Meet Wenjia Tang, the illustrator of Mammals
Wenjia Tang is an undergraduate illustration student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) but she found time to work with us to create the artwork for Mammals.
She also answered a few of our questions about working on the app. Here's what she had to say.
What were your inspirations for Mammals?
Some of my early inspirations came from artists who illustrate animals in a modern and minimal way, such as Charley Harper and Owen Davey — two of my favorite illustrators! As I did more research, I began to get fascinated with vintage scientific illustrations and posters. These are more realistic, which I think work well for educational purposes. I also just love the texture and color from the vintage paper, so this became an inspiration as well.
What was the most interesting challenge you encountered while illustrating for Mammals?
The most interesting, and also one of the hardest challenges, was drawing the fur for each animal. They all have different types of fur, and it got even more difficult when I tried to stylize them and make them go harmoniously with the illustrations of the animals themselves.
To solve this, I had to take a different approach for each animal. For example, the fur of a tiger forms a stripe-like pattern, so in the close-up scene, I chose to only draw the black stripes. But in the close-up of the kangaroo, I had to draw some short and loose lines with random thicknesses to represent the fur, which was pretty challenging. I tried several times with the brush tool in Illustrator, but it didn’t turn out well. So eventually, I figured out a way to draw the fur in Photoshop first and then use image trace in Illustrator to turn the drawing into vectors and apply it to the kangaroo. It turned out great!
What is your favorite part or feature of Mammals?
My favorite feature is that you can touch the animals and make them move. I drew the animals statically, so it’s so exciting to see them walk or fly!
Was there anything you learned while researching for or illustrating Mammals that you found fascinating or surprising?
Yes! And I’m glad that I learned a lot! (I’m also surprised at how little I knew about each animal.) I learned how many bones each animal’s skeleton has, and how the stomachs of kangaroos and sloths are so different from ours.
Are there any personal projects that you’re currently working on or planning that you can share with us?
I am a senior illustration major at MICA, so for this semester’s thesis project I am working on a picture book, and planning to submit it to publishers by the end of the school year.
When did you first start illustrating and what made you want to pursue illustration as a career?
I think everybody starts to illustrate when they’re little kids! I always loved to draw, so my parents put me in many art camps when I was growing up in China. In Chinese art education, we are taught a lot of technical skills, which built up my foundation in drawing.
After I came to the U.S. for high school, I discovered that art can be more personal, stylized, and creative. And at that time I started to think about choosing an illustration major. After the first two years of studying in college, I started to develop my personal style and got really interested in editorial and book illustrations. I am now in my fourth year and really want to become a freelance illustrator after graduation.
What do you enjoy about illustrating for children?
Getting into the world of children is alway so much fun! As I illustrate, I think about how to make it more interesting for kids. It also feels great when I receive cute responses from the kids about the illustrations.
Finally, what advice would you give to a young illustrator?
I am a young illustrator so I’m not sure if I should be the one to give any advice. But for me, as I always tell myself to “stay hungry, stay foolish.” There’s a lot of things I still have to learn and experience. I am trying not to be afraid of the future, but instead embracing it with every obstacle I encounter.