Dawei Wang on how colour pencil illustration helps him see the world

The New York-based illustrator reflects on his route into the medium thus far and how illustration helped him get through the pandemic.

23 September 2021

For illustrator Dawei Wang, the marks of imperfections are the most real. Born in Shanghai, Dawei moved to the United States to pursue his studies in art. Prior to this year, most of his pieces took the form of painting, but recently, he felt moved to try out working with colour pencils, which is when he discovered a highly original take on the medium which steers his practice forward. Art has always played a major part in Dawei’s life. As a mere five-year-old, he remembers doodling across the walls of his family home “pretty much anywhere I could,” he tells us. And as he got older, his parents and grandmother encouraged him to refine his technique, enrolling him in an art school where he learnt about the rich history of artists that came before him.

Just like that, Dawei reveals, “everything I saw became a subject.” Whether it was a plant, a tree, a person or an abstract object, Dawei drew inspiration from its form. While his former years were dedicated to artistically representing these things, as he creatively matured, he began experimenting with a myriad of materials. “As I explored to a certain level,” he says, “I had to avoid exposing my works to the risk of being solely supported by visuals and techniques.” In this way, when a certain material presented a loss of control and a sense of imperfection that could not be corrected, Dawei found a way of working that suited him well.

During the pandemic, Dawei found it difficult to sustain creative motivation. “I wasn’t comfortable being isolated,” he says. The illustrator began to check the number of deaths every day, finding it “impossible to keep indifferent” to what was happening outside. But throughout this whole period, working with colour pencils and immersing himself in the medium continued to be a source of comfort for Dawei. In his beautiful and muted works, Dawei found solace in the soft, almost chalky shades and gradients. He depicts outdoor adventures, from hiking to a calming drive against a sunset backlit skyline.

Other works see Dawei present more serene moments of calm, from a walk in the rain to a lone person sweeping the floor. “I think my works may convey messages which evoke the simplest emotional resonance in peoples’ inner worlds,” he says. With a similar kind of emotional resonance, Dawei also channels this into the approach of the illustration. “I find that my skills speak for myself,” he adds, “it helps to reveal how I see the world.”

Elsewhere in his practice, Dawei illustrated three books as part of a personal project over lockdown. While isolated at home, he decided to capture three literary works. Instead of painting from the real world, he interpreted a batch of walks from Thomas Pynchon’s V, Denis Johnon’s Jesus’ Son and Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills. He’s found much-deserved success with these works which are to be exhibited in a solo show in Anhui, China. Interestingly, a publisher also approached Dawei after viewing the series, wanting to use one of the illustrations for the cover of a new story about Shanghai. “I was so happy and surprised people found my drawing resonant,” says Dawei, so much so that it can be used to denote the setting the illustrator was born and raised in. And as for the future, Dawei will continue to explore visual stories with colour pencils, pushing the medium and its subtleties further while incorporating nods of poignant emotion along the way.

GalleryCopyright © Dawei Wang, 2021




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Dawei Wang: Big Apple (Copyright © Dawei Wang, 2021)

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About the Author

Jynann Ong

Jynann joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. She went freelance in 2022.

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