Hailing from Canada and illustrating for major publications such as the New York Times and Readers Digest, Jeannie Phan uses focus, self-motivation and a conceptual view of the world as her coal and is constantly alight.
Creative to the core, she spends her free time creating zines, hanging out with her cat and following her own artistic (and botanical) endeavours. Jeannie is a dedicated creator and we were lucky enough to get some insight into her world as an individual and an illustrator.
Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself, how would you define Jeannie Phan?
Simply just an illustrator that loves cats and plants and works with a lot of conceptual metaphors.
A lot of your illustrations are created for specific ideas, how does this kind of work affect your inspiration and creative process as a whole?
Since I work in editorial, I’m ultimately given the message of the author to visualize, which for me, I find creatively fulfilling because I like to work with some sort of parameter. This not only includes conveying someone else’s idea, but also technical things like size and where the artwork will be shown. Constraints breed creativity.
You recently illustrated a piece for NPR about diversity in sci-fi and comics. Are there more creative platforms where you feel a lack of diversity is currently an issue?
There’s a current need for diversity in every field, and I can only speak about my experience as an illustrator because it’s the community I’m involved in. Thankfully I feel like female voices are getting more heard and there’s a push back for female perspectives to be validated in our community. However, there’s still a huge lack of POC illustrators, specifically black and brown artists.
Do you enjoy nerding out, what’s the nerdiest you get?
When it’s Friday night and I’m knee-deep in trying to figure out how to code some snazzy effect on Tumblr.
What do you feel is the best part of what you do? What gives you motivation to create, beyond making a living?
The flexibility in my schedule for sure. I feel like I can jigsaw my work according to how the world moves around me – I don’t feel stuck. My goal for myself is to make self-improvements both artistically and personally every year, I have a fear of becoming stagnant so that really keeps me on my toes.
Do you feel that there is too much preventing young people from pursuing a creative career? What is the importance, in your opinion, in encouraging these ambitions?
The main thing I see preventing people from diving into a creative career is not wanting to close to the door on anything. There’s a real fear of picking one thing to do because there’s a perception that means never doing something else. Which isn’t necessarily the case. You’ve just got to pick one thing, do it to figure out if you like it, then move on if you don’t. No risk no reward.
Are there any topics that you’d love to conceptualise in illustration that you haven’t had a chance to yet? And off the back of that is there any topic that you’ve illustrated that caught your fascination more than you’d expected?
I’d love to do more topics that I have personal experience in, specifically being raised by immigrant parents and ethnic identity, specifically the East Asian experience in the Western world and cultural disconnect. As for things I’ve already done, I’ve gotten a few assignments on introversion and those stories always hit it home for me.
If we were to catch you at one of the rare times you aren’t creating something, what would you likely be doing?
Gardening and fussing over plants. I live in the busy part of downtown Toronto and gardening in a concrete jungle provides some much needed quiet moments. I’m learning about growing food and how to make flowers bloom prolifically because you need a little glory sometimes.
Do you have any words of encouragement for other young illustrators out there?
I get this question a lot, and I can simply say do more, theorize less. Researching and asking questions is great, but there’s a point where you have to put your plan into action and see how your artistic path pans out for you.