Interview by email on July 20th
AL: I think the first question anyone who’s seen your work is likely to ask is, 'why cats?' Why not dogs, or horses, or even fish? What do cats mean to you?
BO: A while ago I saw a ‘one drawing a day' trending topic on Weibo called: another drawing pops up in the universe every day. I didn’t have a specific theme or character in mind until the day my cat passed away. Due to the loss I felt I couldn’t stop drawing that big cat, and gradually I became the little boy next to him in the drawings. They keep each other company in the fictional world of this medium.
AL: What is your artistic background? Have you always been an illustrator?
BO: I’ve worked at a few A4 advertising firms such as Ogilvy in Beijing. Illustration was a hobby that I’ve never stopped pursuing, so naturally I was over the moon to have the opportunity to become a professional illustrator. Even though there are problems that come with mixing my hobby and work, I’m just ecstatic to be able to keep drawing.
AL: I found and bought your book of illustrations, “宇宙再大大不过我和你” (The Universe is No Bigger than You and I) at the Loreli Affordable Art Market! Although it’s labeled as a book of illustrations, it is not so much a book as it is a collection of illustrations stacked together. Is there a reason for choosing this form of presentation?
BO: I’m also a collector of illustrations. Most of these collection are bound into book form for the reader to flip through. Even when I see a drawing that I love, I can’t bring myself to cut that drawing out of the book. This is very painful for someone like me who enjoys hanging paintings and drawings. So when I had the chance to publish a collection of illustrations, I chose to present them in the form of unbound pages. I really hope that whoever purchases them can use my drawings to decorate their spaces and lives. I once gave a little kid a drawing, and afterwards she told me that when she gets sad, she’d take a look at the drawing on her table, the heartfelt warmth of its content, and feel a bit better.
AL: 你的插画集《宇宙再大大不过我和你》我在 ’Loreli 买得起的艺术市集’ 买到了！虽说是插画集，可这本却不是装订在一起的，而是一副副叠在一起的画。你选择这种方式有什么原因吗？
AL: Your book of illustrations depicts the life of a human and a cat and their day-to-day interactions. Sometimes their roles seem to reverse, giving us the sense that the cat is observing the human, joking and playing with the human as if we’re looking at life through the perspective of a cat, unlike our usual attitude towards cats. How did this idea come to you and why did you decide to show it in your drawings? Or, maybe you had a totally different origin of thought?
BO: The original relationship between he Big Blue Cat and the Little Boy is simply that of me and my cat who passed away. As time went on, I gradually projected a lot of my emotions onto these two characters. Their perspectives on life and their way of companionship are dynamic and complex. Sometimes the cat bullies the little boy, and other times he provides comfort for the boy, and once in a while they simultaneously fall deep into an emotion, unable to escape. I want the reader to see the drawing, read the caption, and recall their own lives - a familiar place or emotion. Whether it’s the cat or the reader might’ve experienced the same characters and emotions as they have.
AL: 在你的插画集里能看到猫与人一起生活，做生活中平凡的事情。有时候甚至猫咪跟人的角色交换了 - 给我们一种猫在观察人，在笑人，或者跟人玩儿的一种感觉，好像我们再通过猫的角度看生活，而不是像生活中我们对猫的态度。你是怎么有这个想法并且把它展示在画里的呢？或者你根本不这么觉得，有其他的初衷？
AL: In your book, every illustration comes with a caption. What’s your creative process for this? Do you have a phrase in mind before making a drawing or do you supplement your illustrations with a caption afterwards?
BO: It’s similar to creating music. Sometimes the melody comes first, sometimes the process is reversed. This depends on the state I’m in at the time. This form of putting a phrase next to an illustration might have something to do with my experience with working in the advertising industry. A complete print ad is just graphics plus a few words of copy, so I always think an illustration with an added layer of meaning is more fun and interesting.
AL: Apart from illustrating kitties, have you done any other work? Tell us!
BO: Because of my advertising background, I do a few commercial projects. The one everyone’s most familiar with is probably the dog from Sogou, the cartoon character on the Mirinda soda packaging, etc. I’ve also done illustration collaborations with JD.com and Kindle. Publishing wise, Dongdongqiang (writer) and I came out with an illustrated poetry book called “拿不动的世界” (Immovable World) in 2014; last year, I did all of the illustration for actor Chen Kun’s book “鬼水瓶录” (Record of a Quaint Aquarius).
AL: What's your next project? Any upcoming plans? Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us?
BO: Right now I’m working on some commercial collaborations while continuing to illustrate the story of the Big Blue Cat and the Little Boy. I plan on doing some art accessible to the general public. Lately I’ve been doing some illustration workshops both online and offline. A lot of people are interested and passionate about drawing but are always plagued by the concept of “knowing how to draw and not knowing how to draw”. Mainstream opinion suggest that only sketches or paintings can be considered drawing; this attitude continues to affect a lot of people’s opinion of drawing and appreciation of art. I want to loosen this rigid standard for art and the methods and attitudes through which people see art by hosting a series of exhibitions, planning some books, and opening art workshops.
Big Orange worked in the advertising industry and is now an independent illustrator. He’s had exhibitions of his illustration in Beijing, Tianjin, and other areas. In 2014 he collaborated with Dondongqiang on an illustrated book of poetry, “拿不动的世界” (Immovable World). In 2016 his book of illustrations, “宇宙再大大不过我和你” (The Universe is No Bigger than You and Me) was published. He illustrated actor Chen Kun’s new book, “鬼水瓶录” (Record of a Quaint Aquarius).
Follow him on WeChat at: veryverybigorange or Weibo at: @大橘子嘿嘿