Meet Junyi Wu. Junyi is an illustrator living in Los Angeles. Her illustrations are composed primarily with pencils with which she blends multiple layers of color to create a moody and dreamlike sensibility. Junyi graduated from the Art Center College of Design, and her illustration has been featured in a number of galleries and publications, including Gallery Nucleus, QPop Shop, Juxtapose, Design Work Life, and American Illustration.
Junyi is one of the current exhibiting artists in the Stacks Show. We are thrilled to celebrate her work, concepts, and contributions to the show. You can read the full interview below, and more of Junyi's work on her website and blog here.
Hi Junyi. Can you tell us about your background? How did you find illustration?
I studied Biology at UCSD for a year before transferring to Art Center for Illustration. Since graduating, I've been working doing graphic design during the day and do all of my illustration projects under the cloak of darkness and on weekends. It's been a good balance so far -- the variation keeps me motivated. My first encounters and love of illustration came from books and animations.
What is your experience with the art/illustration scene in Los Angeles? Inspiring? Intimidating? Other?
It's been a good experience so far! There are some nice galleries and shops out here that support local artists and I like going to events like the LA Zine Fest, Patchwork Show and Unique LA to see the work that's there. I see a lot of familiar and new faces so it seems like it's a pretty good community for new and established artists alike. The artists I've met have been very nice!
Tell us a little about your practice. What is your work space like? Do you have any "studio essentials"
My work space is a desk in my room. My usual setup consists of: my laptop, colored pencils, acrylic gouache, a stack of copy paper, and the books and images I find relevant or inspiring for what I'm currently working on. I like copy paper for sketching because sometimes I'm lucky enough to bang something out in one go, but other times I need to go through stages, figuring out a piece of it with each attempt. I throw out a lot of drawings during my process and there's something satisfying about being able to crunch things up and try again. I do most my finished pieces on vellum bristol or Rives BFK. To stay focused, I usually listen to one or two songs on repeat or play a movie I've seen before in the background. It's always fun to go out and eat/drink/draw somewhere with friends too.
Your work has a sweet, gentle, lovely aesthetic–it's clear to see how Studio Ghibli is a favorite of yours! Is there anything in particular that drew you to those films? What are your other sources of inspiration?
One of my favorite qualities of Studio Ghibli's animations is how gracefully they blend magic and whimsy with quiet, poignant moments. Each aspect strengthens the other to make the stories very organic and keep the characters' struggles and triumphs relatable. I also like how Ghibli animations are always blurring a very fine line between the everyday and fantastical worlds, similar to a daydream.
For inspiration, I like to scroll through Tumblr and see other people’s work and resource photos. I also enjoy compilation books with big pictures -- landscape photography, fashion designs, diagrams, paintings, etc. I like reading about history, psychology and mythology and I really like opinion pieces and KCRW's UnFictional podcasts. I LOVE listening to people tell stories. My other main sources of inspiration are song lyrics and moments I remember from daily interactions and activities.
Could you talk about the development of your texture and color process? Was there a lot of media exploration?
Yes, I guess for me, if I can blend something I will! The tactility of different media really appeals to me- I like to get dirty. So I'll go in with my hands and push things around when working with pencil, charcoal or acrylics. The different results you can get from playing around with scale are also cool. I think media exploration is important because the different ways of working really come to inform each other. With my general way of working, I fill in and knock back a lot of layers to create the textures and color fields I want.
There is a really healthy balance between digital and traditional media in your finished work. How did that come about?
Thanks! I guess it's a reflection of the art I like. I have equal respect for artists working in digital and traditional media, and it's always inspiring to see what different artists bring to each and how far they take it. Working with the tablet is a lot newer to me than working with a pencil, but working digitally has encouraged me to push shapes more across the board. Personally, I still keep some stylistic distinctions between the two methods so, unless a client specifically chooses one, I go with the one that will help me achieve the image I'm going for. I like the flexibility of working digitally and the process of working traditionally.
Both character and place have prominent roles as the subjects of your work. What draws you to your subjects? Do you find there are parallels between your illustrations of characters and environment?
In some way, I'm always drawing the way I relate to a story or remember a certain scene. The things that resonate most with me are emotional experiences, color, and the way things contrast from one another visually or characteristically. With characters and environment, there are plenty of opportunities to play with all of these by making one or the other the focus.
What are you working on currently? Any dream projects?
With my personal work, I'm doing some new pieces in preparation for a couple of upcoming events. I'm excited to be sharing a table in a couple months at CTN with my friend and fellow illustrator Jon Lau (we also shared a table with earlier this year at ICON) and we're doing a few collaborative works. Stay tuned to find out what they're going to be! I'm trying out some new things, including some apparel designs and a comic, and illustrating a children's book is still up there on my list of dream projects!
You can find Junyi's work for the Stacks Exhibition on the Light Grey Shop and permanent online gallery here. You can also follow her work and website: junyiwu.com and junyiwu.tumblr.com.