UM Alumna and Illustrator Yang Sio Maan

Text:Senior UM Reporter Savanna Lok │ Photo:Davis Ip, with some provided by the interviewee │  ISSUE 91 SEPTEMBER My UM

An illustration depicting UM student life on campus was recently exhibited in London. The illustrator is Yang Sio Maan, an alumna of UM’s Department of English.

Yang graduated from UM in 2015. Soon after her graduation, she travelled to the United Kingdom to study illustration. Upon returning to Macao, she continued with her artistic pursuits. In July this year, she held her first solo exhibition in Macao titled ‘Everywhere and Anywhere’. Later in the same month, she was invited to attend the World Illustration Awards 2019 (WIA) held in the UK as the Category Winner of the Advertising New Talent Award.

UM Alumna and Illustrator Yang Sio Maan

Award-winning Poster of the Three Lamps District

Organised by the Association of Illustration in the UK, this year’s World Illustration Awards received 3,600 entries from 68 countries and regions. Only 200 were selected, and these include Yang’s two entries. One of her entries, titled ‘Arts in the Three Lamps District’, became one of 16 Category Winners at the event. It was also the only entry from Macao to win an award at the event. Both illustrations were exhibited in the Somerset House in downtown London.

Yang’s illustration Arts in the Three Lamps District, received an award at the World Illustration Awards 2019

According to Yang, the illustration Oh My Uni Days is a depiction of her impression of the Henry Fok Pearl Jubilee College during her first visit to the college. Not only has she taught illustration classes in the college; she has also created a series of illustrations at the invitation of the college’s Associate Master Vivian Jiang. These illustrations depict different college scenes, such as the High Table Dinner, talent show, college library, and celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Yang’s illustration about the Henry Fok Pearl Jubilee College was selected for the World Illustration Awards 2019

UM Campus—A Fountain of Creative Inspiration

The UM campus is a fountain of creative inspiration for Yang. ‘It could be anything: the music I suddenly hear, a joke my friend tells, or something funny I see on the campus…they attract my attention, and I record what they make me feel at the moment by sketching,’ she says. This time, taking the opportunity to receive the award in the UK, she travelled to some other European countries and recorded funny events along the way in a sketchbook she carried with her. ‘Sometimes people would stop and watch while I was sketching, which was an amazing feeling,’ she recalls.

Actually, Yang had very limited exposure to illustration when she was in middle school. At the time, the only thing she knew how to draw were stick figures. But during her fourth year in college, she enrolled in a course in children’s literature, which required the students to complete an illustrated children’s book as an end-of-term assignment, and that became her first creative production. While studying at UM, she assisted the Student Association in the Faculty of Science and Technology with the creation of posters and banners. Although just a beginner, she felt greatly encouraged when seeing the posters and banners she made on the campus.

Recently Yang has started making clay art

Doing Illustration Full-time

After graduation from UM, Yang decided to pursue a career in arts, a field she knew very little about. ‘I didn’t even know that there are college majors in illustration,’ she says. So she enrolled herself in several painting classes and compiled her assignments from these classes into a collection. Those classes were so tightly scheduled that Yang felt like a full-time student. But her hard work finally paid off. Later, these painting assignments earned her a place at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) in the UK.

After graduating from the UCA with a master’s degree in illustration, Yang set a goal for herself, which was to become a full-time professional illustrator in three years. But it was not as easy as she had imagined. A fresh graduate with no established reputation and no connections in the local arts scene, she had to work part-time to support herself for almost a year while doing illustrations at the same time. Later, she found a full- time job in art administration while continuing to make illustrations for organisations in Macao and Hong Kong. It was only in July of this year that she resumed illustrating full-time.

Yang at her graduation exhibition in the UK in 2016

Works that Communicate with the Viewers

Earlier this year, Yang held her first solo exhibition titled ‘Everywhere and Anywhere’. The exhibition featured a series of paintings of a Nowhere Man, who lacks a clear face. She explains, ‘These paintings contain little stories, which mean different things to different people. This Nowhere Man doesn’t have a clear face, which creates room for imagination and allows the viewers to project their stories onto this person. I hope to create works that can communicate with the viewers.’

Yang creates commissioned illustration projects for a number of publications

Once, Yang was pleasantly surprised to hear from her friends that someone had seen her illustrations in a literary magazine during a trip to Zurich, Switzerland. ‘I never expected my works to end up on the other side of the world,’ she says. ‘Pursuing arts full-time is not easy, but it gives me a lot of satisfaction, so I will keep going.’