Exploring Quiet Unrest with Eevien Tan January 25 2018

Eevien Tan is an illustrator and designer based in Melbourne, Australia. She currently works as a graphic designer, while creating her illustrations during her spare time. Eevien's artwork tends towards a darker palette and is full of delicate lines, sumptuous details and emotive symbolism. 

Her forthcoming show, Total Disquiet, contains artwork embracing moments of discomfort and an unsettling of the mind, as well as the release that comes in the aftermath as these moments dissipate. 

We spoke to Eevien in the lead up to her show about her journey as an artist, her inspirations and how she balances her design work with her illustration.

Why do you draw? 

I have never really consciously thought about the 'why'. I don’t think I do it with a defining intention or end goal, but more for the process and the experience. I have always gravitated towards all kinds of creative visual arts, even when going through phases of exploring different mediums and creative outlets, drawing has been the only thing that I habitually fall back to.

Can you talk to us about your creative trajectory?

I studied visual arts for a semester at uni, but was not content with work I was producing; I felt as though the course was too abstract and conceptual for my liking. I transferred into graphic design which was like a whole new creative world for me. My drawings are composed with a very critical and technical approach which is the foundation of my illustrations - something that I could have only ever developed through my learnt knowledge in design.

Can you describe the process behind creating an artwork? Your pieces seem deeply personal and full of symbolism. How do you extract these thoughts and articulate them visually?

Almost all of my pieces orbit female portraiture - I'll often start with a portrait and start forming the full image by feeding off the mood set by the figure. Very rarely do images come together immediately from an initial set idea, there is a lot of rethinking and unexpected changes that go into the process - one of the best advantages of a digital medium is the freedom to dramatically change the direction of a piece.

I like to think that each piece embodies these ideas not only through the apparent foundation of the drawing on the page, but as well through the colours and the fluidity of the lines and interaction of the elements to make up the illustration in its entirety.

What drives the more emotional, darker dimension of your work?

I feel a stronger motivation to draw when my mind is in a state of unrest. Producing drawings of a darker undertone comes a lot more naturally as a therapeutic outlet which reflects quite emphatically through a lot of my work.

What does your day look like? How do you balance between having a day job and maintaining the drive and energy levels to create your own work?

Most days begin at a 6:00am yoga session followed by a steady 8 hours at a computer screen working my day job as a graphic designer.

Over the years I have found it increasingly harder to dedicate time towards my personal digital illustrations, at the end of the day my eyes just want to stay as far away from a screen as possible.

At the beginning when I was still settling into this routine there was a small period of time where I would go days - even weeks - without drawing and found myself becoming very restless and agitated. So instead I began working a lot more with traditional mediums (coloured pencils and Copic markers in particular) as a break from the digital which was definitely the balance I needed to keep my sanity.


Why do you think you initially gravitated towards the digital medium? And do you see yourself exploring other mediums in the future?

When I first discovered digital painting, I was completely captivated in how much there was to learn with this newfound medium where the capabilities seemed to be limitless. I have gone through phases of very briefly exploring oil painting and print media, but never delved into it entirely. I would definitely love to explore these avenues again in the future, hopefully with fewer paint brush casualties.

Can you tell us more about the theme of your pieces for your Small Wall Project?

Total Disquiet is a body of work that is deeply personal to me as being lost in a disquiet mindset has always been a driving force for my illustrations. The theme of the pieces explore embracing moments of uneasiness and ultimately to linger within the aftermath of relief and realisation. The illustrations themselves are not aesthetically constructed with a literal interpretation of unsettled chaos, but instead portray a subtle feeling of disconcertment through their narratives.

You tend to use flora and fauna as motifs in you work. Can you share why this has been part of your creative process?

In my early stages of creative discovery, I worked predominantly with pens and markers being heavily influenced by comic book art. With these influences, I gravitated heavily towards exploring mecha and futuristic narratives. The process and the subject matter grew to be tiresome and repetitive, so for a dramatic change I shifted towards subjects of an organic nature. My attraction to fluid line work and decorative art came to fruition as I began drawing influences from the Art Nouveau era.


What are you currently working on?

Besides preparing a few final drawings for the show, I have a few personal abandoned projects that I would like to pick up again exploring unfamiliar mediums.

Looking forward, do you ever see yourself expanding your art practice to a full time commitment? Or do you enjoy balancing both design and illustration in your life?

At the moment I have found a happy balance. In the future expanding my practice full time would be ideal especially to find the time to work with a variety of mediums. 

Who are you inspired by?

Illustrators most influential on me at the moment include Joao Ruas, Greg Ruth, Vania Zouravliov, Otomo Katsuhiro and Takato Yamamoto.

What are you currently listening to?

Currently re-listening to select episodes of 'Your Dreams My Nightmares' a podcast hosted by one of my favourite illustrators, Sam Weber.

What are you currently reading?

Slowly making my way through 'The Agony and the Ecstasy' by Irving Stone - a biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Thank you for your time, Eevien. We can't wait to see your work for the show!

Total Disquiet by Eevien Tan
Friday 2 February
Outré Gallery Melbourne
Drinks supplied by Feral Brewing
Facebook Event