1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
My name is Nan Cao who is a New York based illustrator and painter from Beijing. I graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art and received my Masters degree from School of Visual Arts. I create art for newspapers and magazines such as the Spectrum, News Break and Bulletin Magazine. I make visual projects running across the 1700 Link NYC screens in all five boroughs in New York and I work on paintings, which have been exhibited internationally and across the country. As an illustrator and painter working and living in New York, I get inspiration from surrealistic imagery and my daily life in the big city.
我是曹楠，原居北京，毕业于美国纽约视觉艺术学院(SVA)插画专业，获硕士学位，并在本科期间就读于美国马里兰艺术学院(MICA)，主修插画和平面设计专业。作为一名生活在纽约的自由插画师，我为Spectrum, News Break，Bulletin Magazine 等公司团队绘制插画;同时，我的作品也在纽约，希腊，法国等多个画廊展出，而我绘制的以纽约为主题的系列作品也在横跨纽约五个大区的1700个电子屏台上滚动播放。 在纽约生活工作，我的灵感多来源于艺术博物馆中的探寻和对所生活城市的观察和体味.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
Working as an illustrator, I used to draw pictures with decorative lines and make proportionate characters with lots of details. I loved what I was doing but I hardly felt fulfilled with the “style” I used to work on. After many experiments and failed attempts, I realized what has been bothering me is not to find the “right style” but to rewire my mind and allow myself to enjoy and be happy when I make pictures, rather than fixate on my fears and my obsessions with success and fame. Instead of telling myself to stick with many rules and certain trends, I decided to look for working in the way that makes me happy, which is telling stories with clear, vibrant and symbolic visual languages. Geometric shapes, handmade textures, organic lines and strokes, dream-like scenes and metaphoric props…
After I was willing to surrender and listen to my inner voice and needs, style is not a big problem anymore because your longing for having fun and truly expressing yourself in your artwork will naturally guide you to the best way to send out your messages.
作为一名插画师，我原先的作画风格非常的复杂和繁琐，但是在每次绘画的过程中，我总是会感到一种不满足感 ，经过了许多次的尝试和失败，我发现真正困扰我的不是找到那个独特的属于我的风格，而是要学会真正的享受 作画的过程，忠于自己的心声和愿望。当我真正的找到了使我快乐的源泉和动力的时候，寻找绘画风格已经不再 是一个问题，你的真实的愿望和心理需求会引导你画出你想画的东西，以最准确和真诚的语言和形式。
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
I have changed my medium over time. Before I began my illustration studies, I used to paint with oil on canvas or work with soft pastel and pencil. I followed this by teaching myself how to use digital programs and audit classes to polish my skills. Lately, my preference has been to work with ink and digital color in most of my illustration projects with consideration of efficiency and flexibility. However, I’ll paint with gouache and acrylic for long-term projects or gallery work. The soul behind most of my artwork is stories and concepts, and just like an operatic performance, the medium is the different instruments that are playing for the art piece, which is destined to sing.
我一直在改进和转换使用不同的绘画媒介，在我开始学习插画之前，我使用油画颜料在画布上作画，色粉和铅笔 也是我常用的绘画工具。我在之后的日子里自学了如何使用电子软件程序，并且选修了一些相关课程来精进我 的技术，近来，因为考虑到工作效率和灵活性，我更倾向于同时使用传统的墨水材料和软件程序上色的方式来完 成我的作品。同时，我仍然会使用水粉和丙烯等材料绘制一些长期的原画作品来参加画廊的展览。不管我使用 什么样的媒介创作，作品本身所传递的概念和灵魂，对于我来说是非常重要的，而这些不同的作画形式和材料媒 介就像交响乐中不同的乐器，他们各有魅力，扮演着不同的角色，一同合作，演奏出动人的乐曲。
4. What is your artistic process like?
Working as a professional illustrator usually means that we need to work with different prompts given by clients. With each art project, I need to understand the concepts that my clients want me to convey and then target the core idea with my visual language in a symbolic, metaphoric, and creative way. In regard to my working process, I receive the assignment and always read it over a number of times to boil it down to its essence. This essence is usually a few phrases or short sentences. After absorbing the content, I will put it on the side and create some distance between myself and the work at hand. I found that the best ideas come to me when I do not force the process by fixating on the work. So instead of being trapped by the text, I will free my mind, digest the information in a natural way and something usually pops up! The first ideas in this stage are usually abstract or not even related, but then, I come up with solutions that connect these ideas to match the objective in each assignment. After the concept is realized, I usually provide three visual works to my client. When one of my sketches is approved, I will begin cleaning and perfecting the final product.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
My interests have changed over time but lately, I receive most of my inspiration from surrealistic imagery and my daily life in the big city. In terms of mentors who not only inspired my work but more importantly, guided me to stay focused without getting lost in my journey, I feel very lucky to have met lots of wise and talented artists on my career path. My MICA professors Alex Fine and Allan Comport opened my eyes to the illustration world with a broader view. My professor Alain Corbel had taught me the importance of being a serious and persistent artist, and Marshall Arisman, the Chairman at SVA made me realize that being a great artist does not entail being “perfect.” We as artists need to learn our limitations, explore our strengths, and make those strengths shine.
我所感兴趣的事物随着时间而改变。近来，我主要从一些超现实的艺术作品和对纽约这个城市的日常观察中汲 取灵感。至于对我的工作和生活影响深远的导师，我感到非常幸运能够在我的职业道路上遇到许多有睿智而才 华洋溢的艺术家。我在MICA的大学教授Alex Fine 和Allan Comport 帮助我打开了插画这个专业的大门，而我 的导师Alain Corbel 让我感受到做一个严肃而执着的艺术家的重要性。我在SVA的系主任，MarshalAl risman， 他教会了我做一个好的艺术家并不代表你需要变得完美，我们都需要更了解自己的长处和短处，接受自己的局 限，并让自己的闪光点更加的闪烁，发光，发热。
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
For me, making art is like building bridges for me to communicate with the world and people live around, to listen to various voices from different corners of life. I love to read stories and be a storyteller myself, as an illustrator, I create visual stories that speak for colorful voices outside my social circle and beyond my own perspective. When reconciling my own visual voices with those of others, I feel grateful to be able to decode and explore the distinctive worlds people are building up in their minds, to see our complicity and differences, to celebrate the diversity and finally, find the connection between us.
对于我来说，绘画是我与外界的人和事物沟通的方式。我喜欢读故事，也喜欢讲故事。作为一个插画家，我通过 绘制视觉作品来为生活中形形色色的人发声，我感到非常的荣幸，能够通过这份工作来倾听来自世界各个角落 的故事和声音。在这个创作和学习的过程中，我能够更进一步的体味和了解到人性和生活的复杂，也在这种多样 性中与物，与他人，与生活心心相惜。
7. Where did you study?
I graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art and received my Masters degree from School of Visual Arts.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
In 5 years, I’d love to have my own art studio and create more artwork that I am proud of. I also would love to collaborate with talented folks and work on more packaging and stationery design projects that feature my illustrations. It would be a dream come true to walk into a major retailer store and see a display of all my illustrations on various kinds of products.
5年间，我希望能拥有自己的工作室，绘制更多让我自豪的作品。我希望能有机会和更多的出色的团队合作，让 自己的插画出现在产品包装和文具用品上。我的目标之一就是希望有一天当自己走进一间颇受欢迎的商店时， 能够看到自己的插画出现和展示在各式各样的商品上。
9. What about in ten?
In ten years, I would love to live by the sea or somewhere peaceful but close to the city. I’d love to make more paintings for galleries, create art installations. I’d also like to teach illustration to young adults who are pursuing an art career.
10年间，我希望能够住在海边，或者一个靠近城市但平静安宁的地方。我希望能够有机会绘制更多的画廊作品， 参与一些更大型的艺术绘画和装置项目。我希望能在作为插画师的同时，能够作为一名大学老师教授插画的课 程。
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I want to work and make a living as a professional artist, I want to keep exploring the ideal languages that I can apply to my artwork and expressing my true, personal voices through my work of art. I want to tell other people’s stories as well as my own stories through my work and let more stories to be seen, be appreciated and be remembered.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
I like all kinds of veggies as long as they are cooked in a clean and healthy way. I am also curious about all kinds of healthy recipes and am not really into restaurants…
12. Favourite book?
I am a big fan of Jane Austin’s works, I love to read fairytales and am currently more interested in non-fiction books.The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry means a lot to me.
13. Favourite genre of music?
I don’t have a preference in terms of the genre of music, I appreciate all kinds of music as long as they resonate with me in some way or another. I do believe there are no boundaries between all forms of art.
14. What are your hobbies?
Making pictures is definitely my favorite thing to do everyday. However, when I am not drawing, I like to swim, I enjoy getting lost in my book collection, exploring different museums, galleries and antique shops, I like to go for a walk in the park or discover something new around every corner in New York City.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
We play different roles in our lifetime, some roles will take a majority part of our life in different life stages and will change as time passes by. My answer for this question might be different than the one I have 3 months later. I am still in my journey, there is a lot to be seen, to be learned and to be changed. I try not to make assumptions or look back too often, I will learn through the experiences and will get my answer when my life ends.
我们在人生的不同阶段扮演着不同的角色，每个人生阶段我们所扮演的角色侧重各有不同，我对这个问题的答 案，可能在三个月后就会有所改变，我仍在旅途中，这里还有很多东西等着被发现，被学习和被改变。我尽量不 去做更多的对未来的猜测或者经常回头去看过去的路，我还在经历中学习，改变，也许在我人生结束的时刻，我 会得到我的答案。