child wonder: zhang liang

child wonder: zhang liang

The world of illustrator Zhang Liang - Anorak friend and long-time contributor - is one we would love to jump in and surf through. In fact we do. In our minds! Inspired by the cartoons and toys of his childhood, his work is like stepping into a mega-colourful adventure in pop culture. Zhang is the perfect example of how keeping child wonder alive feeds a creative career. 

Do you feel like you are doing the job you intended to do?

Absolutely! When I was a kid, I was best at drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and characters from Water Margin (one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature). A few years later, I was lucky enough to see what options were available at Glasgow School of Art and realised I wanted to do illustration since day one.

Describe a happy episode of your childhood that connects you to the creative person you have become.

When I was a teenager in China, I used to collect Water Margin and Romance of the Three Kingdoms trading cards. I drew my own bootlegs when I was 13 years old!

What story/book do you associate with your childhood?

Again, the novel Water Margin. There are lots of violent scenes in the book, but the 108 outlaw heroes can be furious and righteous. They look to set the world right and leave their mark for posterity. The influence of this book has gone far beyond the usual genres of fiction and all forms of art. I would say Water Margin is China’s 12th century hip hop!

How do you keep creative and full of wonder now as a grown-up?

Illustrators like to collect different things, it’s an artistic trait among many. Now I’m collecting Garbage Pail Kids cards and toys, they are a true form of art. They are a huge inspiration and I’ve created some GPK inspired works both for clients and for my own personal work. Credit goes to all the artists behind the GPK cards. 

I’m heavily influenced by popular culture, such as hip hop, old television shows and cartoons. I like all these green dudes: Mondo Gecko, Muckman, Toxie, Swamp Thing, Grinch, Slimer, Gumby, Gill-man,  because green is my favourite colour! And of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are my superheroes.

I have recently been watching the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series and Garbage Pail Kids TV series again, which is super fun. I also collect a lot of toys, including over 300 TMNT and Toxic Crusaders action figures at my home studio in Beijing, and they definitely influence my creative consciousness. So the style that I have stems from those but I also love trying out new things and always look forward to work in new mediums. 

Thank you Zhang, that collection is making us green... with envy!! Follow Zhang's pop adventures here and here