Interview with Zhiwen Tang from United States

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Zhiwen Tang

Zhiwen Tang, an illustrator and designer located in New York City, has dedicated years to perfecting skills in crafting narrative and informative illustrations. This expertise extends across a range of domains, encompassing editorial work, design projects, and the creation of patterns.

Interview with the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards Winner -
Zhiwen Tang

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your creative background.

I am Zhiwen Tang and I'm an illustrator and designer based in New York City! Throughout these years, I've honed my skills in creating narrative and informative illustrations across various domains, including editorial work, design projects, and pattern creation.

My approach involves seamlessly blending traditional drawing techniques with modern computer-aided methods to craft my pieces. I particularly enjoy incorporating the textural nuances of watercolor and ink drawings into the digital medium.

Central to my work is the aim to provide an engaging visual experience that deeply resonates with the audience. I'm passionate about infusing my illustrations with the power to connect and communicate effectively. Notably, my work has been showcased in prestigious exhibitions!

A significant portion of my artistic endeavors is dedicated to addressing mental health topics, driven by the aspiration to offer solace and tranquility to viewers. The notion that my art might bring moments of happiness and initiate meaningful conversations among the audience is a constant source of motivation for me.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a creative?

Back when I was a kid, crayons were like my trusty companions for capturing all the cool things that happened in my day-to-day life. Those vibrant colors and lines became my go-to tools for showing what was going on inside me. Drawing wasn't just a hobby; it was this amazing way for me to connect with the world around me.

As I got older, I started thinking more about how society works. That's when I got into doing narrative and informative illustrations – you know, drawings that tell a story or give you some info. During my college years, I challenged myself by creating art that tackled big topics like culture, gender, and politics. I found a real passion for using art to show what's happening in society.

I'm all about spreading good vibes through my art and putting my own spin on the big issues our generation, Generation Z, is facing. I really want my art to add something positive to the conversation about these things.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

I'm primarily an illustrator with a strong focus on editorial illustration and children's books. I've had the pleasure of working with clients like Ellement, Starchefs, and several others! Alongside this, I'm also involved in product design and creating illustrations for children's accessories. Looking ahead, I'm thrilled about an upcoming project—a children's book—that will let me build upon my previous works and venture into an imaginative world.

Similar to the art I presented in the MUSE Creative Award's-winning piece "Dinosaur Fantasy World," I'm driven to break free from the constraints of reality and fully embrace my creative spirit. This new endeavor gives me the opportunity to explore my artistic potential to the maximum. My aspiration is that this children's book will ignite the imagination of young readers, just as other picture books once did for me during my own childhood.

4What does “creativity” mean to you?
Creativity is a window to my soul, a medium where I express my emotions and thoughts. It's a reflection of who I am, showing my unique identity in a colorful manner. As a dreamer of imaginary worlds, I utilize design and art to convey my imaginative ideas. What’s more, immersing myself in art, whether as a creator or as an observer, can be incredibly therapeutic. I'm convinced that artists and designers channel a special energy into their creations, resonating with those who engage with their work.
5To you, what makes a “creative” idea and/or design?

When it comes to understanding what constitutes a 'good" design', I'd like to begin by sharing my personal perspective on what design means to me. In my eyes, design transcends mere aesthetics; it embodies individual spirit, ideas, and emotional significance. As an illustrator, I firmly believe that my role extends beyond creating visually appealing pieces; it involves expressing thoughts, raising questions, inspiring my audience, and fostering meaningful dialogues.

One of my art series, titled "Nature and Being," serves as a prime example. This series draws inspiration from the profound impact of earthquakes on urban landscapes. Through extensive research into the geological characteristics of cities and the aftermath of natural disasters, I crafted a collection of illustrations that capture the dynamic relationship between nature and human society.

My aim with these artworks is to encourage viewers to contemplate whether the harmony observed in nature can offer insights into resolving conflicts arising from urbanization and natural calamities. It's incredibly satisfying to witness how this series sparks discussions among my audience. Many individuals who engage with these artworks find themselves newly intrigued by the intricate geological effects of natural disasters and motivated to explore strategies for designing cities that can effectively mitigate such impacts.

Hence, I firmly believe that the value of design goes beyond creating visually pleasing objects. Its significance lies in its capacity to provoke inquiries, stimulate thoughtful contemplation, and even contribute to solving real-world challenges. These facets—visual, emotional, and intuitive—constitute, from my vantage point, the core values within the realm of creativity. As an artist, my ongoing dedication centers on inspiring my audience and fostering meaningful conversations through my art.

6Tell us about your creative and/or design process.

It took years of practice for me to develop my own style as an illustrator. My biggest challenge and question in college times was how successful artists find their own artistic styles. This question became a constant companion, driving me to think and experiment with various subjects, techniques, and art mediums. Over time, I discovered the themes that intrigued me and the styles that aligned with my capabilities. I also constantly remind myself to always seek fresh perspectives in my work.

My daily life serves as the main source of inspiration. After the pandemic, I witnessed the challenges our community faced. Henceforth, I began to explore themes of mental well-being, hoping to offer a comforting touch to viewers. The thought that others might find resonance, joy, and strength in my art truly motivates me. I gradually built my own artistic style around the topic.

7Describe your creative style and its main characteristics.

Moving between cities from a young age has deeply shaped my creative journey. From Shenzhen to New York, urban landscapes have been a constant inspiration for my artistic growth. I am passionate about creating pieces that capture the dynamic intricacies of city life and delve into the emotional landscapes of people living in those cities.

My art frequently uses vibrant and flowing strokes to encapsulate the cultural and social experiences I've come across. I love to use lively and fluid strokes to represent the cultural and social experiences I’ve encountered. For example, "City Chaos", which is the piece I won the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards, portrays the turbulent and anxious lives of New Yorkers in the pandemic. While themes like nature, urban life, and mental well-being prominently influence my art, I'm always eager to explore a more diverse range of topics.

8Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
Winning 2023 MUSE Creative Awards is a great milestone to me! It encourages me to keep creating more. It represents the recognition of my work from the industry and I am eternally grateful to all the judges!
9Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Crafting my own distinctive style as an illustrator has been a journey of dedicated practice spanning several years. During my college years, a central question and challenge occupied my thoughts: how do accomplished artists carve out their unique artistic identities? This inquiry became a steadfast companion, urging me to engage in introspection and experiment with diverse subjects, techniques, and artistic mediums.

Over time, I gradually unearthed the themes that captivated my interest and the styles that harmonized with my abilities. A fundamental principle I uphold is the constant pursuit of novel perspectives in my creative endeavors.

As mentioned earlier, in my creative process, my everyday life serves as my primary wellspring of inspiration. In the aftermath of the pandemic, I bore witness to the trials endured by our community. This experience prompted me to delve into themes surrounding mental well-being, with the aspiration of extending a soothing embrace to those who engage with my work. The belief that my art might offer a sense of connection, happiness, and resilience to others acts as a profound motivator for me. It was through this exploration that I gradually forged and refined my own artistic style, centered around this pivotal topic.

10How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

I have participated and won several awards with my art! I obtained some of these recognitions early in my career, right after graduating. I could sense the community's encouragement and acknowledgment of my creative efforts. These experiences have deepened my appreciation for how competitions can nurture and elevate an artist's work.

Winning awards isn't just about ranking and visibility, it also helps support young artists like me to build up a consistent career. I have gained many opportunities and friendships through competition. With those connections, I can generally expand my professional network and my fellow artists, some of them become my close friends, continuously inspire and motivate me to pursue my creative career.

Winning Entries

City Chaos | 2023

City Chaos | Zhiwen Tang
This series is inspired by my experience in the United States -- cities are in the midst of social division, and citizens are the biggest victims ...
(Read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Lunar Dinosaur Fantasy World | 2023

Lunar Dinosaur Fantasy World | Zhiwen Tang
If dinosaurs came from the moon. If they could drive spaceship. If they loved the earth. If they were daydreamer. If...
(Read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Zhiwen Tang

Zhiwen Tang, an illustrator and designer located in New York City, has dedicated years to perfecting skills in crafting narrative and informative illustrations. This expertise extends across a range of domains, encompassing editorial work, design projects, and the creation of patterns.

Read more about this interview with Jay Scott Nicholls from the United Kingdom, the Platinum Winner of the MUSE Creative Awards.