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Check Out Haley Jiang’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Haley Jiang.

Hi Haley, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My very first memory of drawing is a Winnie the Pooh coloring book my mom got me when I first learned how to kind of hold pencil crayons. I can still remember it was Pooh sitting in a forest with his hand sticking into a honey jar. I totally butchered the colors because I made Pooh green. However, color has always been the most intriguing part when I make art even to this day. I enjoy the coloring process as much as struggling with it. I think it was around age seven when I realized I want to do something about art as my future career. There were about 10+ occupations that went to through my head over the years: fashion designer, advertising, architect, etc. none of which really speak to me other than becoming an illustrator. The idea didn’t come across very well in my family at the beginning because like every other Asian family, my parents wanted me to have a stable job as an accountant, doctor or lawyer. Eventually, this seed that I planted since a child blossomed when I come to ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena.

I was born in Shanghai, China and moved to Vancouver, Canada when I was 11. Although I may be a bit more experience with the whole moving and settling down thing compared to other international students, it is still not an easy job for anyone to go anywhere unfamiliar. Plus, it is LA and art college that I am facing. Like most people, I did not pay attention to the principle’s speech during orientation but I do remember one thing he told us, that at ArtCenter we will make friends that will last for a lifetime because what we will go through will be special to us only. I didn’t believe him, but now that I’ve graduated, I think maybe he wasn’t lying about this. My friends supported, inspired and changed me in so many different aspects that made me feel confident choosing to leave my home country and pursue my dream was the best decision I ever made for myself. I also feel belonged at school because everyone has the same passion and love for a dream career and we are doing whatever we can to achieve this goal. The most important thing is we all enjoyed every moment of this process.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It was very difficult for me to fit in at first. I am an introvert, very shy and sensitive. I am also one of those who enjoy rain and snow a lot. It took me a while to find my group of people because I hardly approach anyone. When I finally did, I am very grateful to have met them. I don’t think the process forced me into become a verbal extrovert that I am not. It helped me learn to express myself a bit better. I am always quite stubborn when it comes to making art just like every other creative worker. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take some academic drawing and painting after school classes during high school. The only downside was that I thought the only way to become a master at art is to paint and draw like the old masters. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate and learn from their paintings all the time. But I realized this mindset was restraining me from expressing myself. I was too caught up on how realistically a can sketch a figure that I forgot the point of sketching is to capture the emotion and atmosphere at the moment. The imperfection of the subject is what speaks to people. I realized that illustration is not all about how accurate you can paint a hand, it is about stories and ideas and finding a way of telling them. Learning the basics is only the fundamentals. It is difficult to stop focusing on the accuracy therefore I am still on the road of searching for my way of storytelling, but realizing its importance is a milestone.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a recent graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, a freelance illustrator. California is very different from my hometown, it is almost the exact opposite, the weather, for example. Vancouver is also known as Rain-couver because it rains about 80% of the year. It is a quiet, scenic city with breathtaking mountains and nature. LA on the other hand is chill, trendy, sunny and has lots of traffic. The dynamic cultural difference inspired my artwork a lot. I resonate with my Chinese background and many of my ideas come from traditional folk myths and tales. My work also highly focuses on nature and animals. I think it is because living in Vancouver everything to me is about wildlife and beautiful landscapes. The spiritual/nature sides come out naturally when I draw. I enjoy forming bonds with plants and ocean water. But part of me still thrives for something more vibrate. LA is the place to pursue my dream. The city is so colorful. I see it in neon green and red one day and some other days it is pastel pink and blue, but most of the time, it is golden yellow. I want to express the rhythmic vibe and the movement through my work. Storytelling is also something I want to focus on. Even with animals, each of them carries a different characteristic. I’d like to imagine their daily life when they gather together. Aesop’s fables inspire me a lot.

We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
To me, success is to live everyday with passion and compassion. If you can live your day laughed or cried for something you love and thrive for, not forgetting to care and help others at the same time, it is a successful day.

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Haley Jiang

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