Esther Tang’s gloriously textural illustrations help her connect to the world emotionally

New York City-based illustrator Esther Tang communicates her emotions and connects to the world through her delightfully nuanced and universally resonant work. We caught up with her to learn more.

Connection and communication are at the heart of Esther Tang’s illustrations. Since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2022, her distinctive illustration style has been recognised by the Society of Illustrators, Creative Quarterly, and the World Illustration Awards. After taking a look at her work, it’s not surprising to see why the praise has come thick and fast.

Erupting from the page and screen with a masterful use of colour and form, Esther’s illustrations blend the nuanced textural drawing techniques of watercolours and ink with the precision and perfection of modern digital mediums. This powerful combination captures the essence of her subjects as well as the emotional and social narratives that underpin daily experiences.

“The core of my art lies in its ability to stir emotions, spark thoughts, and initiate conversations,” Esther tells Creative Boom. “It’s about conveying ideas and emotions beyond mere aesthetic appeal. As an illustrator, I am committed to inspiring and engaging in meaningful discussions about art’s impact on contemporary culture.”

Despite graduating relatively recently, Esther’s career has hit the ground running. She already has stints as a freelance illustrator for the likes of Lumist, Ellemen Magazine and Tongji University under her belt, while more recently, she has worked for OMG Accessories as a visual designer on the product development team. And this is without mentioning the dozens of group exhibitions she’s been part of.

Part of what makes Esther’s work stand out is its broad cultural appeal. Her experiences growing up in Shenzhen collide with her life in New York to produce illustrations that contribute to a wider conversation about the “significance of art in contemporary culture.”

While these may sound like lofty and abstract goals, Esther’s work succeeds because it is grounded in reality. Ever since childhood, she has enjoyed expressing her daily experiences and emotions through drawing and painting.

“My artworks are closely connected with my emotions,” she explains. “Sounds, smiles, touch, and my environment influence my illustrations in many aspects. Drawing is a means for me to connect with the world.”

Understandably, travelling around the world has been a significant source of inspiration for Esther’s artistic creations. “The urban environment, with its architecture, transportation systems, cultural diversity and social dynamics, has frequently impacted my creative thinking,” she reveals.

Esther has utilised these influences to create various pieces which reflect the vibrancy and complexity of city life. “People enjoy the benefits brought about by modernisation, but at the same time, they live chaotically in the contradictions of urban society,” she muses.

Esther picks up on these physical and mental experiences and transforms them into rich illustrations coloured with flowing brush strokes. She adds, “Many of my artworks depict the cultural and social lives I have experienced and wanted to voice.”

Modernity and urbanisation aren’t without soul, though. In fact, Esther argues that art is about individual spirit, ideas, emotional value, and aesthetic appeal. “As an illustrator, I think that my value resides in expressing my opinions and presenting issues through my work, inspiring my audience, and igniting discussions,” she adds.

“The significance of artistic creativity lies not only in its power to produce beautiful objects but also in its capacity to raise questions, stimulate thought and solve problems. As an artist, I wish to continue to inspire my audience and contribute to a greater dialogue about the overall importance of art.”

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