Carving Your Own Path with Ann Shen
Have you ever had the urge to follow the opposite of what you learned in school? That’s a theme for my guest Ann Shen – an illustrator and author of Bad Girls Throughout History and Legendary Ladies, books that depict women as they are: complex, funny, dark and everywhere in between. In fact, her book Bad Girls Throughout History resonated so much that it has even been picked up by Universal Cable Productions to become a show.
A daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Ann calls herself a reformed goody two shoes who creates art that empowers women to be their authentic badass selves. She combines incredible artistic talent with a high degree of business sense and shows us that choosing your own path does not have to mean depending on your parents, spouse, or whoever to survive. While her professors in art school pushed the students to all create very masculine, serious art, she went in the opposite direction – her own style that markets to women in a really fun, whimsical way, and of course in the time of Instagram, this style blew up. You can find her empowering, delightfully illustrated, books on Amazon and in stores like Target so definitely check them out after you hear her story.
Also as a heads up, Ann and I met and recorded at the lovely all-female co-working space The Wing in Los Angeles so the audio is a little busy and echo-ey at times and I apologize in advance, but I have a feeling that you’ll be so engaged in our conversation, you will barely notice! Plus, y’all know me: progress over perfection.
Ann: The art school I chose to go to was very militant and demanding.
Majo: Okay so what were people telling you was the right kind of work and what did you discover?
Ann: So in school, it was very trendy at the time to think about editorial illustration as the career, like the ultimate career. And you do like New York editorial illustration stuff that’s like in the New York Times, The New Yorker, like just very serious, beautiful. A lot of it is conceptual or just technically very, it just looks a certain way. And most of it was a very male-dominated view.
Majo: Okay, and what did you discover was like what you really wanted to do and move into?
Ann: That’s my favorite question because it wasn’t something that was really presented to me as an option and then I discovered this later was I just wanted to do stuff for women. Stuff that I was interested in, stuff that was floral or decorative or representative. Like just having something that’s like “oh, this is just a beautiful painting”. It either had to be a beautiful fine art oil painting or it had to have like a really brilliant concept behind it for it to be considered “good” in school. And then I left and I was like “Oh, it’s good enough for it just to be a beautiful thing that brings people joy”.