this artist will transform your broken relationships into beautiful art
In her latest series of portraits, titled 'Insecure Asian Girls,' illustrator DebbyW∞ explores the concept of stability within modern day relationships.
Born and raised in Taiepi, DebbyW∞ is the best friend you've always wanted. She's the girl you can share everything with: your secrets and insecurities, your fears and heartbreak. She's the girl you want to call up when you suspect your boyfriend is not that into you, or when he finally tells you he's met somebody else. Why? Because she'll turn your sad experiences into beautiful works of art. She might even turn them into a book of illustration, like she did in with DebbyW∞'s Love Encyclopedias and later Debby Woo's Handbook for Healing a Broken Heart. For her latest project, Insecure Asian Girls, the 26-year-old explores the notion of safety and security within relationships through a series of portraits of four women she found on Insta: Taiwanese artist Yuyi John, Chinese model Chen Xue, half-Japanese actress Lauren Tsai, and Taiwanese model Ju Ho. Here, we talk to the artist about girlhood, identity, and the visual language of the internet.
How has your background influenced you as an artist?
I'm an only child and this makes me so independent, but also dependent. I like to observe and I don't easily feel safe in a relationship, so I think this is why my projects are always about relationships.
What is it about illustration that appeals most to you?
When I start to draw I feel calm; I reflect on myself and my thoughts. It's like writing a diary but in another way. You turn all the thoughts that bother you or confuse you into something pretty, and then you can move on.
How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
It's filled with contraction. I like to make it so detailed and perfect, but then add something contrasting to make it not so perfect anymore — it's more fun to me. There's already lots of people doing detailed and beautiful drawings, I'll leave it to them.
Who or what inspires you?
Sad songs — sad songs are the best inspiration!
What is it you are trying to convey with your work?
I hope my illustrations can remind people of something only they know. It doesn't matter how I explain why I draw this or that in the picture; if I can make people start to think or face their own issues — like how they can't let go of someone, or what they are trying to escape from. As long as people are thinking then I'm happy.
Can you talk a bit about your latest project?
This project is called Insecure Asian Girls. It's a collaboration with the girls I've been following on Instagram for quite a long time. I like their looks and style. I wanted to draw their faces but not as a normal portrait, so I asked them a list of questions about their relationships: how easy is it for them to feel safe when they're in love? How they get through a break up? And I used their answers as elements and inspiration to finish the illustration. I also wanted include their online identities, so I asked them to screenshot their computer screens, and also asked about their favorite websites and the software they use daily to bring the viewer closer to their real selves.
What does the title mean?
The project is actually an extension of my second book, in which I talk about the notion of insecurity within personal relationships. I want to know how other people deal with their insecurity when it comes to love, and the fact is: I'm not the only one with these issues.
Why did you pick these four girls?
The first reason is because I love their faces and their style inspires me. After looking at several girls's Instagrams, these were the four that made me want to know more about them. They're not just pretty or cool, there's something much deeper at play.
What significance does the iconography of the internet — its tropes and visual language — have in your work?
The screenshots reflect their current mood, and highlights what's important to them, which is why I included the "家人(Family)", "愛人(lover)" folders. The error windows, or the clocks in the illustration of @chanchennn allude to her and her boyfriend. During the summer, when she goes back from London to China, they will have to face a big time difference and so on.
What are you trying to say about Asian girls in general?
I feel like Asian girls in particular have that need to feel safe, they need more commitment, more attention, more love. When we fall in love we give ourselves so quickly and easily compared to most Western people, and we like to guess instead of ask, that's why we think so much. It's so hard to explain these invisible feelings, we must learn to trust our feelings and yet we don't.
What's the best part of being a girl?
You can feel all kinds of emotions without having to explain anything.
Text Tish Weinstock