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An Chen

An Chen

Meet illustrator from Taipei,  An Chen.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Taiwan. I graduated in 2019 with a master’s degree in children’s book illustration from the Cambridge School of Art in the UK. Before pursuing a career as an illustrator, I worked as a graphic designer for many years.

 

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

I have been living in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, on and off for almost 10 years now. One of the many things I love about the city is the safety as well as easy access to cheap and quality healthcare. Having had the chance to experience life abroad, I soon realized how important and how precious these things are.

 

One of the many things I love about the city is the safety as well as easy access to cheap and quality healthcare.

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Open, Free, Low-paid

 

How did you start your career in art?

Initially, I actually didn’t really have any dreams of being an illustrator at all. However, in 2015 I did a project for my company at the time. In that project, I used purely geometric shapes to form a series of graphics. The creative process went very smoothly and it was an approach that I had been trying to emulate for a long time. Eventually, that project won high praise and was selected by a design catalogue. So, for me, that project was the catalyst. I really began to think thoroughly about my career aspirations and I recognized that maybe I did indeed have this talent and that I should nurture it. Before this, I can say I was just churning out “stuff” to meet the needs of my clients and bosses.

 

For me, that project was the catalyst. I really began to think thoroughly about my career aspirations and I recognized that maybe I did indeed have this talent and that I should nurture it.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

None of my family or relatives works in the creative industry, so they don’t always understand or appreciate what I am doing. For them, being an illustrator by profession is not really something they yet understand. It’s a shame.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

Among my current projects is my attempt to combine vintage printmaking texture from the 50’s,60’s with geometric vector shapes. To balance the cold machine feel with the warmth of something manmade [handmade] is something that I have been contemplating and experimenting with. I’m hoping my work can achieve greater expression and have a more emotional resonance with my audience. Also, in terms of self-initiated subjects, I’ve been working on some side projects that raise more awareness of non-binary people as well as introducing more ethnically diverse subjects to my Taiwanese audience. Cute, girly, and fair skin is unfortunately still the default in the Taiwanese illustration industry and a recent experience I can share is where I had used a darker skin tone. However, I was asked by the editor to change it back to a lighter and fairer skin tone.

 

I’m hoping my work can achieve greater expression and have a more emotional resonance with my audience.

 

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Henning Wagenbreth. If I ever have the good fortune to work with him I really wanna peep his creative process from start to finish.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Both my mom and big sister have tough and aggressive personalities. They always fight for everything and are very independent. In terms of job opportunities and education, Taiwan fares well compared to other East Asian countries. However, I still sense the majority of Taiwanese women are unaware of the inequality which still exists in our culture. We have internalized the patriarchy deep in our minds. We judge each other and validate ourselves based on the standards and preferences of men.

 

They always fight for everything and are very independent.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

There weren’t many female creatives in the graphic design industry in Taiwan but the illustration field is very different. I can say that women now make up the majority.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I haven’t sensed this from my experience. I’ve heard people say that because illustration isn’t the best-paid job, a man would never choose this as their profession. But this implies that women should rely on a man to support their finances and is something I can’t support.

 

Be brave to pursue your dreams but don’t forget to set yourself a “Stop Loss Point”.

 

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

I believe that illustration career is an infinite game. The key to win isn’t to defeat your competitors, is to stay in the game as long as possible. So don’t always compare your work with others, that will collapse you. Keep adjusting your approaches, strategies and find the most comfortable way to run this marathon, and good luck!

 

 

Photos courtesy of An Chen.

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