Lost

 

When I finished Lost, it became clearer to me what I’m trying to accomplish artistically. The idea for the illustration is based on the Land of Toys in the Italian novel version of Pinocchio. The story goes the Land of Toys lures children with the promise of freedom and pleasure but the dark truth is that they are transformed into donkeys for their idleness. Instead of portraying the glitz and glamour of the Land of Toys, I chose a landfill as the landscape. Pinocchio is caught in a moment of contemplation among the heaps of waste and forgotten toys.

 

Lost is part of a series of dystopian fairy tales which I’m gradually working on. It’s a reflection of how I see the world today – through a bifocal lens of pessimism and optimism. As children we’re fed all these happy-ending stories that are repackaged as products of their time. Just think of Lost as having your apple juice with an insidious dose of reality (like realizing what we’re doing to the environment through our daily habits).

 

Originally I was going to title the illustration ‘Authenticity’ but ‘Lost’ is the truth behind the work. Lately, I’ve been directionless, frustrated, burnt out and well lost. Every year, I make plans to revisit my personal work to recharge the creative juices and every year I’ve put it off. Although I enjoyed working with other people and worked really hard on their projects with genuine enthusiasm and passion, it has come to a point where I have a diverse body of work without a clear focus. So what does she do again? I don’t really know but I do know that I’m terrified of specializing which is rooted in the fear of saying no and missing out on opportunities.

I’ve had many moments of doubt with the dystopian fairy tale series because I don’t see them fitting neatly into any category. They’re not that dark, they’re not really whimsical, they’re not that political, they’re not motivational, they’re not realistic, they’re not fantastical, they’re not really for kids or for adults, they’re not educational and they’re certainly not trendy.

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LOST (11″ x 14″, Digital) Lost above a cloud of lies| A puppet finds a conscience guise| With nowhere else left to hide| He succumbs to his own demise – Angela Zhang

But they are me: a subtle, quiet and introspective misfit. What is more, I’m discovering there are like-minded people who stop, look and reflect through these images. I’m really grateful for that.

 

With the dystopian fairy tale series, I plan on braving the world of self publishing. It’s the only course that makes sense for me. As I have done in the past, I’ll be documenting the journey with all its frustrations, struggles, darkness and eventually, I hope, small pockets of light.

Wonder

 

‘Wonder’ is the second illustration in the noir fairy tale series and it is a modern twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It goes without saying, Alice in Wonderland is an unforgettable classic that has been re-imagined and referenced countless times across different mediums (animation, film, painting, video games, comics etc.)

Personally, the story appeals to me more as an adult than when I first encountered it as a kid. It think this is because Alice’s predicament in a fantasy world can be a mirror to the chaotic process of making choices and dealing with those consequences as adults. For instance, Alice leads with curiosity and starts off somewhat naively. She makes choices that have immediate consequences. Ultimately she has to use her wit to navigate a world inhabited by apathetic characters.

‘Wonder’ seeks to capture the moment just before a decision happens.Sometimes making a decision is the most frustrating thing to do especially if you are presented with options. Other times, when you’ve made mistakes, like I have, you might feel powerless and limited in choice. Wonder’ also brings into question the role of curiosity in making decisions as a way to reflect on the trappings of logic that may have been created by our inner narratives.

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Wonder (11×14) – I remember a time when I was an avid day dreamer and this lasted well into adulthood (secretly). I loved staring off into space and letting my thoughts drift into other worlds. In those moments, I wondered about all sorts of things both real and imaginary, and free of judgement. Ha! Silly rabbit, wonder is just for kids. Let’s trade your curiosity for practicality. Let’s sell your values to choose a side; there ya go, to the left or maybe the right. Let’s follow the noise so we can ditch your calling. But wait a minute. Did you see that? Over there! A white rabbit… just this once let’s see where it leads. – Angela Zhang

 

 

Riding Hood Noir

I hope your 2017 is off to a good start!

January has been a series of minor setbacks for me in terms of project delays. As dead pine trees litter the alleyways of a holiday season spent, it’s all too easy to fall into the trappings of the winter blues.

It’s quiet and you know what? This is the perfect time to do some house cleaning for the illustration business. This means taking a hard look at the website, blog, social media channels and other portfolio sites to determine what’s working and what’s not. (Let me tell you there are many things that are not working due to my lack of consistency).

The quiet can also be a precious moment to delve back into personal work, as a way to experiment with techniques and explore themes more deeply. I’m giving myself a simple assignment with well defined parameters: to make eight 11′ x 14″illustrations based on fairy tales which build on my  gritty, black and white atmospheric style.

I’m fascinated with how stories survive over time and how they are retold and transformed by context. My aim with the series is to think about the theme of each story and retell it from my point of view. Each of the illustrations will be accompanied with an introspective blurb. My intent is to share some hard earned lessons which may be of help to those carving their own paths.

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Riding Hood Noir (11×14 Illustration) – When I was little, stories of the Big Bad Wolf haunted my dreams. My relatives told me if I didn’t cover myself with a blanket at night, I would be eaten by the Wolf. Fear can be used to control our behavior. If left unchecked it can prevent us from doing the things that matter. Ignoring fear is not an option for it will follow us into the unknown. It is up to us to persevere knowing that fear is not far behind. – Angela Zhang