Minran Zhang is an illustrator who loves the color and smooth, natural, forms. Her beautiful artwork is ideal for children’s books, yet she can also masterfully draw manga-style animation that is befitting of comics aimed at teens and adults.

Her impressive and wide-reaching style and skills were cultivated during her college studies at Savannah College of Art and Design which she attended for three years. Newly graduated, Minran moved to New York to start her career; namely as a manga artist. Now working freelance, she is also skilled in motion graphics.

Minran recently discussed her artwork and her goals for the future via an exclusive interview.

Drawing, children's books, and manga

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially sparked your interest in drawing and what inspires you?

Minran Zhang (MZ): When I was in primary school, we didn't have many children's entertainment programs on TV, local anime always preferred educational purposes. So, when I first saw a Japanese anime, it was like a bomb--it immediately dropped me into its world. I sat in front of the TV every day at the same time, just trying to draw some characters which I liked. Drawing days and nights, even in the classes, improved my skills without me even noticing. So, that was my original reason to start drawing.

MM: Your style ranges from children’s book illustrations to manga comics that are far more adult and detailed. How did you manage to master such a range?

MZ: As in the first answer, I was influenced by Japanese anime culture a lot. Meanwhile, I also read a lot of manga my whole life. I continue to have a thought that one day I will draw my manga.

Right now, I think my drawing skill is good enough to try one series, but recently I realized manga is an entirely different kind of art, lots of new knowledge I need to learn and practice. Manga is self-teaching, but the university professionally taught children's book. It was so fresh to me than other kinds of illustration.

It was the first time I realized that could use painting to tell a story! And my style is a good fit for Children's Books. I think I'm still in my art adventure, not growing up, so I still believe I can do multiple different things at the same time, haha.

MM: What sorts of illustrations do you most enjoy doing and which were the hardest to learn?

MZ: Right now, I most enjoy doing watercolor paintings and drawing people. The hardest to learn is finding myself; everybody already has a lot of answers in their deep heart, we only need to find it. I recently decided to use watercolor again after trying so many different techniques. Watercolor is the first material I knew except the pencil, which I used first before I took professional classes, back when I was totally self-taught.

So, after turning a big circle, I’m back to the beginning!

New York City, school, and artistic projects

MM: You went to school to learn illustration and design, how much did this experience help you evolve as an artist?

MZ: I think my master degree experience help me 70% evolve as an artist. The theory of illustration only needs one class, and that is enough to learn (design is more theorization). The rest is all about kept practice. But if I did not have this education, I don't think I would have the energy to have a job and self-teach at the same time; I also would not grow so fast. From project to project, different topic to topic, later building up my portfolio and finally having the confidence to say I'm an artist.

MM: You recently moved to New York City, what has it been like living here so far and what are your biggest goals?

MZ: New York City is a magical city, it feels like opportunities are waiting in every corner. People need to keep moving, keep searching. If one is negative and lazy, this is not the right city for him/her. I hope one day I can make a living by selling my work licenses.

MM: Do you any exciting new art projects happening soon and would you like to talk about anything more?

MZ: Right now, I'm excited to face the challenge of creating manga art. Still, there is a lot I need to learn and practice, and only keeping on working can improve my skills. Finally, I want to say that the biggest enemy is always ourselves. Also, if you want to see more of my art, check me out on Instagram! My username is “minranzhang.”