Wang Fanqiao, aka Wang xx, is a freelance illustrator who draws seals every day. According to Fanqiao, “When I’m in a bad mood, I draw seals. When I’m in a good mood, it’s the same. I just need to draw seals.” After graduating from the graphic design program at Nanjing University of the Arts, Fanqiao took up a position as an illustrator for COLORS magazine at Benetton’s Fabrica Communication Research Center in Italy from 2012 to 2014. She later lived in London for a time, but early this year returned to Nanjing.
Fanqiao has loved drawing ever since she was a child. When she was in middle school, she became fascinated with Japanese manga, and vowed then to become a comic book illustrator herself. In university, she learned about other forms of illustration before starting her professional career. While working at COLORS in 2013, she started to draw seals in her free time, with her first series consisting of ten hand-drawn works. The seals were inspired by the stuffed toys she had from her childhood, which she would hug every night before falling asleep.
Fanqiao says, “There’s no real purpose to it, and I’m not sure where it’s headed. It’s just that when I stop drawing seals I feel lonely, so it’s something I need to do.” For the past two years, she has experimented with some different techniques for drawing seals. After her return to Nanjing, her seals have started to take on more human characteristics. She hopes that other people, in addition to being drawn to her cute aesthetic, will be able to find warmth and comfort in her illustrations.
The main character in Wang Fanqiao’s illustrations is a white seal, who lives with a grey seal, a manatee, and an octopus. Other characters often appear, including a rabbit, an elephant, and a crocodile. They eat together, get drunk together, read books together, or sometimes they just fall asleep on the couch. It is an ideal life that’s never too busy and never too lonely. Wang Fanqiao tells us that the seal is a part of her own personality, while the other characters are inspired by stuffed animals or friends from her own life.
Although Fanqiao’s digital illustrations are simple, they also convey a genuine sense of warmth and gentleness. She doesn’t need to try too hard to make them cute, because she believes that the world is naturally cute. While her commercial projects are more serious and tend to have some restrictions, her own personal projects allow her to have fun and to express herself freely. According to Fanqiao, her time spent as a magazine illustrator has given her an aptitude for thinking and working quickly, which has also influenced her personal work. She is inspired by the minimalist style of American artist Ellsworth Kelly, as well as the artistic philosophy of Marcel Duchamp.
Living and working abroad has taught Fanqiao that life can sometimes be difficult. “We’re very fortunate when we have enough to eat, enough to wear, and a place to work and live. These are things that we should all learn to be grateful for,” she says. Fanqiao feels a sense of gratitude towards every person that she encounters, from her family and friends to her clients and colleagues. For her, seals are a great model for those who want to keep a positive attitude in life: “Seals are pure. They always maintain an innocent attitude towards the world.”