Jason Chuang is an illustrator and storyteller based in Taiwan and the UK who explores alternative realities and expresses the power of imagination through his surreal narratives.
The UK / Taiwan
As an award-winning graphic novelist and current Master's student at the Royal College of Art in London, UK, Jason has found new ways of storytelling through animated short films, while continuing to contemplate the absurdities of human experiences through his 2D illustrations.
Days Spent In Isolation Part II
What attracted you to pencil and digital illustrations?
With pencil drawing, it’s the directness that I like. I also have a sentimental connection with a pencil, as it has been the first and the most frequently used medium for me to note down ideas. Pencils seem to have a magic that brings certain kinds of emotions out of people, I guess it’s because most of us are very familiar with the medium and used it to doodle or scribble on different surfaces as a kid. I started breaching into the digital art territory about 3 years ago. I am particularly attracted to how one can gain full control over almost everything, from the weight of lines, quality of the lines, compositions, to colours; and working digitally is very time-saving for me too. In the future, I plan to merge my traditional skills more closely with the digital medium.
Do you find yourself using certain elements often? If so, why do you use them, and what do they symbolize for you?
I am naturally attracted to the bizarre and beautiful things, the oddities that occur in everyday life, these interests are translated into the work that I produce. I am hugely inspired by the surrealist movement; it resonates with the way I work, as my visuals are heavily reliant on the unconscious mind and my intuitions in dealing with my experiences and emotions. The medieval oriental art also inspires me hugely, I especially love its spirit of capturing the essence of the subjects and leaving blank breathing to achieve harmonious and well-composed scenes. I’ve been trying to bring in the elements from this period of time in Asian art as a nod to my own heritage.
While creating, do you keep those who view your work in mind? Is there a message you intend to convey?
I create images to help me fathom my place in the world, to situate myself and my experiences within a particular time and space, and to consolidate the existence of these experiences. A lot of my inspiration comes quite introspectively through my own sentiments towards the stimuli from my surroundings, and I hope that through my work, I can offer my audience an alternative world that is distinctly different from ‘reality’, but somehow closer to the truth on a metaphorical level. I wish not to answer questions but propose different perspectives where nothing is set in stone but rather opens up doors to encourage everyone to dream.
The Death of Authenticity
The Other Half Part III
Your comics and more recent works are like surreal riddles. It’s fascinating how they prompt contemplation and show worlds that can exist with a creative imagination. How do you come up with the ideas?
My creative process is quite intuitive to start with, I keep a visual diary in which I scribble down how I feel at the end of every day. Each of these doodle captures some part of me during the last 24 hours, and sometimes if I get inspired, I take things forward on my iPad to develop them into more fully realized pieces. So I often start with a clear core concept of what I aim to express, then I work out different alternatives based around the concept, experiment with different compositions, then move onto colour testing. I usually spend a long time working on colour combinations, as it doesn’t come naturally to me, and I believe the choice of colour plays an essential role in visual communication.
Have you ever returned to a piece of work to recreate it?
Almost never, as I don’t like to repeat myself. For me, every piece created represents a part of me at the time I made them, and they don’t always reflect who I am now. What I strive to do with my practice is to evolve every time, so I don’t see the point of recreating my own work, I am rather more interested in using my time to making something new.
I Put My Ear Against Yours
When did you begin nourishing your interest in the arts?
I started drawing when I was little. At the age of 8, I was sent to an art class because I was scribbling everywhere on the wall at home, and I became really inspired by my art teacher there who taught us through a series of storytelling. Apart from creating pieces of artwork, I also enjoy playing the piano occasionally. My true passion lies in narrative and storytelling, and I love watching sci-fi films and series too. I'm interested in most creative things, and I also enjoy exploring unfamiliar environments, different landscapes, cityscapes, and culture/ food.
You've mentioned that you're a student in the Visual Communication program at the Royal College of Art. What has your experience at RCA been like so far?
My journey has been one that is of constant renovation of myself. With each project, I gain a deeper understanding of the materiality, what my artwork can do, and what is lacking from it; it’s been a great learning curve. I have experimented with different mediums that I never tried out before at the RCA. I have conducted my first interview, made my first documentary short film using completely new technologies, and I've also been involved in a collective graphic novel publication consisting of 12 international students from the RCA. My final project is an animated short film which is also completely new territory for me.
Days Spent In Isolation Part III
As you refine your creative practice, have your career goals changed over the years?
I wouldn’t say I had a clear career goal before my current one, however, I did think that I would become a fine artist when I was younger as I was painting a lot and was exposed to a lot of traditional art movements. It wasn’t until I was 19 when I realized pursuing a career in illustration is really my forte.
Is there something you’ve accomplished related to your career that makes you proud?
One of the projects I am really proud of is my self-published graphic novel ‘The Boy’ released back in 2018. It is a 68-page mystic narrative completely created with pencil. It tells the story of a boy with a lively imagination who feels trapped in life, and how his imagination eventually takes over, for better or for worse…
The project was inspired by my experience being in the military in Taiwan. While I was there, I came up with the initial idea of creating the book. Since it’s been published, the books sold out very quickly, and I was surprised how many people resonated with the story as the topics from the book are fairly universal. It's just an amazing feeling when your audience really gets what you’re trying to say with your work and can really relate to it. In the book, there are a lot of visuals associated with the idea of confinement, and the notion of how imagination can both set one free or make you feel even more trapped than you are; so you follow the journey of the protagonist flipping through both stages until the final scene where the ending was left open, however, all the clues as to what happened to him in the end are embedded within the previous pages. The work has also received a gold medal for iJungle Illustration in the same year I self-published it.
The Boy, Pigeon
The Boy, Quicksand
The Boy, Down The Straw
What do you envision for yourself/your creative career in the future?
My plan for the future is to continue doing freelance work, but I will become more active in terms of searching for clients and collaborators, as so far all of the commissions came to me rather than me finding people I really want to work with.
I have more desire to push my narratives into different realms, and I have just begun to do so in animation and realized that there is so much I can learn from this discipline and that there are huge possibilities too.
My vision for the future is to be involved in a narrative-led production with one of the stories I wrote. Seeing my ideas coming to life is the goal that I am working toward at the moment. In the long term, I would like to see myself be commissioned by a film or TV production company and work with great storytellers, actors, and musicians.
In the process of creating work, what have you learned about yourself?
The process of creating artwork calms me down. I am a very sentimental person. Through the creation of images, I am able to emancipate ideas and direct my emotions out of my body, which is both a meditative and healing condolence. It also teaches me to see things from different perspectives, as the process in painting is a process of constant problem-solving. In every stage of the production, it forces me to think about different alternatives [as I try] to work out the best solution for the effect I want to capture; this aspect bleeds into real life, in which I try to look at things more three-dimensionally, instead of always rushing to a straight forward initial conclusion. Through art I am able to pour that passion into a physical vessel, keeping a record of the existence of these ideas and moments in my life.
You can view more from Jason's portfolio on his Instagram @jasonchuangart, Twitter @art_chuang & Facebook @jasonchuangart!
Purchase prints of his illustrations from his official website: ww.jasonchuangart.co.uk/