Illustrator and designer Maggie Chiang was born to Taiwanese parents in the USA. Based in LA, she works independently and has created works for various editorial brands including The New York Times.
She finished her BFA from ArtCenter College of Design in 2016. She has also studied at Ryman Arts for about a year. Maggie’s work is often based on the idea of adventure and the longing and pursuit for unknown places and landscapes. She also often explores the relationship between people and nature in artworks.
We had a conversation with Maggie about some of these themes in her work, her growing up years in LA, and travel, among other things.
Do the places you are associated with influence the kind of work you do?
I think my connection and influence from these two places (Taiwan and USA) come very naturally. Being raised by Taiwanese parents in America inherently shows up in the kind of work I am doing.
Could you talk a bit about your early years in Los Angeles?
Growing up in LA, I attended a Christian pre-school. Then I moved to another city when I was around seven years old, and went to a public school for my elementary to high school years. As a kid, I always liked to doodle and draw, so my parents sent me to various art classes and art schools in different places. I also grew up learning music, mainly piano and violin. I am now learning on my own how to play the flute and marimba as well.
These places I create come from both my imagination and from real places. Most of the time, I take inspiration from a real place and add my own view to it.
Your work, as you have mentioned in your bio, is “inspired by both places real and fictitious”. Tell us a bit more about these fictitious places that you conjure.
These places I create come from both my imagination and from real places. Most of the time, I take inspiration from a real place and add my own view to it. I love peaceful and quiet places, and I try to create that feeling in my work. I think because I live in the city where it is really noisy most of the time, I like to create a world where things are completely opposite.
Nature also plays an important role in your work.
Yes. Again, I think my love for nature comes from living in the city, especially Los Angeles because it is a desert. There isn’t really much nature around here. I remember when I went to Portland last year, the city made me feel so happy because it was so peaceful and beautiful. Even just driving on the highway was such a beautiful experience. Nature keeps me curious and I feel blissful when surrounded by it.
So what’s your daily routine like in LA?
I try to keep a regular 9–7 workday, even though I work from my home-studio. In fact, I feel that because I work from home, it’s even more important for me to stick to a routine. So I wake up every morning at around 8 am, shower, get dressed, maybe eat a light breakfast, and then I immediately get to my computer and start working, whether it’s just emailing or continuing the projects that I am working on.
Are there any places nearby that you particularly head to for inspiration?
I don’t think there is any particular place that inspires me, but instead all the experiences I’ve have had from when I travel keep me going. I take a lot of photographs when I travel, and I always love seeing everyone else’s travel photos too.
How does the US inspire you creatively?
I have all my friends in the US, and most of them are creative. I am not only inspired by the work they create, but it also motivates me constantly keep creating new work too. Apart from friends, there are so many other wonderful and amazing artists living in the US, and they too are very inspirational for me.
I don’t think there is any particular place that inspires me, but instead all the experiences I’ve have had from when I travel keep me going.
Do you feel that the art and design world is very saturated in the US? Does it ever get too competitive?
I actually think that being a part of the art and design world, I forget how small it really is. Every time I meet a new artist, we realize we have so many artist friends in common. I feel that it can become competitive, but the fact is that various companies in the US are always looking for new artists to work with. So I think there is a lot of demand for art and design work in the US. Of course, that also depends on the industry.
Since I am just starting out, I am beginning to slowly notice a trend in terms of the kind of work people want or expect from me. So in a way, I am creating a niche for myself. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but I am curious to see where it goes.
Could you talk about one particular project that borrows elements from the place where you created it?
There was an article that I helped illustrate for The New York Times about Obama signing two locations as National Monuments. The timing in which I got the article was perfect because I had just come back from a camping trip at a National Park. So I borrowed some of what I had experienced there, and put it into the illustration for that article.
Where all have you traveled in the US?
Besides living in California, I’ve been to Hawaii, Oregon, Texas, New York, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C.
And do you travel a lot in general? How does travelling inspire you?
I don’t travel too often actually, just little road trips here and there. But I try to travel at least once a year. What inspires me from traveling is being able to experience new things, and see amazing sights that I don’t get to see often. The last time I traveled was to New York for an illustration event, but I only got to stay there for a few days. But my next big trip is coming up very soon. I am going to China for about a month.
You can read the rest of the Issue 1 here.