"I always want to create a world that is full of positive power. In that world, humans and animals can have their own personality and they can pursue their own dreams."
Recently I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down and chatting with RB artist Andy Westface. Andy is Hong Kong-born designer who creates deceptively simple illustrations featuring animals, humans, and heavy existential questions. We caught up and talked about vector art, simplicity, his deep love of animals as symbols for human desire, and his personal creative mantras.
Could you talk about your love of animals and how you use them to create an atmosphere in your works?
I like using animals in my artworks because of their purity and sincerity. I love animals ever since I was young, although I could only see them in the zoo in my home town. Every animal has her own personality and attitude and we can learn a lot from them, which may help us to be better people. For example, we can learn how to “slow down” from watching a sloth and not just keep focusing on our careers. We can learn how to be confident from a lion if we feel no confidence in ourselves. The most important point though is that they are so cute and I am so delighted that I can put them into my artworks. I hope people will like them.
How did you get started in illustration and graphic design?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I started to draw when I was a child and I loved sketching on my school books all the time. I majored in graphic design in a design school and I was the art director of a local graphic design company two years ago. I am now a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. I like to be a freelancer since I can be “the boss of myself,” and I love to be an illustrator so much.
What inspires you to create artworks depicting exchanges between people and animals?
I’ve always wondered if there will be a day that the animals can communicate with humans and be our friends. It will make our world become such a real fairyland. I love fairytale stories because they are so wonderful and hopeful. It is the message that I want to share. I always want to create a world that is full of positive power. In that world, humans and animals can have their own personality and they can pursue their own dreams. Just like the fox in my artwork “Rainbow Fox,” who wants to be different from the others, the elephant in “Fly High and Dream Big,” who wants to fly, and the crocodile in “Croco Rock,” he loves rock-and-roll as his lifestyle.
They are also the dreams of many people. When I put humans and animals together in my artworks, the animals always represent a kind of feeling or the theme of my artworks. I love to use the universe to create the animals because it makes the feeling and the theme of artworks not limited by time. Sometimes, it can be my memory in my childhood. The Orangutan in “Papa” represents my feeling and memory to my father. The black bear in “Promise” represents our promises to ourselves and the question: “When the time passes, do we still keep our promises?”
In fact, I like to observe and find points of inspiration so everything can become the themes of my artworks. This inspiration can come from a movie. It can be come from the daily news. It can come from conversations between my friends and colleagues. It can come from the view that I look through out the window from a restaurant or in a car. When I get something, a moment of inspiration, I jot down in my sketch book instantly.
"I want my artworks to create a fairyland that makes everyone comfortable and happy."
Your palette features a lot of neutral creams with bright, bold pops of color, do you have any tips for working with bright colors?
I like the neutral cream colour since it is warm and similar to the colour used in a story book I always read when I was a child. I like to make my artworks colourful as if they were their own rainbow. I believe colour can greatly influence our emotion. Through combinations of different colours, I want my artworks to create a fairyland that makes everyone comfortable and happy.
As to the skills of colour combination, I think I am not the traditional colour theory follower, I just try to put all my favourite colours in my artworks and sometimes the effects are really surprising. So, if you are talking about the tips of handling colour combination, I think you should believe in your feelings and not just stick on the theory. You know, there is no a single rule to make your design perfect so you should choose the colour which can match with your feeling. The colour which can deliver your message and story should be the most important.
What’s your relationship with simplicity or minimalism as a creative concept?
I am a big fan of simplicity in vector art. I love the simple but clear and strong feeling so much. In some peoples’ concepts, complicated and precise design may be more comprehensive to deliver the designs’ details. However, I believe simple vector art must be better and it can strike a responsive chord in the hearts of the others. The simplicity of vector art gives people a strong sense of space. I always try to use the simplest design of character, composition, and colour that can show my feeling to deliver a message. “Less is more” is true, I really agree with this. And I have a little habit, I love to re-process and simplify the images I see, and it is helpful to my design and illustration works. I think I am just a beginner in the fields of simplicity and minimalism, and I still have room to improve.
I adore the artwork “Gray,” in your portfolio. What inspired it?
“Gray” is inspired from a feeling of “right or wrong.” When I was young, I thought the line between “good or bad” and “white or black” was clear. For example, it is wrong to tell a lie. The ferocious animals like wolves and crocodiles are evil things. However, I find that there is no clear-cut between “right and wrong” when I was growing up. There is always a big “gray” area between “white and black.” I kept thinking of this concept these years, and one day, I forgot the exact time and place, I remembered that a white bear came into my mind slowly and then a black bear appeared. At that moment, I knew that they would be the most suitable characters of “Gray,” and my idea became crystalized.
What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve learned while creating a successful illustration career? What advice would you love to have told yourself five or ten years ago?
I think learning how to build up your own style is the most difficult thing to work out when becoming a great illustrator. No one can tell you a shortcut to find out the way, trying and practicing should be the key to open the door of success. And I am still trying my best to establish my own style now. If I really have a chance to give some advice to myself five to ten years before, I would say the following to myself:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
I would suggest to myself to stop just waiting. I would tell myself that I should be true to myself. I should start up my illustration career as early as possible and that I have to be “the boss of myself.” No matter what the results are, I do what I want.
"It always seems impossible until it’s done."
I think they are both simple stories. In these two artworks, they just represent two kinds of people that I have a strong dislike for. I am talking about the “yes man” in my artwork “No.” These kind of people never refuse the requests of others. I hate that they too are weak and hypocritical to express their “real” feelings, and they just keep grumbling behind the scenes. In the artwork “Moneyholic,” I am talking about the people that are always concerned about money. In their world, they have no family, sympathy, or dream, but they just have money. Although I understand that money is very important to us, I want to provide an opportunity to others to think of a question: “What is really important to you in your life?”
We should remember that happiness always consists of contentment. I really want to show my respect to the people who are true to themselves in my life and who are able to express what they think. In their lives, in our lives, there are many things other than money.
If you weren’t making art, what would you be doing?
I like to watch movies in the cinema when I am not working. I love the feeling of having a moment to separate from the real world. Moreover, I like to have gatherings with my family and friends, or I can stay with my cat at home and enjoy the views through the window.
[Header image: Self-portrait by Andy Westface]