This article was originally published on Neocha and is republished with permission.
Sci-fi illustrations with characters dipped in streetwear is a bonafide subculture on Instagram, and the combination is a surefire way for artists to get fans. Standing out among that sprawling crowd takes work, and Taiwanese artist Chien-An Chou (周建安 Zhōu Jiànān) is levels above the rest.
In one image a bun-haired skater girl with bashed-up shins races a train, whipping up a frenetic cloud of dust around her. In another, a girl in baggy gear posts up against a cop car with a cyborg officer glancing out the window. A model in a blue tracksuit and chunky sneakers poses with a grin amidst towering red buildings and floating boom boxes. Racing uniforms, ‘90s polo shirts, souvenir jackets, high socks, and skate shoes pop up repeatedly.
His illustrations aren’t particularly meaningful—they’re pure aesthetics. But it’s work that oozes talent. Every movement pulsates with energy, every pose overflows with moodiness. The characters imagined by Chien-An Chou, always fashionably outfitted, inhabit a parallel-universe version of Taipei. Each vibrantly detailed frame takes three to four weeks to complete, he says, emphasizing the level of commitment behind his work.
Chou has been drawing almost his entire life. Although his parents were supportive, they worried he wouldn’t have a stable future. “Now that I have a certain level of success, their thinking towards painting has changed,” the Taiwanese artist says. He studied at an art school in Taipei and worked in advertising until two years ago, when he made the leap into full-time illustration. “Taiwan is not very friendly to artistic creation,” Chou laments. “Painting is considered a kind of hobby and not a career. I hope to change that perception.”
He’s on the right path so far. All of his characters wear intricately tailored clothes and accessories—originally just pieces he wanted to collect for his wardrobe. But now he’s gone from drawing clothes to putting his illustrations on his own streetwear band, C.A. CHOU.
Chou says that Taiwan still has a way to go in terms of fashion. He hopes that through his clothing label and artwork, he can encourage people to be more expressive and experimental with what they wear. “Few people here dress like this,” Chou says of his characters’ styles. “In the real world, everyone dresses more conservative. This style is simply a small subculture, for now. I’m looking forward to when people can become bolder and more courageous about wearing their own unique styles.”
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Contributor: Mike Steyels
Chinese Translation: Olivia Li