“I’d rather trust the unknown and stay away from following a pattern”: Illustrator Jason Chuang on what makes him proud
The London-based illustrator discusses two recent projects created during lockdown, where he achieved things he previously felt were impossible.
- Jyni Ong
- 1 June 2021
A self-confessed sentimental person, Jason Chuang was drawn to illustration for its immediacy and intimacy. “Through the creation of imagery,” he tells us, “I am able to emancipate ideas and direct my emotions out from my body, which is both a meditative and healing condolence.” Born and raised in Taiwan, Jason moved to the UK when he was 15 and subsequently pursued an illustration degree at Falmouth University, and is currently finishing up his Master’s degree at RCA’s Visual Communication course. In school, he remembers entertaining himself and friends by drawing comedic parades of well known anime and movies. And now, what’s started out as a hobby has become a full blown fascinating practiced intertwined with narrative, endless alternate universes and more.
Illustration allows Jason to explore such passions into a physical vessel. “I create images to help me fathom my place in the world,” he says, “to situate my experiences within a particular time and space and archive them.” Through his work, Jason also offers his audience a glimpse into another universe, and in turn, his practice includes world building qualities which feel distinctly different from our current reality. His aim, all in all, is to somehow get closer “to the truth on a metaphorical level” and encourage viewers to expand their imagination going forward as a consequence.
Symbolism, atmosphere, emotion and poignant imagery mix and pour into Jason’s illustrations. Possessing a unique visual tone of voice, he plays with a mix of contemporary and traditional techniques, leaning on one of the two axes to stir something within the viewer. He tries not to have a fixed formula when creating work, and even finds it difficult to talk about it as he doesn’t want to over intellectualise or post rationalise the creative process. He does however tell us: “I like to see every single piece as a new challenge, an unfamiliar territory for me. It’s scary, exciting and painful sometimes and I have to hold back on the default of doing things I know would work when things aren’t working out.” Though frustrating at times, for Jason the payoff is “much more valuable” in this way. Interestingly, he says, “I’d rather trust the unknown and stay away from following a pattern.”
While intuition is key to his practice, there are certain themes that continually arise from Jason’s work, that being the unconscious, the surreal, introspection and the sentimental. These elements exude from Jason’s illustrations which appear quiet at first glance but are full of deeper symbolism on further inspection. An example of this is the illustrator’s recent series Days Spent in Isolation. Here, Jason conveys the feeling of being stuck indoors and how window watching became an everyday norm. He says of the work: “When I was feeling claustrophobic, the windows became both my connection to the outside world and a stage to project narratives played out from inside my head.”
These feelings have gone onto inform another project of Jason’s, this time an animation titled In Due Time which documents Jason’s pandemic journey. Capturing the fears and desires that arose from the liminal time, the existential piece also documents the uncertainty of coming out of lockdown and all the process entails, developing organically. As Jason keeps a visual diary by his bed, the characters jotted down in the pages went onto become GIFs, adding spruces of movement here and there to bring these feelings to life further. The short helped Jason come to terms with what he was feeling: “I realised what I longed for is windows to escape into different places and different lives. Hence the creatures and windows became the basic outlines for creating the short film.”
These two projects mark a significant milestone for Jason, mainly because he achieved things he didn’t think were possible before. “I was in a state of constant anxiety,” he explains when creating Days Spent in Isolation. Fearing for his health and that he would fall prey to the pandemic, Jason was struck with a bout of productivity, determined to create more work than usual if he were to become ill. As a result, “the pieces produced during this period are highly personal and will always be special to me.” With In Due Time on the other hand, it was refreshing to work on a completely new medium. Previously, Jason had very little experience with moving image, so the project marks a step forward in capturing an emotion through a moving narrative and holistic storying. “That is something that surprises me and makes me proud,” he finally goes on to say.
As for the future, Jason hopes to take on more freelance work and push his narrative illustration further in the industry. He hopes to continue working in both illustration and animation, and realises he has much more to learn and offer in these disciplines. Jason’s work will also be featured in a graphic novel anthology published by Self Made Hero and he is “very much looking forward to creating a comic for it."
GalleryCopyright © Jason Chuang, 2021
Jason Chuang: Days Spent in Isolation Part III (Copyright © Jason Chuang, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni 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. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.