Know Your Artist: A Closeup of Terry Fan
Posted on 14 May 2017
You're having a cocktail party and a friend asks you about your lovely (if slightly haunting ) canvas wall print by Terry Fan. It's intriguing because it's adult, but somehow touching a nerve in your childhood self. You're in luck because you read this article and you know a little something about Terry Fan!
Jumbo Bubble Gum Square by Terry Fan
Toronto's Terry Fan is living his dream (and that of so many artists) by making a living producing and selling manifested images originating deep within his mind. Many of those images were inspired by his imagination, or the childhood books that haunted and inspired him (think Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince or Babar The Elephant).
Born to a musical mother and artistic father, Terry was perhaps born with the artistic sensibilities that he indulges in his current career as an artist, illustrator and author of children's books. Terry received his formal art training at the Ontario College of Art and Design where he honed his skills and developed his unique artistic voice which is a blend of traditional and contemporary styles. Getting his commercial start selling designs on Threadless, Terry ultimately found an audience and professional representation on the art marketplace, Society6. With his brother Eric (collectively known as The Fan Brothers), he's illustrated and/or co-authored two children's books -- The Darkest Dark (as illustrator) and The Night Gardner (as co-author and co-illustrator).
But, what we find most interesting about Terry is his art. His images depict a childhood world of mystery and imagination balancing innocence and a measure of darkness that is ultimately delightful while appealing to that aspect of our psyche that craves to understand the unknown. As much as his work is about the unknown, it is also about the whimsical. His images of animals are particularly demonstrative of this feature. Terry illustrates whales, elephants, foxes, eagles, giraffes and even dinosaurs with his distinctive style melding vintage and whimsy. His style is ultimately appealing because it transcends gender and age offering a little something for adult and child alike -- and even the child within the adult.
Nautical themes, and images of whales are particularly well-represented in Terry's catalog owing, he's said, to his childhood years in Hawaii where he communed with the sea and explored its depths and intrigue for himself. He's shared that in many of his works such as Damask Whale #1 or Party Whale. He's even given a subtle nod to Herman Melville with one of his his works, The Whale which conjures images of that great White Whale from Melville's Moby Dick.
Furthermore, Terry's illustrations reference the deep mind and the surreal, a subject he discussed in an interview with Clara Martin, who runs the children's book review blog "Twenty by Jenny". In that interview Terry elaborated on his thoughts, saying:
"There’s an inherent drama to larger-than-life creations that’s appealing on just a visual level, but when you add a fantastical element then it really gets interesting. It’s the same feeling when gazing at the Sphinx or a sunken ocean liner, that heady mixture of awe and mystery. I’ve always been attracted to surreal imagery, transforming something ordinary into something fascinating, simply by combining different things in inventive ways."
So, Terry Fan's work is surreal, contemporary and traditional. It evokes childhood memories and explores the fantastic and unreal. It's thought provoking and inspiring. Above all, it's the kind of imagery you'd want to be surrounded by in your home, on your walls or elsewhere.
We hope that you feel a little more knowledgeable now about Terry Fan, whose wall art hangs in your home or apartment -- or will someday.
"Art is my Drug of Choice"
- Terry Fan