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Borrowing from Life and Telling the Stories She Wants to Tell—Comic Book Artist Ying Chang
Ying Chang’s (英張) childhood memories are not so different from other people’s. Like many schoolchildren back then, the first thing she did when she got home was turn on the TV and watch cartoons—Sailor Moon and Curious Play were the backdrop to her school life.
“I was a really ordinary kid!” says Ying Chang.
From freelancer to Golden Comic Award for Best New Talent
Many people working in Taiwan’s comic industry say they feel how unstable the profession can be, how difficult it can be to make a living working full-time as a comic book artist.
Ying Chang began as a freelancer, taking on graphic design cases while searching for other professional opportunities. She published a short work 親結 in the Creative Comic Collection (CCC創作集) and later on sent a single-episode script to Gaea Books (蓋亞文化).
As fate would have it, Chang was asked by Gaea to collaborate with Qseries (植劇場) on Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark (天黑請閉眼). The upshot was that in 2018 Ying Chang won Best New Talent (金漫獎作家新人獎) at the annual Golden Comic Awards. This remarkable experience showed her the way forward.
“If a text is a comic or novel, then the most effective way to expand your audience is by adapting it for the screen. The upside is that you expand the audience; the downside is that there might be restrictions on the subject matter.”
In other words, when a text is adapted for screen, it may have to be edited to fit funding or budgetary requirements. Nevertheless, she believes that it’s inevitable that writers working closely with film and television will become a fixture in the future.
Recently Ying Chang has been turning her attention more towards writing comics: she’s currently finishing her second book, 森山朗讀會, and is ready to start on her third, 採集人的野帳, which looks at professionals during Taiwan’s Japanese colonial era, depicting the lives of young people growing up and their emotional connections with others.
The artist as an ordinary person
Chang’s creative influences can be traced back to two works she was exposed to during high school: the comic book Alive: The Final Evolution and the animation The Twelve Kingdoms. The latter is a fantasy story based on the work of Japanese novelist Fuyumi Ono (小野不由美) that takes as its backdrop China’s Classic of Mountains and Seas (山海經). The Twelve Kingdoms has inspired Chang’s subsequent choice of subject matter.
“I prefer medieval and ancient historical settings for my stories rather than fantasy or something futuristic,” she says.
She also distinctly prefers Japanese comic book artist Adachitoka’s (あだちとか) vibrant watercolors and hand-drawn style over computerized renderings.
Asked how she chooses creative themes, Chang reveals that she only draws what she wants to. For example, she especially adores kimono, tatami rooms, and nostalgic historical styles. And the type of reading she typically enjoys is something gentle and happy, or stories about growing up.
“I don’t really enjoy reading anything gory, scary, or sad… Things like that just make my stomach churn.”
On non-mainstream works that receive high acclaim, Chang openly says, “Sometimes I just don’t understand or like them. The things I come into contact with tend to be more popular, nothing that unique. I’m really just an ordinary person.”
Inspiration in everyday life
Anyone who has seen Ying Chang’s work will know her careful observation of people, situations, and objects in everyday settings. Her inspiration comes from the constantly renewing and expanding field of life. Through her works, she aims to lead her readers to experience different kinds of “everyday life.”
It has been said that an artist’s first and second creative works usually reflect their own life experiences, just as 森山朗讀會 reflects the daily scenes that Chang sees in Tainan—commuters on scooters, plastic bags at squid soup stalls, and so on. All familiar and comforting sights for Taiwanese people.
A curator she interviewed while in college told Chang, “Don’t regret your decisions, because you can never prove what would have been if you had gone the other way.”
It’s this advice that has had the greatest influence on Chang. Having chosen her path as an artist, all she can do now is do her best. She has to keep going, no matter what obstacles lie ahead.
Ying Chang is an artist who believes she’s nothing special, but who continues to create stories with wide appeal.
Ying Chang (英張) is a freelance writer who began her career working as a freelance graphic designer. Today, she is trying to advance her career as an illustrator, comic book artist, and novelist. Her debut short story 親結 was published in the Creative Comic Collection (CCC創作集). Other works include comic books Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark (天黑請閉眼), 森山朗讀會, and採集人的野帳 (which is currently being serialized).
Text: Lig Lin; Photography: Ying Chang (英張)
WDC Taipei 2016