Andrea Wan is an artist and illustrator based in Berlin and Vancouver.
You seem to have a lot of experience in commercial illustration as well as fine art. Do you find that you approach a piece differently if it is specifically for a client or publication?
It’s totally different, maybe not so much in the style but in the creative process itself. When I’m working on a commercial illustration it is usually pretty straight forward - I’m given a illustration brief, I come up with a few concept sketches, then develop the best sketch into the final piece. When it comes to my own art there’s no standard order. There’s always room for changes as I allow myself to be indecisive. I sketch and erase until I’m somewhat happy, then I paint, stare at it, and paint some more. Having both commercial and personal works out really well for me because it lets me jump between using my brain and my mind. It gives me a good balance and momentum to keep on creating.
When we last spoke you indicated that you spend half of the year in Vancouver and the other half in Berlin. Do the contrasting settings and cultures provide any special qualities to your work and inspiration?
I love to travel around and experience other cities and cultures. Fortunately, being a freelancer allows me to work from anywhere. Having lived in Hong Kong, Vancouver and Denmark, these cities all influenced and molded me in very different ways - they have became a part of me. Some of my pieces explores my relationships with the cities I’ve lived in, travelled, or imagined, showing emotional attachments as well as alienation.
Whenever I scroll through your website, I always become so absorbed in the folklore of each piece. Whether it’s ghosts, UFOs, houses or horses, each component seems to be a strong representative symbol that influences each story. Are these stories pre conceived or do they just come out when you begin painting? What was your favorite story growing up?
My horses were based on a drawing I did as a kid. It was a crayon drawing of four baby horses running underneath a giant horse. Everything about these horses was so free including the way they were drawn. There’s something special about it so I had to keep it with me. The narratives in my drawings are some times preconceived sometimes not. Most of the time they happen during the sketch process. It’s like playing with paper dolls as a kid - you only have so many dolls or clothes so you have to assign them a different role and make up a different story every time. These characters don’t always have the same role, sometimes the horse could be a self portrait, sometimes it could be someone I’ve met. Often I like to analyze my own drawings as if I was my own psychologist. Maybe it’s an only child thing…
My parents used to work closely with publishers so they always brought back lots of children books from all around the world. I had so many favorites but I think the kind that amused me the most were the ones without a linier storyline. Books such as Where is Waldo, choose your own adventure stories are amazing because you can read them over and over again and find new narratives every time. I was especially drawn to illustrations that are kind of chaotic, with lots of people doing different things and lots of hidden narratives. Other than that I also enjoyed stories by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake.
Your color choice and use of patterns also feels very well thought out. Where do you begin deciding which hues to bring in to your next series?
I usually sketch directly on the paper and then color with ink. I decide my palette while coloring and I’ve never planned a specific palette for a whole series of drawing. It just happened to be somewhat cohesive in the end.
We are excited to have Andrea Wan’s beautiful work at The LAB Miami starting on December 7th. Come check it out!