Artist Interiew: Maggie Chiang - Through the Woods

Jennifer Bequio: Seeing your pieces in Through the Woods, it has a very calm and quiet nature to it.  Can you describe what influences your work?

MC: A lot of my inspiration comes from nature. I love to travel, and my favorite places have always been these quiet beautiful landscapes. Just being able to sit down on top of a hill above the clouds, for example Mt. Tam near Berkeley, CA, and be able to just take in everything around me is really wonderful. It's hard to be able to have those moments, especially living in a busy city like Los Angeles. So, I guess in my work I try to reflect on those moments, and in a way re-live them. 

JB: Although very subtle, what motivated you to use 3D elements in your work?

MC: I wanted to experiment a little with different mediums, and see how I could integrate them into my work. I feel like it adds another element and focus to the piece, while adding a more depth to the piece. 

JB: Can you touch on why you include these soft looking and often hidden faces? 

MC: It really started with one of the cactus paintings. A friend of mine noticed that the cactus looked a lot like faces, and I really liked the idea. I always thought of plants as having there own personalities, and thought by adding these little faces it could give them more personality. Also, whenever I'm stuck or have that feeling of "art block," I like to go to nature for inspiration, and feel that these little faces also reflect me in a way. Kind of, in a way, me confiding in these plants.

JB: Can you talk about your color palette choice?  Why do you go for softer muted colors rather than really bright colors that pop?

MC: I use watercolors in almost all my work, and watercolors tend to be softer and muted. I feel that the softer muted colors connect with me personally, more than bright colors. Not to say I don't like bright colors. I just love how these softer colors look, and feel that they reflect my personality more. 

JB: Is there a certain mood you’re trying to capture in your works?

MC: Not really, there isn't a specific mood I'm trying to capture in my pieces. A lot of times, the emotional quality of a piece comes out from just my current state of mind while I'm creating the piece. I feel lost a lot of times, and maybe that's just because I just graduated from college, and now just starting to try to find my way in the world. But it also reflects my yearn to travel and be able to explore different places.

JB: How has your work changed over the years? And who (or what) influences your work? Are there any specific artists that you look up to?

MC: My artwork has definitely changed a lot over the years. I think like most people, in the beginning, most of the artwork they create are very academic. Drawing figures, rendering, learning contrast, color, etc. I started off loving ball point pen, and would do these intricate renderings, I loved drawing and rendering out fabric and all of the folds and creases. I don't exactly remember when I started using watercolor, but I think once I taught myself how to use the medium, I became hooked. It's such a beautiful medium, unlike pen, I can't completely control the outcome of how the medium reacts with the water and paper. Being able to let go control was a big part in why I use watercolors now.

I love artists such as Carson Ellis, Teagan White, Ping Zhu, Lisk Feng, Dadu Shin, and many many more!

JB: Do you see yourself working with more elements to make your art even more 3 dimensional?

MC: Yes, I've been wanting to paint on 3D surfaces, and experiment more with layering. I love collaging, and have done a few pieces entirely of college, but haven't really been able to have the time to make such work recently. So hopefully you'll be able to see more of that in the future!

JB: Do you have any advice for undergraduates who want to or are currently pursuing art?

MC: I think the advice I would give is to experiment more! I felt that during my years at ArtCenter I didn't experiment enough, I focused too much on "style" or "voice." Also, another advice I would give is to just keeping working hard and not to be discouraged whenever theres a bump in the road. Even when things get hard, just keep doing what you love, and things will work out.  

To see more of Maggie Chiang's work, please see Through the Woods