Find Your Zen: Inside Maggie Chiang’s Tranquil Watercolor Art

Art can invoke all kinds of feelings in a viewer. And when it comes to Maggie Chiang’s, all it takes is one look at her work to put you into an immediate state of sigh-of-relief meditation. Her tranquil, light and airy watercolor work has a calmness to it that is contagious. Chiang may have just recently graduated college, but she’s already had multiple pieces featured in publications like The New York Times and Washington Post Magazine, and it’s easy to see why.

We talked to Maggie Chiang about her beautiful artwork, where her ideal place to do art would be, and about her brand new Artist Shop. Check out the interview below!

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You only recently graduated college and you’ve already had art featured in some huge publications! How do you feel about this epic rise!

Yes! I graduated last year, April 2016. It has been a crazy experience so far, to be able to illustrate for The New York Times and Washington Post‘s Magazine. I feel very excited and so grateful to be able to illustrate for these amazing publications, and hope to continue illustrating for them!

An illustration Maggie did for the New York Times (via her Instagram).

Your work has such a beautiful lightness to it – what mediums do you use?

I mostly use watercolors, but starting to experiment with acrylic gouache.

A commission Maggie did (via her Instagram).

You did these little miniature snake sculptures that are just adorable! How did you create these? 

I’m constantly trying to find new ways to make my work. With the miniature snake sculptures, I had some leftover polymer clay and used that to create the snakes and used acrylic to paint them. I would love to be able to do more 3D work, it’s just hard to figure out what to make and to be able to find the time.

Miniature snake sculpture Maggie did for Q Pop Shop gallery (via Maggie’s Instagram).

How did you find your style? It’s so unique, but I imagine it’s changed a lot through the years!

Yes, it has definitely changed a lot throughout the years. When I started college, I only liked using pen, ink and ‘specially ballpoint pen. Now, I love to paint with watercolor. I think I’m still searching for my style/voice, but it just came naturally through making artwork constantly. Just slowly figuring out what I like through experimenting and always making new work.

Gif from Maggie’s site.

Tell me a little bit about your Artist Shop! How did you pick the designs you feature in your shop?

I wanted to create some fun designs that I could see my friends wear, or just shirt ideas that I’ve always wanted to create and hope that other people enjoy them too.

Designs from Maggie’s Artist Shop! From left to right: “Moving Mountains” on a women’s dolman, “Snake” on an oatmeal triblend women’s tank, and “Dive” on a men’s (unisex) classic tee.

What artists most inspire you?

Oh man, that’s a tough one. There are so many! Just off the top of my head, I love illustrators such as Ping Zhu, Carson Ellis, Marina Muun, Dadu Shin, Monica Ramos, and many, many more.

Via Maggie’s Instagram.

Your work has an amazing ‘layered’ look to it – what’s your process, mentally and in actually creating your work? 

I like to layer with watercolor to help create contrast. The more layers there are the more I want those areas to be pushed back, while the areas with less layering or none at all I want as the focus of the piece. I usually start out with a general shape for my focus, and then slowly build layers around it.

A piece Maggie did for Giant Robot’s “Year of the Monkey” show (via her Instagram).

There’s such a calm and tranquil feel to your work – where would your ideal place to create art be, real or imaginary?

I would love to be able to create in a quiet place surrounded by nature. I love looking at plein air artists and how they’re able to create artwork while outdoors. I hope to be able to do more plein air paintings in the future.

Via Maggie’s Instagram.

What inspires you most about the relationship between humanity and nature?

I remember when I was traveling (especially while I’m hiking in different places) how small I felt compared to the world. Sometimes living in the city, all we can see is people, but in comparison to nature we are so small. So I like illustrating my experiences, juxtaposing nature with humanity.  

Via Maggie’s Instagram.

What’s the best art advice you’ve ever gotten or that has helped you the most?

I think the best advice would be to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, and to be patient. I feel like this kind of advice applies to anyone, but it has definitely helped me as an illustrator.

What do you want people to feel from your art? What do YOU feel when you create art?

I’m not quite sure yet, I think I’m still figuring that out. But for now, I think I’m mostly focusing on myself with my art. I’m still just figuring out what my goals are with illustration, and hope to be able to express those emotions or thoughts someday.

Via Maggie’s Instagram.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Constantly create, and adventure awaits! 

Don’t have an artist shop? Start one now!

Featured image is “Flashlight” from Maggie’s website.

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Carlyn Hill

Dad joke aficionado, cartoonist, & contributor for sites like HelloGiggles and The Mary Sue by night. When I'm not writing or drawing, you can find me in my cave of a room hanging out with my boyfriend, Netflix.