In Miss Cyndi’s world, everything is subtle, calm and whimsical. Underneath the surface, there are many interesting and thoughtful stories to be found. Cyndi is an independent illustrator and artist from Taiwan.
She has done commercial projects for brands like Nike, Vogue Taiwan, Longchamp, Nespresso, etc. As part of her personal works, she has published an illustration book called ‘Taste of Lover’ that compares the different courses of a meal to the different stages in a romantic relationship. She is currently busy working on her second book. We spoke to Cyndi about her life and work through an email conversation. Read on:
Could you tell us something about your growing up days?
I grew up as the only child in a small family in Taiwan. Both my parents were very busy at work during my childhood, so my mother would often give me a box of color pencils and a small stack of paper while she and my father went to work.
As far as I can remember, drawing and painting played a very important role in my childhood, and it became an integral part of me as I grew up. So when I got a chance to choose what I want to study in college, I dedicated myself to art and design. And it grew on me as the days went by.
What are the other things that influenced you creatively when you were growing up?
One of my favorite things to do as a child was watching movies, especially with my father who is a movie junkie. I still watch a lot of movies in my free time. Sometimes, I also watch movies to do soul searching or to simply get inspired. The thing I love the most about movies is that you can read a story, experience the variety of life, and feel the characters’ emotions simultaneously within just a couple of hours.
It’s fair to say that movies are one of the essential nutrients nurturing my thoughts about creating artworks and drawings.
How did you realize you wanted to pursue illustration?
As much as I love art and design, I actually have no idea how I started off on this career path early on.
I actually just started posting my work on the internet while I was still in grad school, in the hope of getting some attention. Fortunately, it worked for me. I got a few projects because of it and was contacted by agencies even before graduation. After that, I made up my mind to pursue illustration professionally, and have not looked back ever since.
How was your formal education in art and design?
I finally got a chance to receive formal design education for the first time when I enrolled in a university. As for learning art, I did not attend any class or school. Instead, I picked up the art skills and knowledge I felt may come in handy for producing a design artwork along the way.
Looking back on my approach towards design and art education, I feel that design puts the idea and principle ahead of materializing the final objects, while art is the other way around. I am very fortunate to be able to have both perspectives, and I try my best to strike a balance between them. And I hope that whoever has viewed my artworks can sense this too.
The thing I love the most about movies is that you can read a story, experience the variety of life, and feel the characters’ emotions simultaneously within just a couple of hours.
You have a signature style in your work. Has that always been a conscious effort?
I can’t be more pleased to hear ‘you have a signature style in your work’! To be honest, I do not make any conscious efforts to impose any signature style. However, I don’t make any compromise with my work. I think I am a perfectionist.
You personal work also seems to have a sense of poetry and personal observations.
It’s probably due to the fact that most of my work is story-driven and inspired by novels or movies.
How do your balance between personal and commercial work?
I feel that you can always find some way to implement your personal style or idea into your commercial works, say in a finishing touch or a color tone. So essentially, I always use a part of my “personal” work into my commercial works. And I dedicate myself 100% to both of them.
Do you follow any particular rituals?
My working ritual is to prime my mood by listening to music or watching movies before starting my work for the day.
Natural light is essential in my workspace, so the working table has to be near the windows. It also helps me to pause, look outside and think for some time.
Could you pick up one particular project and tell us about its making?
In 2015, my self-edited and self-designed book Taste of Lover was published. It all started from an idea of categorizing men by five types of taste: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami. The food analogy could also be drawn for the various stages of a relationship. Each stage is like a particular meal course: acquaintance (drinks), getting to know each other (appetizer), ambiguous (dessert), commitment (main course), and adaption (set meal).
The book cover design is what made this book interesting inside out. The book belly band which shows a blindfolded man and a blindfolded woman on the front and back of the book respectively refers to the idea that love is blind, yet it ties strangers together and pulls them closer.
How much and in what specific ways, does technology help you as an artist?
Technology has been more than helpful to me. Thanks to iPad and Apple pencil, I can put my idea to drawing anytime and anywhere, and share my work with a broad audience in no time, just with a fingertip. It’s good to be an artist in the 21st century.
To be honest, I do not make any conscious efforts to impose any signature style. However, I don’t make any compromise with my work. I think I am a perfectionist.
How does Taiwan inspire you and your work? What do you like and dislike most about it?
We live in a very crowded island, so people are (literally and metaphorically) quite close to each other. Neighbors or classmates becoming friends for life is something that’s commonly seen here.
They say that the most beautiful part about Taiwan is its people, and I think that’s absolutely true. The elements of love, emotion and life which you can often sense in my illustrations all come from the influence I have had while growing up on this island.
Who are the visual artists/illustrators around the world that you really admire?
Mark Ryden has created a really unique style that blurs the traditional boundaries and beyond. He’s one of his kind.
What are some of your biggest inspirations in life?
All of my inspiration is related to people, which includes memories, experiences of my friends and family, or a deep thought inspired by a movie, etc.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently incubating the topic of my second book. My lips are sealed. Stay tuned.
You can read the rest of the issue two here.