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Yun Yao

Yun Yao

Meet San Francisco-based illustrator, Yun Yao

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Yun, I am from Shenzhen, China, and currently working as an illustrator in San Francisco, California. I do works for creative agencies and editorials. I came to study art in the US when I was 19. After I graduated from school with a BFA degree in illustration in Dec. 2019, I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my works recognized by some major shows in the States, that’s how I got started working as an illustrator. I work from home now, the good thing about it is that I get to spend more time with my works, whether it’s commissioned or self assignments, I could use the time to develop my portfolio, get in contact with professionals, graduating from school was only the beginning. I see many challenges in the world during and after the pandemic, but what we could still do is keep going and stay connected.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

San Francisco is a vibrant city, it always reminds me of my hometown Shenzhen. They both are young and open, I really like the energy here. One of my favorite things to do while I was still at school is to go on field trips and picnics with friends, where we would do lots of paintings, and having a lot of fun chatting about life. There is a strong base for artist communities here as well,  including musicians, performers, painters, and writers, etc, where I constantly felt exposed to diverse and open energy whenever I am out for events, or go to shows, there’s always something going on. But I couldn’t do so since the pandemic. I usually start the day with enough caffeine, a call with friends and families who are in China, before I start working during the morning.

 

San Francisco is a vibrant city, it always reminds me of my hometown Shenzhen. They both are young and open, I really like the energy here.

 

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

Best Things: The creative energy is high, lots of amazing museums and galleries, botanic gardens, parks, independent book stores, and countless coffee shops, meaning endless places for people watching, but those are only living in my dreams now.

 

Worst Things: ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’

Besides that, it is very high maintenance to live in the city, not many people that I knew from school still live here after graduation.

 

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

Vivid

Challenging

Rewarding

 

How did you start your career in art?

I always knew I would be working as a creative. Like many artists, as a young kid, I found joy and peace when I am doing art-related things, while I would be running away from music lessons, which I truly regret now. It might have taken a while for me to decide into landing my career as an illustrator.  I did a lot of cold emailing since I graduated and finally started getting back some good news, even a small recognition is definitely helpful. It reminds me of the first time I ever got paid for doing design work. I am very excited about the upcoming opportunities.

 

Growing up, I like to gift people around me with my artworks or crafts. I felt the most rewarded when I saw their reactions, and my art teachers always spoke highly of my works even many years later. It is like many of these special moments that gave me the strength to keep going and further determine this goal.

 

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

I was lucky enough to have both my parents’ support. I quit my first university to study art here in the US. It was not an easy decision, but I am grateful that my parents eventually decided to trust and support me. Growing up, I like to gift people around me with my artworks or crafts. I felt the most rewarded when I saw their reactions, and my art teachers always spoke highly of my works even many years later. It is like many of these special moments that gave me the strength to keep going and further determine this goal.

 

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

I set small goals to prevent myself from overflowing with random thoughts, and stay open to new opportunities. While doing editorial illustration, I want to expand my career to more commercial and design-oriented art. I am also learning web design and development on the side,  one day I would like to have my own studio or brand. Keeping the habit of doing self-initiated work is important too, which keeps the blood flowing. As for now, I want to be able to tell stories and show emotions through my images, make works that can simply bring comfort to people and myself. Introducing more social and cultural awareness is sometimes another priority. I think being honest about what inspires and evokes your creativity is the most important and sustainable way in this journey.

 

As for now, I want to be able to tell stories and show emotions through my images, make works that can simply bring comfort to people and myself.

 

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

Es Devlin in any possible way. I am fascinated by the magic world she brought on stage. Also Cai Guo Qiang, I think I am really into large scale artworks.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Empowering, inspiring, and supportive. No matter what field they are in, what lifestyle they chose. My biggest influence was my mum. She traveled a lot for work when I was young, and she would be telling me the stories about the world I have not yet seen, her free soul has affected me in a lot of ways, and she encouraged me to pursue art as a career, I think I am really lucky to have someone close support me unconditionally. Ever since I came to the States, I met a lot of female artist friends, we always communicate and support each other, it’s been great to see that we are pursuing this together.

 

Empowering, inspiring, and supportive.

 

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

I didn’t really grow up with many creatives, I am probably the only one in my family who does art. However, I do remember lingering in a friend’s house to doodle comics every summer. And during my high school years, I was in art class and most of the students are girls, we spent a lot of time in the studio together. Back then I was a lot more quiet as a teenager, I am grateful for the friendship that we still have till this day.

 

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

I believe in some situations, people still label female artists based on their gender/age/appearance, even compared to other industries, we are less likely to be judged by those things. But no one gets the success easily as an artist, it is a tough industry to break in. Once a teacher told me, being Asian especially female, self-criticism comes in our DNA, in every aspect of life, but we should feel encouraged to embrace the accomplishment and feel proud of our self.

 

Once a teacher told me, being Asian especially female, self-criticism comes in our DNA, in every aspect of life, but we should feel encouraged to embrace the accomplishment and feel proud of our self.

 

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

Get lost, get stuck, be emotional, but always remember to do the things that you believe in. It’s never about making the flawless work. Be true to yourself and what you create, accept those doubts and vulnerabilities. Just remember everyone has their own path, at the end of the day it is about improving. And continuing to work hard.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Yun Yao.

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