Last Friday I attended MassArt’s Senior Illustration Thesis show to support my friend Yikun Liang and the rest of the graduating seniors. I’ll admit, when I attend a show like this, or walk the halls of a museum, I sometimes become a bit envious… my mother is a painter and, though I’ve tried, her natural talent doesn’t come as easily to me.
As I stood at the MassArt show in awe of Yikun’s thesis work (focused on the Cultural Revolution of China), I thought about the power of messaging, concept and how people harness their creativity to make a point. For those of us with creative concentrations in what we call “graphic design,”we seem to think of ourselves as artists of problem-solving, visual hierarchy, social messaging, and branding. This doesn’t necessarily sound like the focus of an artist, but the same elements are addressed in the core of these paintings. Yikun’s paintings focus on Chinese history, specifically the Cultural Revolution, and how it shaped what China is today. They are her solution to vocalizing issues, and stating a clear message… not unlike the task of a graphic designer. As Yikun reiterates in her artist statement, “For a long time I couldn’t decide whether to define myself as either a “fine artist” or as an “illustrator,” but I do know now that as long as I can create, I will create for the greater good.”
As much as I’d love to be able to paint, draw, sew, cook, etc. (as well as those who thrive at these skills), I’ve realized my energy is most efficiently used when I concentrate on doing well at one thing that I enjoy. I think that it’s part of letting go of personal recognition and understanding that we create better results when we put our minds and varied skills together. This time looking around at the work of illustrators, I thought less about envy or admiration and felt more inspired and eager to collaborate on projects with people with different talents. Looking around at the book-making skills of these illustrators, I realized that they could equally use, and are hopefully open to using, the skills of a graphic designer. Yikun’s Website