Instagram: @jiananliuillustration

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

Hello, I’m Jianan and I was born and raised in Beijing, China. After four years of studying animation and one year of working, I decided to go to the States and study illustration. This year is my thesis year, so for now, I’m working on my thesis. I’m really excited and scared 🙂



2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

What I love is capturing the ordinary and trivial details of life. Most of my works are not of realistic figures. I really enjoy drawing weird figures as I feel like they give an extremely strong sense of expression. However, I think reasonable exaggeration and changes can only be done by understanding the real structure of an object. I often use changeless lines in order to simplify the image and structure. Meanwhile, I choose simple and pure colors to avoid colorful effects. I’d like to use those simple elements to dig out the meaning beneath the drawing.


3. What is your favorite medium and why?

I’d say digital is my favorite medium for now. It’s just cheaper and more productive for me 🙂 But I also really like printmaking and gouache.


4. What is your artistic process like?

Basically, I will make a sketch on paper first. This gives me more freedom to play with the layout and composition while allowing me to feel pretty relaxed while I work.. After I finish the sketch I’ll just go back to my computer. I always have simple lines and color shapes on my drawing. If I’m doing work for a client, I like to have a nice and deep conversation to better understand what they want.


5. Who and/or what inspires your work?

Henri Matisse and lots of illustrators from today, such as Leslie Herman, Dadu Shin, Ryōji Arai and Maira Kalman. Music is another part of my inspiration, the feeling of one song can give me tons of ideas. Henri Matisse(亨瑞马蒂斯) 以及很多当代的插画家们,比如Leslie Herman, Dadu Shin, Ryōji Arai and Maira Kalman.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

It is a big part of my life, 24/7. I think it gives me a chance to express my own opinion about this world and it also lets me see things in different ways.



7. Where did you study?

I studied at Beijing University of Technology as an undergraduate, afterwards, I worked as a graphic designer for about a year before deciding to continue my study at Syracuse University studying illustration. Currently, I’m pursuing my master’s degree in illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art.


8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I imagine that I’ll work as an editorial illustrator in NYC or somewhere in California 🙂


9. What about in ten?

I hope to still be doing the same kind of work. I’d like to have enough money to buy a small apartment and maybe have a dog and a cat.

希望我还能在工作并且有足够的钱买一个小公寓再养养猫猫狗狗 🙂

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

I want to make some good and cool stuff to impress people.



11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

Thai Food! (without any hesitation)


12. Favourite book?

I’d like to share two books: Here By Richard McGuire and West with the Night By Beryl Markham. Both of them have the feeling of loneliness and emptiness

我想和大家分享两本书。Here 和 夜航西飞, 两本书都有一点那种空旷无垠的感觉。

13. Favourite genre of music?

Pop mandarin music in the ’90s. Also, Childish Gambino is my favorite now 🙂

我很喜欢90年代流行歌曲, 现在最喜欢的是Childish Gambino

14. What are your hobbies?

I like swimming, hiking and Karaoke with my friends.


15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

A lawyer?