Show…
What were you working on for the Summer Show?
I was working on a children’s book called The Glass Heart. The original idea was inspired by a social topic about unhealthy behaviours of interpersonal sensitive people. ‘Glass heart’ is a graphic phrase used in China to describe sensitive people who act dramatically when affronted with something. For example: if you didn’t reply to a message immediately, the person will think you don’t like them and that you are terrible; if you share with someone the opinion that someone is great, that person will think you are implying that they are ineffectual and will get upset; or, if you reject a suggestion by someone, they will think you are scorning them and are terrible. These ‘glass heart’ people seem to have such sensitive hearts that can be broken with a gentle tap. Comments and topics about the ‘glass heart’ are very popular in China and mostly negative; they not only make themselves miserable, but also put people around them into a constantly anxious mood.
Is it that bad? In my opinion, the ‘glass heart’ is just a characteristic much the same as other characteristics, which has both advantages and disadvantages. In my story I tried to say that even such poor character will have some sparkling merits and all you have to do is to find them, I also wanted to make them adorable. During the course, I started to realise that using cute elements makes various feelings more expressive in the images, such as scary, sadness, joy and so on. I chose a digital method to make my work, it is flexible to change and I am very comfortable adjusting the effects freely as I wish. I made a series of brushes of different textures that I collected in the daily life, so that I could paint different kinds of surfaces using a Photoshop canvas, just like on paper and with no need to worry about making mistakes.
How has studying at Camberwell informed or influenced your art/design practice?
During the course at Camberwell I learned a lot and made a lot of progress. My technique improved as I was introduced to plenty of methods and materials that I can use to create different textures. It is very helpful for me to build my own texture vault. The most important thing I gained is the spiritual support of my tutors. When I was enrolled into the university I lacked confidence, I was shocked but also attracted to different styles of my classmates’ paintings, but I started to doubt myself. I questioned if the way I paint was right? Therefore, I wasn’t able to finish works for a long time, I was lost. However my tutors, Janet Woolly and David Williams guided me to find my way of doing my own work. They made me realise that my works are good and the only way to make them better is to learn from my own heart, from the failure and from hearing critics of other artists’ work that I loved. It will make me happy, and in this way I can carry on working and gradually make progress.
Do you have an artist influence?
I have taken aspects of influence from Surrealist art. I have a love of authentic atmosphere, I was attracted and learned from artists who paint realistically, such as Alexandre Diboine, Craig Mullins, Mark Ryden and Shaun Tan. The incredible details and colour blending in these paintings amaze me and inspire me in both aspects of skill and spirit.
What are you future plans?
I would like to keep working as an illustrator. I want to have a job in either book publishing or within the media industry. It is important to me to have a steady income to support my daily life and be surrounded by talented designers and artists. In the mean time, I would like to keep working on The Glass Heart, the story is still not perfect and I would like to spend the next year improving it.
Can you recommend an exhibition must-see?
A New Childhood: Picture Books from Soviet Russia, happening now at House of Illustration, until 11 September 2016. And any other illustration exhibitions!
How did it feel setting up for the Summer Show?
I have to say that when I put my work on the wall, it was a very good surprise to hear the exclamatory, “wow”, from my classmates and tutors. It made my work seem all the more worthy.
Do you have any summer plans?
I plan to have a two week trip around Scotland and England this summer. From Edinburgh to the Highlands to Lake District and to York. These places must be very beautiful in summer and I can visit a lot of museums and galleries.
The best to mention are the big festival that are happening in Edinburgh in August: Edinburgh Art Festival, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I think it will be a wild and memorable experience to visit in August.
And finally, do you have any advice to students looking to start MA Illustration at Camberwell?
Work hard and play harder.