You’re now an established artist in Taipei, when did you begin drawing and how did your journey take you from Nottingham to Taiwan?
“I’ve always enjoyed travelling. I did a gap year before university and in between my second and third year at Nottingham, I went to India for two months, and after coming back I realised I wanted to travel more and thought that teaching English would be the best way to do this.
“After I graduated, I saved up, took the Cambridge teaching certificate and flew straight out to Taiwan. I found that I really liked living here, and the longer I stayed the more I felt that I’d found a place that suited me. Years have now turned into almost a decade here.
“All that time, and even during my time at Nottingham, I was drawing, mainly focusing on cities. But I didn’t really do anything with them until I’d been living here for about three or four years and I finished drawing Taipei. A few of my friends saw me doing it and asked if they could have a poster when I was finished. I didn’t think it would ever lead to a career, but I made some prints for a few people, which was lucky, because when it went viral I was actually prepared.
“It went viral very suddenly, being shared across all of Taiwan. I had lots of messages from newspapers asking to interview me, which was a surprise. For a while I starting drawing alongside teaching but around that time I realised teaching wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing so I decided to pursue art and see what happened. Luckily because I enjoy doing it, I have the motivation to keep working on projects, I’ve normally got something planned as soon as I’ve finished a piece which keeps it exciting.”
What is your process for creating a piece? Do you follow the same method each time or does it vary depending on the commission?
“For the first few years, while I was still in the process of learning how to do some of this, I stuck fairly closely to a formula of what I wanted my style of cartography to be like. I also wanted to create a set of cities so that they looked linked, where the city was at the same scale, so I did a few cities in Taiwan all in the same style.
“In the last three years of so, I’ve wanted to try and make each one different and play around with different perspectives and subjects so maybe go right into neighbourhood level or pull right out and get the whole basin that the city is in. I think now I’m enjoying that a lot more, if you stick to formulas for too long you can eventually become bored of that.
“Recently, I’ve done some local level pieces, a big panoramic drawing, I did one that took parts of different streets and merge them together, there are the round ones like the Nottingham spheres, there are some which focus on different time periods. At the moment I’m working on a focused neighbourhood drawing, with lots of people and activity on it, its acting a bit like my diary of my time living in this neighbourhood.”
Is it important to you that your pieces tell a story?
“That’s very much the case. With some pieces, like my Insects series, the story about biodiversity is really important. For the Towers series, those were about trying to go back into Taiwan’s history and highlight the cool places that have survived from 100 years ago.
“With the large map drawings, I like that people can find their own stories in the piece, like where they lived, where they went to school, where they got married. It’s always cool when people message to tell me what they found looking at my drawings, especially people whose families have lived in old Tainan or Taipei, I learn a lot from them. It’s awesome that just by making a drawing of a place, it can draw people in enough to start sharing their stories.”