As early as in the 1920s, China saw the first experiments in the world of manga and animation thanks to the introduction of lithographic printing derived from the West. The later years of political turmoil prevented the new industry from growing and the grassroots of Chinese manhua culture were swept away by the Cultural Revolution. When China opened up after the reform, Japan was already a powerhouse of manga culture and Chinese kids in the early ’90s could finally open the Pandora’s box of Japanese anime.
Mayi Bashou Wang (born Ding Daxue in 1983) was no exception: when he was seven years old, his first sources of inspiration were Japanese animation series Dragonball and the Knights of Zodiac. His nom de plume itself derives from the Chinese translation of King Chappa (bashouwang), a character from Dragonball, combined with his personal nickname Mayi (ant). But if Japan played a role into initiating him to the world of illustrated books, back home MBW had the right environment to nurture his love for art and colors: “My father used to be a tailor, the house was always full of colorful model books and my mother, despite the fact that she didn’t have any formal education, had a gift for arts and a real talent for embroidery’, he tells Cool Hunting.
MBW graduated from Wuhan Polytechnic University’s department of animation in 2005, when the Chinese video game industry was in full bloom and new opportunities were emerging for young and talented graphic artists. For the last 10 years, he has been working on commercial gaming projects in Shanghai, but has still developed his own style which draws on works by international masters as well as from the study of classics. “My main interest is in line art instead of colors, but in my work as well as in my free time I try to explore a wide range of different styles, lately I’m taking some time to study old paintings, their composition and use of colors. I believe that collecting different experience and focusing on drawing things I like is the best way to find my own style,” he says.
Futuristic warriors and sorcerers, sci-fi creatures but also an approach to composition which remembers of Japanese ukiyo-e, with an extraordinary richness of details, are part of MBW colorful world. But in his marvelous illustrations we can also find the influence of MB’s most admired masters, cartoon artists like Akira Toriyama and Katsuya Terada, as well as Moebius and talents from the gaming industry like Alexandre “Zedig” Diboine and Adrian Smith.
In front of these masters, MBW keeps a humble attitude, “Inspiration is a big word, I’d rather say I’m always in the process of learning, trying new things, assemble different shapes and combining various styles. From the smallest details to the whole drawing, everything is about composition for me, to me line art is also a matter of composition. Even while drawing my last series Zhaotie Feng (literally ‘poster style’), from the first one until the sixth and latest one, there’s always something different, from the tightness of the lines to the layers of colors, it’s like constant experiment,” he says.
Images courtesy of Mayi Bashou Wang