Yuanhao Tang is an illustrator aiming to benefit his community through art

With a passion for storytelling and a distinctive graphic novel style deploying bold line work and flat colours, Yuanhao Tang thrives in the world of publishing. However, he has paused all his commercial work to create pieces for his community and gallery exhibitions.

Sometimes, a busy illustrator just needs a break – time to focus on personal projects and, perhaps, to make a difference in the world by creating art for people to enjoy without a brief or a price tag. This is what Chinese artist Yuanhao Tang has decided to do, so he has stopped taking on new clients to work on community-orientated projects as well as exploring his own creative potential.

“I have a project underway right now that focuses on describing a series of issues related to disability,” explains Yuanhao. “This project is inspired by my own experiences and those of some of my family members. I am committed to dedicating as much time as necessary to ensure this project’s success.”

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Yuanhao infuses his imagery with mystery and magic, using detail and developing the atmosphere to give his work depth and meaning. His portfolio includes book and editorial illustrations as well as product campaigns. Since lockdown ended, he has emerged as a young illustrator passionate about stimulating the viewer’s imagination, with his ultimate aims being to spread happiness and positivity and to represent his hometown community back in China and Asian artists in general.

Yuanhao created this work to honour an elder from his community who died of COVID.

Part of his journey as a professional illustrator has been to refine his style. When he first set out, Yuanhao’s images were highly rendered and painterly, and he spent hours and hours drawing, perfecting and embellishing his work. “However, I discovered that my line work was the hidden gem in my pieces, and I’d been obscuring it under overly rendered figures,” he explains. “I began incorporating more lines into my work, blending them with the style I admired in my grandparents’ picture books. This felt like my roots – a genuine reflection of my personality.”

One of his favourite influences is Moebius, and it’s easy to see subtle yet strong line work like that of the great French illustrator in some of Yuanhao’s pieces, as well as the juxtaposition of vast open spaces with highly detailed areas of interest. It’s a characteristic that can give an illustration intrigue and energy. However, Moebius is not Yuanhao’s only inspiration – others include Kilian Eng, Yuko Shimizu and Tomer Hanuka. They’re all artist whose work is primarily about visual storytelling.

Examples of Yuanhao’s work in this field include his cover illustrations for The Legend of the Condor Heroes trilogy by Jin Yong. Written in the 1950s, the martial arts-based adventures are set in ancient China, and the project took Yuanhao back to the stories he loved as a child.

“I always dreamed of bringing those characters and scenes to life, so it feels incredibly fulfilling to realise my childhood dreams using my skills. What made the project even more meaningful was that I finished the project on the memorial day of the author, whom I deeply admire,” says Yuanhao.

The biggest challenge Yuanhao has faced in his career so far was contributing to a 300-metre-long mural entitled Ecological and Cultural Tapestry of the Yangtze River. Working for nearly six months on his section of the piece in a highly realistic style he wasn’t used to, Yuantao has great memories of the project – a collaboration during which he met other artists from diverse backgrounds and with different skill sets. It’s an excellent example of the kind of community-orientated illustration work Yuanhao now plans to embark upon.

To learn more about Yuanhao Tang, visit his website here.

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