Visual Metaphors w/ Wenting Li

Travellers: For the Parallel show at Light Grey Art Lab. / "旅行者":为《Parallel》在 Light Grey 艺术实验室的展览而创作的插画。

Wenting Li is a Chinese Canadian illustrator based out of Toronto. Her work is preoccupied with color and movement, the relationship between shapes, and the subtleties of complementing stories with imagery. As a young artist, she’s already established an impressive list of clients including The Globe and Mail, TED, Reader’s Digest, and The New York Times.


Wenting Li 是来自加拿大的华裔插画师,目前居住多伦多。她的作品专注于色彩与动态、形状之间的关系以及用图片补充故事的微妙之处。虽然还是个年轻的艺术家,但 Wenting 已经建立了一系列大客户群,比如《环球邮报》、TED、《读者文摘》和《纽约时报》。

Diving into Memory: As we remember things, we also alter the integrity of a memory. An illustration for Quebec Science. / “潜入回忆”:当我们记住事情的时候,我们也改变了一段记忆的完整性。为《Quebec Science》创作的插画。
Head Full of Memories: What we've come to know about the inner workings of memory. An illustration for Quebec Science. / “充满回忆的头脑”:我们已经知道了记忆的内在运作。为《Quebec Science》创作的插画。

Describing her personal work, Li tells us: “[It’s] especially focused on aesthetics but also on things I can’t think of words for and nebulous things like feelings.”

In contrast, her client work is more structured and goal-oriented. Li says, “Client work for me is about trying to map a prompt, such as an article, a story, or a concept, against the mess of visual connections unique to my head. I’m interested in visual metaphors, quiet moments, momentum, mystery, and how a drawing can open into parallel dimensions where things gesture at what they look like ordinarily, but their outlines are malleable.”


对于个人创作理念,Wenting 和我们说:“(我的作品)主要关注美学,以及我无法用语言描绘的事情,譬如像感觉这样含糊不清的事物。”

相比之下,她受客户委托创作的作品会更结构化,目标的导向更明确。她说:“给客户创作就像是在我自己脑袋一大堆乱七八糟的视觉联系中,试图让思维映射出一个主题,比如像是一篇文章、一个故事或一个概念。让我感兴趣的是那些视觉隐喻、安静氛围、动力张力和某种神秘的气质,尤其是看着画面里的事物映射着平凡的日常,但它们的轮廓却具有了可塑性,呈现出一个平行空间,这特别让我着迷。”

A Seat at the Table: Encouraging North American companies to become more diverse workplaces. An illustration for Corporate Knights. / "桌前一座":鼓励北美的公司工作场所变得更加多元化。为《Corporate Knights》创作的插画。
Winnipeg Beach: For a grown son's personal essay remembering his father. An illustration for The Globe and Mail. / “温尼伯海滩”:一个已长大的儿子写个人散文以回忆他的父亲。为《环球邮报》创作的插画。
Daughter: An unpublished piece on the burden of responsibility in elder care for The Walrus. / “女儿”:给《The Walrus》创作的还未发表的作品,关于养老责任重担的问题。

Wenting shares with us a story behind Constants, one of her recent illustrations for PLANADVISER, a trade magazine that, surprisingly, has established a reputation among artists as a platform for wildly conceptual illustration despite its technical content. Wenting says, “When I get the chance to work with PLANADVISER, I always try to let my subconscious go rampant. Some of the other sketches for this assignment included motifs like a kitchen full of animals, a home on the back of a giant fish, a vertical city – the concept I was given to work with was ‘stability of steady flow of income.’ Usually, I send in three or four of my favorite sketches, a distillation of maybe six or seven ideas, and many more thumbnails. The concept we went with is a tea drinker ensconced in front of her fireplace, with an endless supply of firewood for boiling water for tea, which comes from an enormous tree growing through her window and into the house itself. It’s something that was fun to draw. I knew I wanted to color the illustration as a night scene with dark blues and purples and lighter pinks and greens as contrast, with a sort of interior “glowiness,” and that’s what carried through to the final.”


Wenting跟我们分享了创作《Constants》(《常量》)背后的故事。这是她为商业杂志《PLANADVISER》创作的插图之一,神奇的是,这本商业杂志在艺术家之间颇有声誉,不仅仅囊括技术性的内容,还被视为是概念插图的一个重要平台。Wenting解释:“当我知道可以和(《PLANADVISER》)合作时,我就会让自己的潜意识尽情发挥。 这次合作的其它主题还包括一个充满各种动物的厨房,一条巨型大鱼背上的房子,以及一个垂直城市,我拟下的主题是‘稳定收入带来稳定’。通常我会发三到四幅我最喜欢的草稿,六七个比较好的想法,以及更多缩略图。我们采用的概念是一个在躲在壁炉前喝茶的女人,不断添柴煮茶。烧柴的木材则来自一棵穿过她房子窗户、径直伸入房子内的擎天大树。这样的题材很有趣,也比较大胆。我想用夜景的深蓝和紫色来给插图上色,加上浅粉色和绿色作为对比,突显出一些内部的光芒感,这主题和方法贯穿始终。”

Capture the Future: Poster illustration for the RBC Amplify 2018 program. / "捕获未来":为 RBC Amplify 2018 计划的海报插图。
Constants: Maintaining a constant flow in income and a constant supply of firewood for tea. An illustration for Planadviser. / "常量":保持收入不变,为煮茶提供不间断的柴火。 给《Planadviser》的插图。

Although Wenting was born in China, she left the country at the age of four. She cites her parents as her primary ties to Chinese culture. “[My parents] are in some ways very Chinese in terms of food, values, language, and so on, but in other ways are quite ambivalent – we don’t really mark the major Lunar New Year’s holiday for example. Sometimes the culture I come from can feel like more of a series of quirks, and other times it is definitely like looking at the world from a very different angle.”

While her cultural background doesn’t directly influence her work, Wenting is always hungry to discover new perspectives about the world around her as a means of fueling her creativity. She shares some of her recent sources of inspiration: “I’ve been listening to The Paris Review podcast and there’s something really nice about listening to people read you stories and poems and talk about their output. I’m also still reading Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life & Others – I’m stuck on a particular story about automatons in a Victorian-esque setting that is crawling up my skin.”


虽然 Wenting 在中国出生,但她四岁时就离开了这个国家,在她看来,父母是她与中国文化之间最主要的纽带。“(我的父母) 在食物、价值观、语言等等方面都很中国化,但在其它方面又相当矛盾。譬如,像中国农历新年这样的重要节日我们也不会怎么过。有时候,我感觉自己所来自的文化更像是一系列奇怪的事物,有时,又像是换了一个非常不同的角度来看世界。”

但她的文化背景并没有直接影响到她的艺术创作,Wenting 一直渴望发掘出看待周遭世界的全新角度,以作为她艺术的养分。她分享了她最近的一些文学灵感来源:“我一直都有听《巴黎评论》(The Paris Review)播客,听听别人给你讲故事、读诗歌,谈论他们的想法,挺有意思的。我还在读姜峯楠(Ted Chiang)的《Stories of Your Life & Others》(《你及他人一生的故事》),我尤其喜欢其中一个维多利亚时代背景关于机器人的故事。这个故事看得我毛骨悚然。”

Cherry Beach: Catching the Perseids shower in Toronto. / “繁星海滩”:在多伦多的海滩撞见了英仙座流星雨。

Despite her natural talents and reputation as an up-and-coming illustrator, Wenting still faces her fair share of creative struggles. She tells us, “Coming up with ideas is frustrating but really fun. Sometimes I lie down on the couch and despair of ever having a good idea again. Kind of like running through pain, I just keep drawing through it. It’s also helpful to switch your brain to a different track for a while, like go for a walk or clean all the sinks in your basement. I also struggle with living a life apart from my creative life – but waiting for a less busy time to live your life is an endless wait.”


尽管有着出色的天赋,且已被公认为新晋的创意人才,但在插画工作上,Wenting仍然有自己的挣扎与苦恼。她与我们分享道:“创意构思的过程有时很令人沮丧,但也真的很有趣,有时我躺在沙发上,绝望到怀疑自己以后还能不能再想出好的创意。就像是在痛苦中奔跑,我只能在痛苦中不停地画画。当然,把大脑切换到一个不同的频道一段时间会有所帮助,譬如去散散步,或是清理一下地下室的水槽。我还希望可以让工作不那么忙碌,好好享受一下创作之外的生活,但是要等到这样的时候,不知道要等到何年何月了。”

The Garden of Memory: An illustrator for the "Roots" issue of Amator. / “记忆花园”:为《Amator》“Roots”期刊创作的插画。
Small: The not-good-enough plague that comes with living in the social media age. An illustration for Canadian Living. / “小”:生活在社交媒体时代所带来的“不够好”状态的瘟疫。为《Canadian Living》创作的插画。
Into the Fire: Prumsodun Ok and the formation of Cambodia's first all-male, gay-identified Khmer dance company. An illustration for TED. / “入火”:Prumsodun OK 和柬埔寨第一个全男性、定义为同性恋属性的高棉舞蹈公司。为 TED 创作的插画。
Rowing: Opposing ideological agendas stalling the Democratic Party. An illustration for The New York Times. / “划船”:民主党内部的反对声音,拖延了民主党的议程。为《纽约时报》创作的插画。
Adding Value: Growing a shared set of values while growing a team. An illustration for Intercom. / "增值":在发展团队的同时,也要发展一套共同的价值观。为 Intercom 所创作的插图。

Website: wentingli.com
Instagram: @wentingthings

 

Contributor: George Zhi Zhao


网站: wentingli.com
Instagram: @wentingthings

 

供稿人: George Zhi Zhao