Grad Spotlight: Yinfan Huang
Yinfan Huang creates playful illustrations, inspired by her world-travel experience and multi-cultural background.
The Guangzhou-born, New York-based illustrator and designer recently graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where she picked up a BFA in illustration – and more than a few words of wisdom.
As part of our ongoing graduate spotlight series, we recently got in touch with Yinfan to see what those words were, and to talk shop about her journey into illustration, commanding the way that she works and her love of handmade crafts among much more.
So Yinfan, tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what encouraged you to pursue a career in illustration.
Well I was born and raised in South China, and showed a strong interest in art from a young age; I was always drawing, as well as creating my own zines and newspapers, and I was known as the crazy doodling kid to my classmates. I was very lucky that my parents let me pursue art and even sent me to art classes, but the art education in China was very academic and strict then, which I didn’t like. And I ended up not getting in to a good art school.
I didn’t really know about ‘illustration’ until I was a lot older… not until my second year of college, maybe. In China, illustration – even now – is very new to people. Thanks to the Internet though, I was able to discover lots of great illustration and illustrators from all over the world, and I started to build my own understanding and taste towards it.
I spent a year creating my own art portfolio, and the idea of studying abroad occurred to me during that time. I had no friends or schoolmates back then who were also pursuing illustration or art as a career, so I was pretty lonely and did everything on my own anyway. I applied to art schools in America which was the biggest challenge and gamble of my life, not least because my English was so poor back then. Surprisingly though, all of the schools that I applied to got back to me, and I chose a school in Midwest America that offered me a scholarship.
I love the feeling of using my hands and getting to touch the materials. In a fast paced world, it’s important to slow down, and produce something that you have really put time and thoughts into.
Wow – what a journey! Now then, how would you describe your style to our readers?
I would say that I have a very playful and lyrical style, with a bit of humour and naivety.
And what techniques and materials do you tend to use?
I use a variety of materials in my work. I use gouache a lot in my traditional work, and then programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop to do my digital illustration and pattern work. For my 3d and textile work, I use fabric and clay.
To pick up on your 3d and textile work, I know that you have a deep appreciation for handmade crafts. What is it about handmade crafts that you enjoy so much?
I love the feeling of using my hands and getting to touch the materials. In a fast paced world, it’s important to slow down, and produce something that you have really put time and thoughts into. I also think that handmade work has the magic of pulling an audience close to the artist, even if you’re just viewing it on a screen – it’s eye candy!
I like to observe people and imagine their stories. I also strongly connect to the places I go to… I just moved to New York, and just walking on the street and taking the subway has given me so much inspiration already.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I like to observe people and imagine their stories. I also strongly connect to the places I go to, and that often later provides ideas for my work. I just moved to New York actually, and just walking on the street and taking the subway has given me so much inspiration already.
You recently graduated from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, correct? What aspect of your course did you most enjoy and why?
I took as many different classes as I could there – not just illustration classes – and I met many different people from different majors, which I enjoyed a lot. Just getting to take classes outside of my major, such as 3d and installation really broadened my mind.
It doesn’t matter what medium or technique you use, you just need to be very confident and command the way that you work.
Did you pick up any profound words of wisdom during your time there?
My illustration teacher, Allen Brewer, once told me that people want to see your confidence. It doesn’t matter what medium or technique you use, you just need to be very confident and command the way that you work. I always try to keep that in mind now.
Did you work for any clients or show in any exhibitions while at college?
Yes. In my junior year, I was extremely lucky to be commissioned by the 3M company to design a new collection of their post-it notes, and the final product got produced and sold in stores. That’s actually how I got in to the surface pattern field. I also had shows at Minneapolis-based gallery, Light Grey Art Lab. And I even curated two group shows while I was in school, which was so fun!
And what have you been up to since leaving college?
After I graduated, I did some freelance work for the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis; I created an illustration and title art for its series of children’s plays, which was very fun and I hope that I can do more work like that in the future!
Do you have a dream brief, client or collaboration then?
I would be thrilled to publish a book with Chronicle Books.
Over here, Chronicle Books! And what about any upcoming projects that you might be working on now – anything in the pipeline?
I’m working on a children’s book, which I wrote myself. I’m also creating illustrations based on the characters from my senior year project, ‘The Runaway Pomegranate’.
We’ll keep an eye out! Finally, where do you hope to be in 5-10 years time?
I like to travel, so I hope to be travelling more… perhaps working as an illustrator and artist in the US or Europe.
This post is part of our ongoing Graduate Spotlight series. If you’re a recent graduate and would like to get featured click here to find out more.