Fan Wu’s delightful illustrations come from his tiny sketchbook and zoo walks

Freelance illustrator and recent graduate Fan Wu says his charming take on animals and nature comes from his passion for drawing, doodles on his tiny sketchbook and short walks to the zoo.


Beijing-born freelance illustrator Fan Wu creates a sense of adventure and child-like joy in his beautiful animal and environmental illustrations, including upcoming children’s book Friends from the Ocean. For inspiration, all it takes is a short trip to the park or zoo and his tiny sketchbook.

Fan graduated from Kendall College of Art & Design this Spring, and has been freelancing from Michigan for digital and print publication houses. Despite being a recent graduate, he’s illustrated for magazines for six years and received numerous awards.

Image:  A children's illustration series, winning Fan the SCBWI 2015 Winter Conference in New York Student Illustrator Scholarship, 3x3 Illustration Students Award and the Picture Book and Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Competition.

What began as a part-time interest in graphic design, is now a “best-friend status” between illustration and graphic design work. Although freelancing is hard work, Fan is happiest when drawing.

“All things come with a price and the cost in terms of time may leave you crying into your paints, but never stop believing and working hard, because it will pay off when you see your art develop and mature to a new level,” he says.

Image: Illustration for Yuehui Magazine in China - the Bear Issue. This illustration won the 2016 ADDy Award of the West Michigan American Advertising Awards and the 3x3 Illustration Students Award.


He says the best part of the creative process is the initial creative doodles.

“When I receive a topic, I usually think of how it relates to me the most and I get attached to an idea or a particular image. A lot of my work has animals and plants, so a short walk at a park or zoo is always inspiring for me.

“It's the most fun step for me. I always carry a tiny sketchbook with me, so when I'm not at home and I have an idea, I can always draw it right then.

“This spontaneous drawing helps me because I'm not the type of person who can sit down and generate tons of ideas. It’s easier to generate that creative spark when I have a notebook with a library of ideas.”

Image: Illustration from children's book Friends from the Ocean.

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This can be seen in his illustrations for children’s book Friends from the Ocean. The book is part of a four-book series of scientific nursery rhymes based around birds, mammals, insects and fish and ocean animals. The series, All Things are Spiritual, will be published early next year in China.

“Each illustrator is doing one book, and I chose the fish book as a new challenge because I often draw land animals, but I have never done an underwater illustration before.

"I remember the aquarium as one of my favourite childhood places. Looking at all the giant fish swimming in the tank made me feel very calm and relaxed,” says Fan.

Image: Illustration from Friends from the Ocean.


“Each one of the fish I drew is very fun and unique. I did a lot of research to get a better understanding before I drew them. There will be a total of 50 illustrations that I did for the book and I'm really excited to see them in print.”

 Next year Fan is looking to expand his style.

 “I've always wanted to do some editorial illustrations and now is a great time to start.”

Image: Illustration from Friends from the Ocean.


Image: Illustration from Friends from the Ocean.

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Image: Illustration from Friends from the Ocean.