Meet Yinfan Huang. Yinfan is a freelance illustrator based in New York, creating whimsical and playful work influenced by world travel and folk art. She grew up in a city called Guangzhou in Southern China, and briefly studied animation and printmaking in Chinese college before she came to the US to pursue her BFA in illustration at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She has worked for clients such as 3M, Anorak Magazine, Children's Theater Company, and more.
We're excited to chat with Yinfan about her inspirations, travels, ongoing projects, and more! We have had the pleasure of working with Yinfan for the Smart exhibition, Anymistics, and presently Patches + Stitches. We'll talk about her interest in textiles and soft sculpture, and details about her piece for the Stitches side of the Patches + Stitches show. You can see more of Yinfan's work on her website as well!
Tell us about your workspace! How does your environment affect your creativity?
Because I work traditionally, having a quiet workspace with lots of light is important for my practice. Right now my workspace is in the living room and bedroom of my apartment. It is perfect for my current situation, but I would love to have a separate studio someday.
Your work focuses heavily on playful colors and textures. What is your approach to using materials to accomplish this?
I have a deep appreciation for everything handmade, so I want to keep the tactile quality in my work. Colored pencil has a soft feeling to me and I like to use it for illustration. I also use materials like wool, felt, and clay for my 3D work- they just feel natural for me to work with. Even for my digital work I tried to keep the handmade touch. I like bright and playful colors, which make me feel happy, and I hope my work makes people happy as well.
There is a sense of happiness and innocence in your creations. How do you get inspired and stay motivated to make your work?
I get inspired a lot by the places I live in. Walking in the city and taking the subway provide me with endless inspiration. Although I have spent most of my life living in big cities, the early years of my childhood living in a small town has played a big role in my life. I still connect deeply with nature and animals, I think that’s why my work has an innocent feeling to it.
Moving from China, to Minneapolis, and now living in New York, has moving around influenced your work in any way?
Definitely! like I said before, I am influenced largely by the environment I live in. Moving to the US has broadened my horizons and made me grow as a person and an artist. Minneapolis is a beautiful city with great nature and nice people, which gave me so much freedom to play with my work. However, it got to a point where I needed to have more energy and a bigger art community around me, so I decided to move to New York. Living in New York has given me so much inspiration and my work has improved a lot because of that. I often have ideas when I was traveling, either on plane or train. I would like to travel more in the future, but moving is always a huge pain!
Now that you are located in New York, have you had any opportunities to collaborate with other creative people who live there?
I recently collaborated with my friend Xinyun Huang for my on-going creative project pomegrandate Boy. We took the life-size plush toy I made to different places in NYC and took pictures of him. We’ve made postcards out of these photos and we’ll sell them at the Renegade Craft Fair on June 27th which I’m excited to participate in- it will be my first craft fair in New York!
Who are some of your artistic role models?
Maria Kalman is one of my favorite illustrators I discovered when I first moved to the US. Her work is so innocent yet sophisticated with poetic text, which has inspired me a lot. I also like the art of Kiki Smith, Marc Chagall, Japanese textile designer Katsuji Wakisaka, Swedish graphic designer Olle Eksell,Marc Boutavant, Japanese designer Yoshie Watanabe. Just to name a few!
Anorak Magazine, "Happy Wishes"
What has been your favorite project recently?
The UK children’s magazine Anorak recently asked me to do a two-page activity illustration for their Cats & Dogs issue. The illustration I did is called “Happy Wishes”, which was inspired by one of my personal illustrations called “ List of Happiness”. The art director gave me the freedom to design the whole double-page spread. I drew some happy scenes on the left side of the page, and put some empty boxes on the right hand side for kids to fill in with their own wishes. It was such a fun project to work on!
You work a lot with textile and soft sculpture. How does this kind of work relate to your illustration work?
I started making clay sculptures and plush toys when I was studying animation in China and we had to make puppets for a stop-motion animation. Years later, I first made a 3D piece for one of my illustration assignments in MCAD, which made me realize I could incorporate 3D materials into my illustration to make it look more interesting. I think my 2D illustration and 3D work inspire each other which creates a nice balance for me. I’m so glad I have something else to work with besides drawing on paper or on the computer, that way I will never get tired of doing illustration!
Patches and Stitches is a show that will celebrate the beauty and breadth of textiles. Could you indulge us a bit about your piece for the Stitches side of the show?
Seoul Memories is a hand-embroidered piece I created based on a sketch from when I was traveling Seoul, South Korea in 2011. I remember I was sitting in a coffee shop near Ewha Woman's University and I drew a quick colored-pencil sketch of the view by the window. It was one of the best trips of my life and I think that drawing captured my impression very well. So I decided to transform my memories into a tangible format as embroidery. It was a challenge for me because this is my first time doing a fully illustrated embroidery, and I tried different stitching technique in this piece. It took me forever to finish but I am very happy now that it is complete.
Thanks Yinfan! You can see Yinfan's piece, Seoul Memories, at the upcoming Patches + Stitches exhibition, which will be happening July 3rd at 7PM at Light Grey Art Lab! You can also check out Yinfan's website or blog to see more of what she is up to!