Liang Gen is a Taiwanese illustrator who finds his inspiration in the mundane moments of daily life as well as from traditional Taiwanese customs. His work is often described as being filled with a nostalgia for the memories of the past, as well as having a child-like sense of wonder. Based in Taichung, the 33 year old artist has published four books so far: Fengyanfengyu (2012), Shuying (2013), Renshengzhexue (2014), and the most recent Shenmobujianle.
“When I was little, my dream was to become a manga artist. Around when I was nine or ten, my brother Guo Yu Yi and I started making comics. He was in charge of writing the story while I would focus on the illustrations. It was just a hobby of ours at the time.”
While Liang Gen was still a student, he produced a series of artwork called The Ugly Family. He put it up in a marketplace dedicated to creatives in an attempt to make some money. This was his first hand-drawn work and it draws influence from the famous Japanese manga artist Osamu Tezuka. After becoming a full-time comic artist, Liang Gen and his brother Guo Yu Yi continued to work together. Liang Gen’s style underwent some drastic changes during this time, his colors were slowly becoming more vibrant and the details even more refined.
早在學生時代，良根畫了壹系列的作品《The Ugly Family 》去參加創意市集並販售壹些商品賺零用錢。這也是他的第壹個手繪作品，頗有日本漫畫家手冢治蟲質樸的意味。真正成為全職漫畫家之後，良根和郭漁壹個畫壹個寫的合作仍在繼續，但良根的畫風大有轉變，色彩更加明麗，線條愈加細膩。
“I’ve never received any formal education when it comes to drawing. I learned woodworking in high school and furniture design when I was in college. When I started working I felt no sense of satisfaction or achievement since the drawings I produced weren’t the kind of work I wanted to be creating. Soon after realizing this, I quit and started freelancing from home. The furniture designs I created at that time were required to be made digitally so in the very beginning all of my work was done digitally. After becoming more and more familiar with illustrating and discovering the fun in drawing, I started taking notice of the art of painting. I thought being able to draw freehand was especially cool, and in trying to impress girls at the time, I started to practice drawing freehand. I like the visceral feel of putting a brush to canvas – you’re able to infuse more personality into the work.”
The majority of Liang Gen’s work revolves around memories of his childhood. “When I was still young, every Chinese New Year our family would go to our grandparents’ house located in the more rural area of Taiwan. Honestly, every year around that time is the most fun I have all year. Swimming in the ponds, being in the farm, along with catching fish in ditches and crickets in the garden was the happiest time of my life.” These familiar scenes of his childhood soon disappeared. His grandparent’s traditional Taiwanese house was soon replaced by a high-rise, the farm turned into a factory, and there were no longer any more fish to be caught. “Our future generation will never know of these moments and places that were so much fun to us as kids. So naturally, as I grew older I wanted to draw these memories that I’ve been so fond of as a kid. Seeing as all of these things are gone now I suppose that I subconsciously wanted to try and relive these beautiful memories through my work.” Liang Gen’s newest book Shenmobujianle is a visual narrative on the current state of traditional Taiwan culture that is rapidly disappearing .
Besides illustrating books, Liang Gen also challenges himself by creating wall murals. “Compared to drawing on paper, creating a mural is more of a physically fatiguing task. A big risk is the height of the wall. At around three or four meters, I need a ladder to go up. Every time I climb I’m afraid of falling. It’s a scary thing to be so up high, with one hand holding paint and the other hand drawing. Not to mention the process of going up and down in order to make sure the proportions and the shadows are correct. When I’m finished with the piece, I feel both a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of disbelief that this is something I created. Afterwards seeing the furnishings come together with my mural and how they compliment one another it makes me even happier.
Liang Gen’s knowledge of hand-drawn illustrations was all self taught. He only uses acrylic paints as he confesses that he enjoys the specific smell that it has. The first piece of work he had done with acrylic paint was for a restaurant. In that painting, he captured the excitement and togetherness of gathering around a communal hotpot as a kid during Chinese New Year. The pay for this particular painting was quite underwhelming, despite the fact that he spent a great deal of time creating it. In the end however it paid off as that painting resulted in a lot more commissioned work that later came his way.
“Most painters find it hard to pursue painting full-time, I know many painters that also work another day job. I’m able to do this full time because of the topics and themes I pursue, which are very relevant to Taiwanese culture and this country is currently lacking painters of this kind. A lot of my work are commissioned pieces right now so I have an endless amount of jobs available but what I want is to have more creative freedom. I will often turn down jobs to make more time for my own personal paintings which in turn has created hardships for me in daily life, but on a mental level the satisfaction I get from creating work I’m proud of keeps me going. Even if I can’t earn a consistent income just from my personal work, at least I am happy. I still do commercial work but at the same time I am also working on my own illustrations. When I’m drawing I completely devote myself to the work and I easily lose track of the time and even forget about how tired I may be at the time. Every morning when I wake up and look at the paintings I’m working on it puts a smile on my face. It fills me with joy.”