On the Couch with Terry Fan
We’ve been dreaming about Terry Fan’s floating whales or flying elephants for quite a while now so we immediately grabbed the chance to pick his brain and find out more about his surreal and dreamy work. The Canadian artist likes combinations of the traditional and contemporary, the graphite and Photoshop and he would definitely decorate his house with a vintage light globe. What’s not to love about this guy! Keep on reading for more fun treats!
Your work has a beautiful vintage feel and often you go back in time with your compositions. Do you think it’s quite challenging to break into today’s contemporary world where most people seem to be after minimalist graphic designs? Have you ever considered taking a completely different direction in your work?
Well, in my case it hasn’t really been a challenge and is probably responsible for some of the success I’ve had. In this alienated and frenetic computer age I think there’s a general nostalgia for the past, perhaps a longing for a simpler times. Also a vintage aesthetic has a certain timeless quality, a warmth and charm that has an innate appeal to it. However I should add that as much as I love all things vintage, I often like to play around by combining contrasting elements of both old and new.
As far as taking a completely different direction, it’s something I often think about doing. I really enjoy experimenting with different styles/themes and also I think it’s important for artistic growth not to get too stuck in one style or mind-set. So I try to push the boundaries sometimes, but having said that, I’ve become known for a certain style so it’s always a bit risky to experiment. But I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a portfolio under a different name at some point.
One of the recurring motifs in your work is the whale. Why is that? On the same subject, one of our favorites here is the Ocean Meets Sky. How was this piece created and is there a story behind?
I just love whales! They’re such amazing creatures and it blows me away that we’re actually sharing the same planet with them. I think when whales are eventually driven into extinction future generations are going to look back and not even be able to believe that such creatures ever existed, in the same way that it’s hard for us to believe that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. What a sad place that would be, a world without whales.
Ocean Meets Sky happens to be one of my personal favorites, too. The story behind is that it started off as this amazing dream I had one night. The illustration is a very watered down version of it, but I still remembered enough to capture some of the magic. It went through quite a few revisions and it was almost accidental the way things turned out.
Talking about the ocean, what three things would you take with you on a deserted island?
Despite being an artist I’m a practical sort, so I’m going to be really boring and say - a hook and fishing line, a multi tool and a magnesium fire starter. I know you were probably expecting something romantic like “paper, pen-and-ink and a good bottle of scotch”, but that wouldn’t keep me alive for very long. Although rather than slowly starving to death, maybe it would be preferable to go out drunk with a few final sketches of the island and surrounding sea. Okay, now I’m not sure anymore.
Your brother Eric is also a popular artist creating somewhat similar dreamy and surreal artwork and you both seem to be quite animal oriented. What do you think distinguishes your work from his and who was the first one to kick off the artist career?
Eric and I both went to art college when we were younger, but then both gave up on art for an extended period for various reasons, most of them pertaining to making a living. Eric was the first to get back into it and this inspired me to also start being creative again. So really, if it weren’t for him I probably wouldn’t even be doing this interview right now. I think our aesthetic is similar in a lot of ways because we’ve always had similar interests, but there is a definite difference in our styles. Eric just has a certain way of drawing that’s really unique to him, it’s difficult to define. I’d say he uses cross-hatching more than I do with an emphasis on line-work, whereas I have a slightly softer style and probably do a lot more post-processing in Photoshop.
Is there a thing, drink or a stereotype about you that would make your friends or family go “Oh gee, this is so Terry”?
I’ve just recently moved into a new condo and am looking for some accessories to liven the place up a bit. One thing I’m hoping to find is a vintage light globe of the earth because that would immediately make my place look about a hundred times more awesome. I think if my family heard that they would probably say “oh gee, that’s so Terry” because everyone knows I love cool, vintage stuff. Actually, I like cool, modern stuff too as long as it’s well-made, but for some reason I have this reputation for only liking things that are vintage. To resist is futile, I should just start wearing a top-hat and be done with it.
What attracted you to work with caseable?
I like that caseable is a relatively small, personal company that caters to a particular demographic and is highly curated. There’s a real focus on quality and some of the products you offer I haven’t seen anywhere else. Also I really appreciate that you actively promote your roster of artists and this interview is a good example of that. Finally, you’ve just been very friendly and supportive to work with, that’s probably the most important reason of all.