Andrea Wan: Allowing Space for Surprises

Andrea and I first met in 2012 at a vernissage in Neukölln and I’ve always enjoyed her work; it’s like a voyage into another world. It’s very important to Andrea to be honest in her work. We met recently over brunch at Café Rix and we spoke at length about her creative journey.

andrea wan

© Andrea Wan

Although she majored in it in college, Andrea doesn’t work with film anymore. The reason she originally she chose the medium was because she had never tried it before; and after trying everything else during her first 2 years, she wanted to try something new. Andrea really like paintings and wanted to learn how to make them move. The program wasn’t intended as preparation for “the industry”; it was pretty open-ended and self directed and could have anything to do with the medium like sound or animation, etc.

One of the aspects of film that really appeals to Andrea is that you can’t do everything yourself. It’s a team effort, a collaborative project – everyone has their own ideas. By the end of the program, she really got into animation and decided to make that her final project. Andrea never really learned how to do animation during the program and didn’t really realize what she was getting into. Although her animation wasn’t technically well done it was very well received.

andrea wan

© Andrea Wan

The animation was a story about a girl who grew up on a train. It’s based on a story from on of her students while she was teaching piano. Andrea worked on the project off and on for half a year, from the generation of ideas to the storyboards and finally its completion. The actual animation work took about 2 months. Of course, Andrea added her own personal touches to the story, quite a bit of which came from a recent trip to Shanghai; for example, the way that the city looked with a combination of very old and really new buildings and the pollution all contributed to the look and feel of the film environment.

It’s the story of a girl who lives on a train with her parents, as she’s looking out the window, anticipating where she’s going – the landscape changes from organic to manmade skyscrapers. The parents grow old on the train, because of all the pollution and the other travelers begin turning into sea creatures. The little girl starts growing webbing between her hands, turns into a fish and jumps out of the window and into the water. As the camera zooms out you see that the train has been going around the track in a circle.

The piece was entered and accepted into an Asian film festival. It was also accepted into the 3 x 3 Illustration Annual and it really encouraged her switching gears into illustration, which had been on her mind – but had confirmed a decision that she had already made.

the wait

The Wait © Andrea Wan

After school in Vancouver, Andrea moved to Denmark; how she arrived there was pretty random.  She really wanted to live somewhere else and travel and began looking for places that had an illustration program and also taught in English.  The tricky part was that the deadline for applications had already passed. After her searching for and contacting several schools, she was accepted into 2 different programs and decided to go to Designskolen Kolding because it was a more selective and competitive program.

Unfortunately, in the 3 months that she was there, no illustration classes were offered. However, she took a lot of design classes and stayed for an extra semester to the illustration courses that were being offered then. Andrea’s time in Denmark lasted longer than she expected, but the result was that she also learned more than expected; not just in art but also in all aspects of life.

Fakelore Walk With Me

Fakelore Walk With Me © Andrea Wan

The school itself was also pretty inspiring because so many of the people in the school had great ideas and they made them happen. It wasn’t just talk and no action; of course, there was some talking/planning but there was definitely a lot of action. There were a lot of programs offered there as well and you could always see people working on their ideas, which was very inspiring. There were a lot of different types of creativity in the environment. There weren’t a lot of distractions at the school and that allowed you to really focus on what you wanted to do.

You can really transport yourself into her work. As a child, Andrea really liked the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books for the same reason, you as a reader are involved – you can’t be passive. Andrea’s artwork is the same way, you can just be a passive viewer – you are invited to participate in the image and the story that’s there.

andrea wan

© Andrea Wan

She never really consciously thinks about “creating” a story. She’s very much into dreams and keeps a journal – she’s really interested in bringing out the subconscious. It’s like in a story, you have the same elements – but it’s all in how those elements are arranged – how the interact with each other. The story develops naturally ideas change as she draws– it’s not a forced narrative. The freedom and flexibility of interacting with the drawing as it develops is one of the things that Andrea prefers to illustration as compared to film.

When Andrea found the tapes she made in her childhood, impromptu stories, she wanted to do something to combine the audio and visual together. However, now she sees those tapes as more of a source of inspiration.

Speaking with Andrea, it’s interesting the connection between the way she works and the surrealists. Recording her dreams, not trying to conscious construct an image, working with the drawing and listening to it, treating it as an organic thing – these are very similar to the way the surrealists worked – listening to dreams and giving a front seat to the subconscious. Also, it wasn’t like she had read about the surrealists and then decided to work in a similar fashion, this is the way she had been working and later realized the similarities.

portland group show

© Andrea Wan

She starts with a vague idea and as she works on it, it communicates with her and there’s flexibility for the piece to change, grow and develop as it nears completion. She always allows herself to be surprised – which is important to her because then she can also really enjoy the process of making the work.

Feb – March 
Portland Oregon, Compound Gallery – group show with Betsy Walton and Sandra Dieckmann

April 10

Vienna Austria, Rabbit Eye Movement Gallery – Solo Show


Pictoplasma – group exhibition

To see more of Andrea’s Work visit any of the following URLs


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