Yanran Chen @yanran_chen_ is a Chinese artist known for her surrealist illustrations that explore the dream world, where time and space have no limitations. She is only 17 years old, but her surrealist drawings have already led to collaborations with Balenciaga, Issey Miyake, and Moleskin.
Her colorful, modern, manga-leaning style is infused with feelings of anxiety, fear, and horror, and is influenced by old Japanese horror comic artists Kazuo Umezu, Shintaro Kago, and Suehiro Maruo. Her art reflects her worldview as a teenager and artist in the 21st century, mixing beautiful and ugly, bizarre and real, and opposing forces and concepts that coexist in her work. Discover her works here: @iam_chloec
Exclusive for Vanity Teen!
VT. How old did you pick up the paintbrush?
Three. And back 13, I started to play with my imagination to create illustrations.
VT. Is drawing an escape for you?
I am constantly fighting against my desire for approval, and I have to keep reminding myself that I draw for me, that it doesn’t matter if nobody compliments my work, and that I’m doing what I want to do.
VT. What’s being a full-time illustrator for you?
I often feel very tired, and I don’t know if I should continue to do this. Sometimes I’m clear about my life goals, and sometimes I’m very confused. Time will bring clarity, though. Painting is like second nature to me. I’ll never stop painting, and I’m very focused on illustration.
VT. Do you have any concerns about people not understanding your artwork on social media?
My age group is inseparable from social networks and we share all the time, including our art. I have to say at 17, it’s so hard to escape that need for approval. Sometimes, when I’m too caught up in these feelings, I go to my safe place. I’ll hole up and immerse myself in
time-tested inspiration, like old movies. Returning to my interests and finding resonance in them makes me feel alive and more like myself.
VT. What would you be doing if you weren’t painting?
I’m very interested in movies, so I’d love to explore that one day. But I still have plenty of time to think about my future.
VT. For the shoot, you displayed two very different styles – What’s the inspiration?
I gave them different names. The cooler one I’d love to call “Neon” since it was Inspired by iconic Tokyo street nightlife and flickering neon signs, that’s where I am currently studying. Yet the warmer look named “babydoll” wants to pay homage to the cute-yet-confident style, photographer Chen Chekai I worked with brought this sense to the shoot.
VT. Is the photo story a reflection of your spirit?
The punk-rock Gen-Z spirit I guess. Some words came to cross my mind during the shoot – I could be drawing right now, instead of doing this (haha).
Photographer: Chen CheKai @chenchekai
Make-up Artist: Susu