B.C. illustrator Andrea Wan's strange ladies and secret gardens

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver and now based in Berlin, illustrator Andrea Wan visits a new locale almost every month, and you can follow her travels on Instagram. Wanderlust is a major source of inspiration for the artist, and as she visits new countries she's inspired to create amazing dreamworlds, surreal scenes that explore themes of identity and change.

The wilds of B.C. influenced Andrea Wan growing up. But you won't see anything like this in Vancouver...

What'll happen if you follow Andrea Wan on Instagram? (

Name: Andrea Wan

Handle: @andrea_wan

Masked maidens and sloths on smartphones: Andrea Wan has travelled the world and these are the sorts of things she came back with.

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver and now based in Berlin, Wan visits a new locale almost every month, and you can follow her travels on Instagram (@andrea_wan).

"I can't stay in one place, I need to move around," Wan tells CBC Arts, rattling off some of the places she ventured in 2015: Iceland, Los Angeles, Denmark, etc. 

Because when Wan's embracing her wanderlust, she feels inspired to create delicate and dreamy work like this — and her surreal and introspective illustrations have appeared in publications from the New York Times to Wired.

"Sometimes, when I feel under pressure, I don't want anything to do with art," Wan explains. "When I'm travelling I feel totally relaxed." So with her holiday sketchbook in hand — "I always keep doodling, wherever I am" — the artist lets her imagination take over. Look at what she drew while visiting Gran Canaria, for example.

Inspired by the Spanish isle and its black-sand beaches, Wan is collecting sketches like these into a new book, which will be available through her website later this winter.

After graduating from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, she moved to Denmark to study illustration. That's when her work in the art form really began.

"My earlier stuff was about transitions and adapting to new environments — and just migrating from one place to another and the feelings and emotions that come with it," she explains. Mining personal experience as she contemplated those themes, Wan dug deep, going back to a formative period in her childhood.

"I moved to Vancouver  from Hong Kong when I was 10 years old. It's such a huge cultural difference, and it took me a very long time to adapt," she says. "And then travelling to Europe and studying there was just also totally different and that kind of made me question my identity a lot."

Experiencing life in different places has affected Wan's art in a more superficial sense, too. Vancouver is a city surrounded by "mountains, lakes, beaches, forest."

"I'm naturally drawn to elements in nature. I think that might come from living in BC," Wan says. That's where she gets her love of painting wildlife, too — even if sloths and monkeys aren't exactly native to the province.

"Different series are like different chapters in a story," Wan says of her art. "My work is always evolving."

Social media can be so much more than selfies and viral videos — it's increasingly becoming a scratch pad for emerging artists and other creative minds to show off their latest work. Artstagram curates the best visual talent on Instagram, helping bring a little more art into your daily feed.


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