We take another look at an amazing artist who has led a prolific online career on DeviantArt. Wenqing Yan, more famously known as Yuumei, is responsible for some of the most captivating and beautiful anime themed art you will ever see. No, seriously, take a look below and see what I'm talking about. It's the reason why I always make a point of finding her booth whenever she makes her way out to AnimeExpo in Los Angeles.
Yan was originally born in Sichuan China and moved to the United States at the age of nine with her mother when her parents divorced. This schism has influenced her artwork and visual narrative and can be easily seen in her paintings. She enrolled and graduated from Berkeley where she gains inspiration for her art. It's the lectures offered at Berkeley that give her inspiration and not other artists. When asked which anime series inspires her art has said that, " If you’re taking your inspiration from existing artwork or stories, you’re not being extremely original". This statement refers to imitating styles like the Disney style or making her characters look like they came out of a Ghibli film. It should not be confused with composition which is how a scene is set up. If no one was allowed to gain some degree of inspiration from composition then we would have run out of original art centuries ago.
Like many artists, Yan has been accused of plagiarism and tracing.Take the image below for example. the image on the left is done by Chinese artist Zhang Bin aka Benjamin and the image on the right is done by Yan. They are clearly similar but the angle chosen is too common to be considered an original idea by either artist. People allege that she traces, but the poses are just too different for that to be true. The hips are angled differently and the limbs are placed in a different manner. The issue comes down to the background and tone of the composition. The figure on the left exudes a vague set of emotions. Is she introverted and keeping her arms close together because she isn't confident or is she clenching her fists because she has unyielding strength? It's up for interpretation from a visual standpoint and needs either a title for context or some backstory. The image on the right is clear. The the smirk, outstretched arms and billowing cape exudes confidence. Not to mention the figures foot on the words "You are free" makes the tone of the painting extremely clear. If you want to argue the merits of subtly over directness in art and which one has more value artistically then that's a different story and everyone will have a different opinion. Personally, I would not call this plagiarism. Yans work is different enough to be called original and I have sat in enough art classes to have encountered two students creating eerily similar works despite having been on opposite corners of a room. If you want examples of tracing, then take a look at Gene Simmon's son who literally traced over panels from the hit manga Bleach.
''Basically, art is hard and you're going to get a lot of instances where it isn't clear when inspiration becomes plagiarism''
Yan has also been at the the other end of the plagiarism claims with her works often stolen directly with the only change being a watermark added to the image. Her more well known encounters with plagiarism come from people using her work to win awards and competitions. These instances can be read in her DeviantArt journal , but the most infamous incident came when her 2006 painting titled Selfish was replicated by South Albany High School senior Kasey Bowman in 2010's National Scholastic Art &Writing. The award came with accolades and a $10,000 prize. Yan was notified by her fans of the incident and quickly campaigned to have the award revoked. Yan is herself pretty adamant when it comes to plageriasm if someone tries to imitate her work a bit too closely. Take the image below. On the left is Yan's work from 2006 and on the right is Bowman's. While Bowman's piece isn't traced, the pose, theme, tone and subject matter are far too similar. The award was revoked and Yan insisted on an apology from Bowman and recieved one. Bowman admitted to the plagiarism and claimed that her parents and art teacher "begged" her to enter the art competition with her painting which she eventually did despite her misgivings. Yan later received a differnt story from the art teacher involved who claimed that he never begged Bowman to enter and that she wasn't under any pressure. Whether or not Yan's actions were harsh, she did admit that Bowman was young and didn't know any better and asked her fans to stop tormenting Bowman over the incident. Basically, art is hard and you're going to get a lot of instances where it isn't clear when inspiration becomes plagiarism .
Yan has also published webcomics Fisheye Placebo,1000 Words and Knite. Scroll down and take a look at some of Yan's work from her DeviantArt. Make sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you think about Yan's art and if there are any artists that you follow that we haven't covered.Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Instagram.