1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
Hey, I'm Neko Jiang! I'm from Chengdu, China. Currently, I am based in New York, USA.
I came to New York City four years ago for my graduate studies in illustration. The reason I why selected New York was because some artists I respect a lot are mostly based there. This gave me a sense of expectation and imagination about New York. Having actually come to the city inspired and embraced me more than I could have imagined. I am now living and working in New York as a freelance illustrator.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I enjoy creating animal characters and bringing them into human behaviour or seeking a common point between animals and people. This brings an ironic yet adorable style to my work. In recent years, I have been exploring and creating animal characters, bringing them into my illustrations, comics and graphic novels. I also like to combine my own experiences and build metaphors into the stories, like easter eggs, for the viewer to discover.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Most of my current works are illustrated in Adobe Photoshop. Especially for my commercial work, the digital medium makes it more effective for me to complete a work, and easier to modify. However, for some of my personal works of self-expression, I would prefer to use more traditional mediums such as acrylic, gouache, colored pencil, pencil, and colored ink. Painting with these mediums on real paper gives me a sense of the primal joy of painting. The tactile feeling and the textures that come from traditional mediums are the most organic expression for me.
4. What is your artistic process like?
If it's a digital medium, I will create a mood board based on a theme and then create some thumbnails. I will eventually choose one of these thumbnails as the final sketch and then complete it with details. This process is usually done in Procreate on my iPad. Then I will color and polish it through Photoshop on my computer.
For traditional mediums, such as acrylic and gouache, I will still draw the sketch in Procreate, then print out the sketch, transfer it onto paper with pencil, then color it. This process will reduce the damage from failed coloring.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I believe cats are my biggest source of inspiration, and they show up in many of my works. I've had cats in my family since I was very young, and I still have one at home in Chengdu that has stayed with us for 11 years. I love to observe their behaviour and guess their inner world. At the same time, cats are the biggest antidote to my anxiety and worries.
Another source of inspiration for me is my daily life and growth experiences. I love to pay attention to the little things that happen in life. For example, during the epidemic, I was obsessed with house plants keeping, and my recent personal artworks revolve around various plants and self emotions. I also like to explore food, and I have created zines about food exploration and drawn comic recipes. I enjoy sketching outdoors, finding a corner to stand on, observing people in a hurry, and capturing their moments in my sketchbook. While sketching, I always get inspired by the small things that happen around me, thinking about who they are, where they come from, and where they are going.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
When I was a child, art was a way for me to escape from school and relieve stress. I could immerse myself in my own creative world. When I was an undergraduate studying animation, art was a medium for me to express my growth and experiences. When I came to the U.S. to study illustration, art became an integral part of my life, and everything that surrounds me and all the emotions and feelings can be my inspiration. Now that art is part of my career, it brings me profit and I try to keep some of my personal styles within the limitations of commercial work. However, art also brings me the pressure of an unstable income, but I'm trying to adapt and balance that. With growth, I think what art has brought me is an expansion and inclusion of my understanding of the world, and that anything can become art.
7. Where did you study?
I studied Animation Design at East China Normal University as an undergraduate, and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Illustration.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I will keep developing my unique style, and in terms of forms, I will try to combine illustration and animation. I expect to have more commercial cooperation with more brands, such as posters and packaging for brand promotion. I also want to keep creating independent zines and selling them in art fairs. If the opportunity arises I would also like to publish my own picture book or graphic novel.
9. What about in ten?
I intend to become a well-known artist with a recognizable style as "Neko Jiang". Maybe it won't happen in ten years, but I will make it the goal of my life.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I hope that my artistic works will bring sensory and emotional resonance to others.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
All the Sichuan spicy foods, as well as Boba Milk Tea! :3
12. Favourite book?
The most recent favorite one is Liu Cixin's "The Three-Body Problem".
13. Favourite genre of music?
Indie pop, Dance rock, and Synth pop.
14. What are your hobbies?
Plant keeping, Nintendo games, occasionally hiking as well as food exploration.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
Maybe I will be a food critic!