New York-based illustrator Morain An has been holding a pencil and busily sketching away for as long as she can remember. It's an approach which has stayed with her through into adulthood as she continues to champion a traditional, hand-drawn approach to illustration.
Born and raised in China and now living in the States, Morain's fascination with drawing began at an early age as she was raised in a home where art was a constant presence in her life. And after following this passion to the esteemed School of Visual Arts, she embarked on a journey to discover innovative techniques that transform ideas and narratives into captivating illustrations.
"The ability of visual art to communicate with people on a deep level has always captivated me," she tells Creative Boom. "As a visual storyteller, I relish the opportunity to express my personal opinions and share my stories through the captivating medium of art."
One of the biggest influences on Morain's work was a fortuitous encounter with a book titled Masaaki Yuasa: Sketchbook for Animation Projects. After stumbling across it, Morain explains that her eyes had been opened to a "wellspring of inspiration" lurking within his work. "Within those pages, I delved into the depths of Yuasa's artistic process, witnessing how he fearlessly dismantles ideas, breathes life into characters, and weaves captivating narratives.
"It was through his example that I gleaned invaluable insights on transforming blank canvases into vibrant illustrations. The experience was transformative, enriching my own artistic endeavours with newfound vision and technique."
Speaking of technique, Morain characterises her illustration style as a "fusion of vibrant colours and whimsical charm." Within this, there is a profound appreciation for hand-drawn elements. Morain reveals that hand-drawing is a "fundamental cornerstone" of her artistic process as it allows her to capture an "organic essence" which breathes nuanced life into her illustrations.
"The interplay between bold and captivating hues, coupled with the fluidity of casual line work, forms the artistic DNA of my creations," she adds. "Each composition is thoughtfully crafted, infused with imagination and an innate desire to evoke a sense of wonder and delight."
Morain goes so far as to say that hand drawing has consistently been a "powerful conduit" when materialising her thoughts and ideas onto the page. "Whenever I embark on a digital project, I steadfastly adhere to a time-honoured ritual: initiating the creative process with traditional pencil and watercolour sketches," she explains.
"This initial step grants me the freedom to explore various compositions, meticulously render the essence of the subject matter, and fine-tune every aspect of the artwork. Beyond its practical advantages, hand drawing holds irreplaceable significance for me, as it allows me to directly infuse my personal style and essence into the piece.
"The result is an unmistakable charm and warmth that can be challenging to replicate through digital means alone."
Colour is the other magic ingredient in Morain's work. It plays a pivotal role in evoking specific emotions and setting the desired mood in her illustrations. "As an illustrator, I place great importance in developing and curating my own distinct colour palettes," she says. "With Procreate as my trusted tool, I maintain an extensive library of carefully crafted palettes. When colouring a piece, I take the time to browse through my collection, carefully selecting a few colours that harmonise and interact in captivating ways.
"Through thoughtful adjustments in contrast, saturation, and hue, I refine the palette to accurately convey the intended message of the artwork. This deliberate process allows me to explore the full potential of colours and create a harmonious visual experience that resonates deeply with viewers."
To this end, New York sounds like the perfect home for Morain. She finds the city a consistently enriching experience whose thriving art scene fosters a sense of "excitement and constant activity". And on a personal level, she is captivated by the bustling crowds on the streets and in museums. "Occasionally, I find myself grabbing a cup of coffee and settling on a bench to witness the lively flow of pedestrians. In these instances, I am consistently invigorated by the city's vibrant energy and dynamic atmosphere, which never fails to inspire me."
Of all her work, though, Morain singles out Screentime All the Time as a piece of special significance. It represents a breakthrough in her style, signalling a departure from her preoccupation with techniques and experiments. "One day, a profound realisation dawned upon me - it's not merely about the style; it's about the story conveyed through the artwork," she concludes.
"This revelation became a pivotal moment, enabling me to approach illustration with a newfound sense of ease and self-assurance in my storytelling abilities." It's a revelation that has evolved Morain's art into a new direction, as she now finds herself immersed in the creation of her first-ever animated film. "As a newcomer to the world of animation, I am captivated by the process and thoroughly enjoying every moment."
Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly