Recognizing one’s purpose at a young age is certainly a rare privilege, blessed to but a mere few. For most of us, the revelation comes at a later age, after much nuisance and mischief; after one has clawed through the unpredictability of teenage and puberty only to arrive at the predictability that lies beyond it. In such instances, childhood and its perpetual residue seem like a missed opportunity. A considerable chunk of life’s colorful gamut laid bare, promises unfulfilled, talents unforeseen, and time — oh all the wasted hours! The individual, then, should he dare, undertakes the task of unlearning the pragmatic worldview entrusted unto him. But . . .
My Sun Shower Goddess_Chalk pastels version © Anson Liaw
...What if you need not unlearn? What if you possessed the basic skills and knew your intended direction from the get-go?
Anson Liaw, born in Detroit and raised in Toronto, has been honing his skills since he was a child. He, “became attracted to art since [he] was exposed to watching animated TV shows at the early age of 1 and 2 years old, . . . , [he became more serious about] drawing and making art after being exposed to it at the kindergarten school level at 3 years old or earlier”, and he has never looked back.
He recalls the foremost turning point of his life as an artist in the following words, “I was encouraged by my Canadian history course junior high school teacher to create a series of colored drawings for a grade 9 Canadian history class assignment about the Battle of Quebec, also called Battle on the Plains of Abraham (September 13, 1759)”.
2020 45th annual Toronto International Film Festival 18 x 24 © Anson Liaw
After graduating from Ontario College of Art & Design in 1989, he began his official practice working as an illustrator. Having worked with the Time Magazine, Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s, the New York Times, FedEx, Nestle, Los Angele Times, The Harvard Business Review, The Houghton Mifflin Company, Second Cup Coffee Company, Canadian Business, Rogers Media, Mercatto restaurant, University of Toronto, 3x3 The Magazine of Contemporary Illustration, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, The Washington Post, Heart & Soul Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune, he is one of the most sought-after illustrators for bringing novel ideas together.
When critically observing Anson’s work, novelty is, in fact, the first thing that springs off the page. The complex rhythms of various ideas and how they juxtapose one another is a marvel to behold! It is rare to look at an illustrator’s work and be immediately in awe of the skill and vision of its creator.
Things that often appear to be in contrast to each other in daily life suddenly offer a different perspective. Oscillating between sleek minimalism to defined maximalism, his illustrations are not over-bearing on the eye, nor are they reticent. The lines — which he so happens to be in love with — insulate the composition with glaring simplicity, “I am in love with emphasizing the power of the line when creating my artwork. Using a combination of drawing mediums like graphite pencil, ink drawing pens, and India ink, and then completing them using digital media allows my line artwork to become more noticed and alive to me somehow especially when it comes to integrating and using colorwork in the process and, overall, gives it the life and power to tell my stories with increased flexibility, versatility and visual intrigue compared to myself using raw traditional art mediums alone”.
Silent No More 2019 18 x 24 inches © Anson Liaw
He does use traditional media when appropriate but he often does so to push it to its extremes. He is at his most vivid and playful attitude when he utilizes both sides of the coin, traditional and digital, in conjunction, both complimenting his way of seeing with an emphasis on line, shape, textural nuances, and color.
The context is often personal, “[The] darker experiences in life offer me a never-ending library of creative inspirational opportunities and ideas to create art that possesses the purposeful ability to a be a visual language to create daily visual dialogues to help others and myself to cope and heal by stimulating empathetic connections to these much needed to-be-addressed personal life experiences which also to me, naturally and many a time, relate to the many the compounding societal and political issues that consistently needs to be addressed that are experienced by people within the world every day”.
A proponent of social change, Anson is inspired by the visual paradigm of reality and the emotional palette it offers. Relaying the complexity, absurdity and sometimes, even the simplicity of life’s journey, Anson’s metaphors hope to charm and baffle the world into a unique, personal experience. So far, they have been doing just that.