The MICA graduate excels as a visual storyteller with her smart editorial illustration
At the age of fifteen Wenjia Tang moved from China to the US, with her parents keen for her to embark on a journey to secure a place at an Ivy League college. She lived with relatives in New Jersey and attended an academically rigorous Catholic high school, but three years of hard studying in, decided to make a change. Having taken art classes since an early age, art school had always been a dream and so she switched focus and began to take classes that would help her to assemble a portfolio. “I didn’t really know what illustration was until the final year of high school” she explains, “I knew there were cartoons, comics and manga, but never really became attached to any of these”. One of Wenjia’s teachers encouraged her to look outside of the fine art pathway that she had in mind, suggesting that illustration could be just the output for her colourful imagination.
With a few great offers on the table, Wenjia chose MICA and didn’t look back. While refining her craft, she won more than a dozen awards during her time in Baltimore and was selected for exhibitions in London and New York. A keen storyteller, Wenjia works digitally, with her heritage and interest in print contributing to the rich and adaptable aesthetic that she has created. Her thesis project is a fine example of this blend, depicting a series of ancient mythical creatures recorded in the fourth century B.C. publication ‘Classic of Mountains and Seas’.
Unsurprisingly, Wenjia was not short of freelance offers while studying and the experience of working with art directors firmed up her largely digital process. “I usually do some rough thumbnail sketches, choose three to progress into more detailed versions and then present those to the client”. With tight deadlines to navigate, this approach allows Wenjia to keep on top of her workload, having recently added US clients, including the Wall Street Journal, to her portfolio.
Living and working in NYC, she still likes to fit in some personal projects, allowing for time to experiment with subject matter, techniques and styles. Working from her apartment presents challenges, with “the internet, music and games” all potential sources of procrastination. Remaining disciplined and focussed is one of the challenges of a freelance career and we’re confident that it’s one that Wenjia will conquer. We’re looking forward to seeing some snippets of the “personal sequential works” that she’s working on at the moment, but for now, here are some of our highlights from her brilliant portfolio.