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Capturing the dramatic and ordinary moments in life

Interview with Leah Yang

1.      Please tell us something about your background and your art journey so far.

I am an illustrator and author from Shenzhen, China, currently living in Cambridge.  In 2019, I completed her BA degree at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. I graduated from the Cambridge School of Art in 2022 with a master degree in children's book illustration and currently work mainly on original picture books.

I enjoy expressing delicate emotions and flowing atmospheres through relaxed and even clumsy pencil lines, besides, humour is also a feature of my work.

2.      Can you tell us more about the theme in your art and your inspiration?


Most of my inspiration comes from seeing and feeling the world with my own eyes. I like to record the daily life around me. Sometimes I want to observe nature, so I go for a walk in the park near my home. Sometimes I want to draw about humanities, so I spend an afternoon in a cafe or a museum. I am good at capturing and recording the "dramatic" moments in daily life.


3.      How does your art life impact other parts of your life?


Since my art works mostly originate from my life, they are linked to each other. I perceive in my daily life and then express in my art. In other words, my art life provides me with more perspectives to observe and perceive my life.

I once heard a quote but I forget where it came from, basically: "The good thing about being an artist is that there's no moment of wasted time."   Because everything you've experienced has shaped the art you're making now. I think the biggest impact is that I often carry a couple of pencils and a sketchbook with me so that I can record my feelings whenever I want.

Sketching is a way to directly express and record what you want to convey. Because in sketching, you have to record what you see and feel very quickly, and there is no time for you to slowly sculpt the picture, because what you see may change in the next second. When I am concentrating only on recording what I feel, I am always surprised by unexpected images.


4.      Are you deliberately pursuing a certain painting  style?


I don't intentionally pursue any style. I just don't want to draw too "standard" and "accurate”, because I have been learning the "basic skills" of drawing systematically since junior school in China, it’s mostly of the more formal, academic grounding in drawing. As I've been drawing for longer, the more I've realised that many of the "techniques" were already ingrained in me as limitations, restricting my possibilities for creating art works. For example: "When I draw a person with a bent arm, I subconsciously draw the folds of the clothes at the bent joints without any thinking or observing." It took me a long time to forget and wash away these "tricks". Sometimes I would deliberately exaggerate an arm or a foot to emphasise a part of a person that brought out a strong feeling in me, but now I am exploring more of a subjective approach to putting my feelings into the picture, reminding myself not to be limited by what I see in the objective world.


5.      What practical advice can you give to fellow artists?


Try to develop the habit of sketching, it will be very useful. There is no set way to use a sketchbook, and it’s not necessary to have a highly finished picture on every page, it may be just a few simple lines sometimes. Just record what you want to express.

6.      What are you working on at the moment and are there any upcoming events you would like to talk about?


I'm working on my next original picture book, which will be published at the end of this year. I would like to explore more stories with the theme of "socialisation and relationships", especially focusing on "socialising with children from social minorities". I'm also working on picture books for early ages (0-3), which is a new endeavour for me, and I'm looking forward to the final work. In addition to my original picture books, I've also been working with other talented authors!


On the creative side, I hope to keep trying to explore more combinations of materials with pencil lines, so that I can maintain my current way of creating, but also keep challenge myself to explore more diverse ways of creating.


Ins: @leah_wildpear

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