Lin Wang studied art at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou, China. In 2000 she received her Master of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.
Lin Wang says, “Because of being trained from an early age and years of formal training in traditional oil-painting, highly detailed academic realism exerts a tremendous influence on my work. Surrealism has also affected me in my use of misplaced objects and in the idea of doing fairly realistic situations that are confounded by odd relationships and strangely connected elements.”
Below is a sketch, the final piece, and the cover of The Visit of the Wise Men. I asked Lin some questions about how she worked on this cover. You can read the Questions and answers below:
Do you do a rough sketch and then send that to the publisher? Then refine the sketch?
Yes, I do thumbnail sketches first. I will do refined sketches after publisher gives me feedback on the rough sketch.
What type of paper do you use?
I like to use Arches cold press water papers. The heavier the paper the better, so I do not need to mount each piece of paper. Since for a picture book, there are normally around 20 pieces of art and I like to work on different pieces at the same time.
How did you do the gray tones?
After I decided what color to use for a certain area. I use the lighter shade of that color to do the “gray” first. I always do the darkest color last.
Do you use a light box?
What type of pencil do you use?
I use Prisma color pencils.
What type of watercolors do you use?
Winsor and Newton
What colors do you start with?
I normally start with coloring the cloth of the charactors first.
How do you work on the details with the watercolor paint?
I use very small brushes on the detail area.
Do you use any adhesive to keep the colors from bleeding. How do you do the whites? Do you use gouache ?
Yes, I use masking fluid to save the white of the paper. For area should be lighter I do use gouache .
How do you do the thin dark lines?
I use small brushes to get dark lines.
Do you let the sketch sown through?
Preferably no sketch should show through.
Do you use any drawing tool over the painting?
Yes, I use modeling paste to get a rough surface when I use color pencils over and over again on the same area.
How do you create the texture?
Most of the time, the texture is from the watercolor papers. That’s why I like to use rough water color papers.
How do you do create such life like skin with out the watercolor bleeding?
To keep it from bleeding, I use relatively dry brushes. I dip the brush in the color and get most of the color out of the brush by wiping it on tissue papers.
What do you do if you make a mistake? Do you ignore it and figure you can rework it in Photoshop?
When I make a mistake I try to correct it on the painting with gouache.
Here are a few more covers of Lin’s Illustrated books:
How long have you been illustrating?
In 1996, I got my first commissioned job to illustrated 20 sports illustrations for Saatchi & Saatchi.
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
In early 1990s, I started doing commissioned oil painting portraits. The very first paid portrait was of a woman in her 80s.
I see that you studied art at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou, China then received your Master of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Was that difficult to arrange leaving China and move to the US?
I majored in Oil painting back in Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, but I have always admired the great American illustrators like Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish. Coming to America to study Illustration has always been my goal.
Is there a big difference between studying art in China and the US?
In China, the art students started early and have very strong drawing and color skills before they even enter art schools, because the competition of getting into one of the few prestigious art schools are fierce. The art students sharpen their skills more in art school but the school normally do not provide help on building a clear career path on what the students would want to do after graduating. That leaves most of them worry how to make a living after graduation.
Here in US, I think most students know what they want to do after graduation and will have a very professional portfolio ready when they are about to leave school. Most importantly their portfolios are based on their very own creativities and styles no matter what their levels are when they first entered school.
What did you study for you masters degree?
Did you speak English when you moved to the US?
Yes and no, because years later I finally realized what my professors meant back in school 🙂
Do you feel studying art in China and the United States helped you develop your style?
Definitely. I think the best way to find your own individual style is to try out as many different ways of working as possible. Studying art in both countries give me the chance to explore and try out different identities for myself and empower me to become anything that I want to be.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
Staff Illustrator at SCAD.
Did the college help you get work when you graduated?
Have you seen your work change since you left school?
Yes. For commissioned work, clients inputs is a big factor.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
While studying Illustration at SCAD.
What was your first book you had published?
In The Land OF Woo
How did that contract come about?
I was still a student at SCAD and the school has a department specializing book publishing. I got the book contract from them.
Did you do other types of illustrating before you got the book contract?
I did illustrations for calendars and greeting cards company.
How did you get the contract to illustrate Shining Star?
From my agent Wendy Lynn & Co.
Do you get a lot of contracts for picture books in China?
No. I have not started promoting my portfolio in china yet.
How many picture books have your illustrated?
About 20 books.
What do you consider to be your biggest success?
To be happy with every piece of art I illustrated. It is frustrating when you have to turn in something you are not fully happy with. Because you will be judged by what you deliver even thought the clients are ok with it.
Do you illustrate full time?
Not at the moment. But illustrating full time is my goal.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture book?
I would love to if I have a good story to tell.
I see you are represented by Wendy Lynn & Co.? How and when did the two of you connect? How long have you been working together?
Wendy and I we are classmate at SCAD. We’ve been working together for almost 15yrs now.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
watercolor and colorpencil
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
Yes. I use photoshop on the sketch stage and final color fine tuning if the clients request digital finish format.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
Do you do exhibits to market your art?
Not yet. But it’s in the plan.
Do you have a studio in your house?
Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?
My own collections of children’s books from artists around the world.
Do you follow a daily routine to attain your career goals?
I collect children’s books and like to flip through them everyday to get inspired.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
A book I am working on is coming due in less a month. Working on it nonstop and try not to miss the deadline is all I am thinking of right now.
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
Yes, internet is a great place to show artist’s work and portfolios.
What are your career goals?
Have books to illustrate and are happy with every piece of art I created.
What are you working on now?
The Crane Girl from Lee & Low Books.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
Using Photoshop at sketching stage saves lots of time and provide a lot of composition possibilities.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
If you are truly happy and satisfied with what you have created, you are on the right tract.
Thank you Lin for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Lin’s work, you can visit her at Wendy Lynn & Co.: http://www.wendylynn.com/lin/
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Lin. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!