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Interview: Neko Jiang's Graphic Landscapes

Interview: Neko Jiang's Graphic Landscapes

Lives and works in New York City, New York

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

When I was six years old, I created a drawing of a big cat carrying a kitten in an art class. I still remember the excitement when I finished it. In elementary school, I started writing and illustrating novels based on my friends around me. Then I realized that I preferred to draw to express my ideas, and drawing became a bright light during a heavy school schedule. I chose animation design for my undergraduate, and I started learning to make animations to express myself until I took an illustration class, and that's when I realized that illustration is a more direct and diverse form of self-expression for me. Then I moved to the United States for three years of graduate study in illustration in New York City. These three years of study allowed me to explore how to find my artistic voice in illustration.


What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

I moved to New York four years ago to study illustration, and before that I had been working as an animation creator in China. My original intention for both animation and illustration was to tell stories. The animation I used to create was more focused on my upbringing and experiences, and the medium was very organic, such as pencil drawing and paper cutting Stop Motion. However, after I moved to New York, my art style became more digital, and the colors I used in Illustration were more bold and varied. The subject matter became more focused on the moments in life that inspired me.

Sketching at Grand Central Station, New York

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

In my early work, I loved to create animal characters and bring them into human behavior, either by finding a common ground between animals and people. In my last two years I have continued to explore and create animal characters, incorporating them into illustrations, comics and graphic novels. I also like exploring food, three years ago I created a zine, in which I tell the story of the restaurants I explored in New York in comic form. I've also shared recipes I've created in graphic form on social media, which were surprisingly popular. The ability to combine two high points of my interests, food and art creation, I found to be a great motivator for my personal and even commercial creations. In my future creative endeavors, I hope I can continue to expand in the directions I'm interested in now and make a breakthrough.

Jacaranda's Secret

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

I think cats are my biggest inspiration, and I create a lot of artwork with cats in it. I enjoy observing their behavior and trying to figure out their mysterious inner. Another one of my biggest sources of inspiration is the Belgian artist Brecht Evens, whose graphic novels are cryptic and full of metaphors, and the images are very impactful. Every time I look at his work, I feel that my creative boundaries have been expanded.

Sketching at Gardner Museum, Boston

Where do you find inspiration?

I like to sketch outdoors, finding a corner to stand, observing people in a rush, and capturing their moments in my sketchbook. Whenever I do sketches, I always get inspiration from the little things that happen around me, thinking about who they are, where they came from, and where they' re going. The most inspiring places for me are the bathroom and the subway. Whether I am in the shower or sitting on the subway seat, I can still my mind and thinking, and then the inspiration will flash out like a firework explosion. I will immediately record my thoughts in my phone memo.

Drowning In The Soil

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

In 2020, I created a graphic novel called Allergen, which was presented as my visual thesis for graduate studies. The story revolves around a caterpillar with a cat face and a naked girl, and is about trust and growth in relationship. The work was completed during the global epidemic, completing the entire work was a self-healing process that brought me out of the shadows of depression.

Work in Process

How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

Allergen was inspired by a very bad relationship I had in the past. After ending the relationship, I suddenly started getting really bad allergic reaction called Urticaria, the hives appears on my lips, my tongue, my throat, and my joints, which were swollen and itchy. That cause my first time be sending into the Emergency Room. I suffered mental and physical pain, and I chose to turn that pain into inspiration for this project. This is my first attempt at graphic Novel, and also the first time I chose to paint with gouache and colored pencil. I used a lot of metaphors in the story, which was a way for me to incorporate my real feelings into the creation.

<Allergen>, "The Giant Apple"

<Allergen>, "Growing"

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

Don't think too much, and if you have inspiration, just implement it.

Two Tigers

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on a series of illustrations about plants and girls, and I'm trying to find a connection between the plant shape and women. And since I started learning to keep houseplants during the epidemic, I've been watching them grow every day and slowly they've become my biggest source of inspiration so far.

Disco Light

If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?

If you're not inspired or you're hit a plateau, go out and do some sketching.

Studio View

About the Artist

Based in New York City, New York

Neko Jiang is an award-winning illustrator from Chengdu China. Currently she based in New York City. She is using her imagination to create a unique "NEKO" world, and she loves to create funny and adorable characters. She has a strong enthusiasm for creating art and storytelling. Her most recent works are created utilizing digital media or gouache, and she is fascinated by different color combinations. She loves using her drawing to record the tiny and beautiful moments in life. The experience of living in NYC has become the most significant source of her inspiration.

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