The Chinese artist Jun Cen possesses an enviable clientele list that any illustrator would be happy to adopt. He’s been commissioned by the likes of The New York Times, The New Yorker (several times) as well as WeTransfer, Anxy magazine, Wall Street Journal and Vogue to name a few. At the forefront of editorial illustration, the New York-based artist moved to the States to study an MFA in illustration in Maryland, having previously studied printmaking in his native city of Guangzhou, China.
“As a kid I was always drawing,” the illustrator tells It’s Nice That. “Around the time I was a teenager, there were some local comics magazines with open submissions and I entered. I can still remember how happy I was that first time my art was selected to be published,” recalls Jun. It’s a memory that still means a lot to the established illustrator and the celebratory moment marks a fortuitous future career in the discipline.
Jun landed his first professional commission as a junior in college and it was then that he realised his love of drawing could turn into a career. Since then, his smooth and calming works have graced the pages of some of our favourite publications on an international scale. Though it can be challenging to work out an efficient time schedule across different time zones, Jun comments on how this international way of working is in fact deeply interesting as “clients from different parts of the world have differing cultural tastes and varying approaches to illustration.” And it is this broad spectrum of commissions that maintains Jun’s open-minded approach to illustration which adapts accordingly to his audience and client.
“The reason I like editorial illustration is that we don’t need to literally translate what the writer says in the story into visual language, at least not in every project,” says Jun. “Sometimes we just need to create a tone and feel that fits the story. I see every commission as a possibility to create something that resonates with me personally and a good story inspires this.”
For Jun, it is the theme of loneliness in the modern era (which he also tends to experience) that regularly crops up through his work. In world filled with hatred and bigotry, Jun goes on to say: “Even the words we use in both virtual and real worlds sometimes become a means of censorship to silence those who hold different opinions. When I feel frustrated or lonely, I feel more like an individual than any other time. So my recent work focuses on these moments of introspection.”
Currently working on developing a graphic novel based on some personal stories, Jun hopes to continue delving into these ongoing themes while expressing these feelings in whatever medium he sees fit.
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