Luyi Wang finds inspiration for her work from the children she works with

The New York based illustrator views collage as a natural way to tell stories from her own perspective.

3 March 2020

Luyi Wang finds inspiration from a range of places, but one particularly stands out in context with her work: “What I see, hear, feel and experience influences my work in some way,” she says. “I work as a teaching artist in the Children’s Museum of the Arts in Manhattan, so I’m able to see a lot of kids’ art and be inspired by them.”

Luyi’s own work is a mixture of collage and drawing with an underlying naive style that has a child-like essence to it. She describes it herself as, “fun, whimsical and organic” – and it is hard to disagree.

Choosing illustration as her artistic medium was not an overly conscious decision, more a natural transition based on how she works. “I am lucky that the way I like to create and the works I make happen to fall into the illustration category,” she explains. “It was an interest that guided me to illustration, and it was systematic learning later on that gave me a better understanding of illustration and made it more attractive.”

Luyi is originally from Northern China, moving to the UK to study at Camberwell College of Art, before making the move to Brooklyn where she currently works and resides. It was during her studies that she learned some valuable lessons that have helped her to hone her style: “Luke Best told me when he was my tutor in Camberwell, ‘Style, is actually your perspective of observing the world, and your attitude of life, and it has nothing to do with material or medium.’ I never forget those words,” she says, and still uses it as a way to deal with setbacks: “Every time art directors reply to my emails with ‘your style is not a good fit,’ I accept it, as I know I shouldn’t feel upset about being myself.”

Utilising collage, Luyi is able to add a textural element to her work, making use of materials that range from train tickets to pieces of books. The tearing and cutting of these components is not exact, which furthers to the similarities to childrens’ work. Her embrace of this as a tool is actually something that stems from her own childhood. “I remember when I was a kid, I couldn't sleep at night and would make collages with my aunt. At that time, I didn’t know what collage was, but I would cut my own head or body from the photos, and then cut out the colours or elements I like in the magazine, and combine them together in my way,” she recalls.


Luyi Wang

As well as enjoying the look and texture that collage can provide, Luyi also uses it to inform her creative process, helping her to explore unexpected avenues. “I enjoy working with my materials when I am collaging, and the biggest reason that I like to collage is that I often don’t know what I will end up creating,” she says. “I like to be inspired by materials and let them lead my next creative movement. Uncertainty brings more surprise!”

There are seemingly always characters in Luyi’s work, whether it is a person struggling under the weight of the world or a large group where individuals pale into significance, the story is often told from the standpoint of a person.

In terms of subject matter, much of her work is introspective and is a manifestation of Luyi’s thoughts and feelings. “The themes I explore must have been changing, because many of my works are meant to express myself or reflect some of my thoughts,” she says. “If I had to name a theme, I would say ‘myself,’ it is interesting that sometimes I would use my art to explore myself as I know that art tells the truth.”

Luyi plans to continue working in this manner, employing collage as a means of telling her story. “I love collage, I love to create figures, animals, trees, flowers in my own way, and I love to express myself using illustration. Not that I don't like other media, I just follow my heart to make my art.”

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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