Visual Story Telling of Alan Zhang

Introduce yourself

What’s up everyone, my name is Alan Zhang. I was born in Chicago, raised on Taylor street and I just do stuff.

Let’s take it back to the beginning, when did you first start getting involved with art?

To be honest, when I could first hold a pen. I thought art was something that all kids did. I was an only child. I would just always come home and draw. I figured it was just something that everyone does.


As a kid, your parents ended up putting a book out, called Start From Here: A Boy’s Art Work. You always knew you were going to be in some creative medium?

Yeah, just about. A lot of that came from my Mom and Dads support and it eventually became a habit. My mom was always like, “keep doing this, keep doing this. Whatever else you have going on, you have to keep doing art.”

“for the first believer. the picker-upper. the encourager. the confidence rebooster. the protector. the sacrificer. the trooper. the mother.” How important has your mom been in your journey?

My mother was everything to me and unfortunately, she passed two years ago due to brain cancer. In these past two years, that’s when my art really changed. I stopped for a while. She was my #1 fan. She was always the harshest critic and losing that was super crucial. And it really took me this long to realize that you have to get over that. You have to stand back up and work on your own craft. Not just for her anymore. It’s gotta be for me. Like I said, these past years, my art took a divot and just sat dormant for a while. That’s just how I’ve felt. Recently, I’ve started to get over it and get back going.

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Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

That’s a good question. I would have to credit it to my high school teacher, Mr. McHenry. He was notorious. He failed a bunch of kids. Mr.Mchenry was a black teacher at a CPS school teaching Critical Thinking and taught us how to put your thoughts down on paper. That’s pretty rare. He opened up this world for me when I was like 17-18. I learned how to deal with other races and how the real world works. He taught us how to critically cut through the bullshit essentially and be able to put thoughts down in logical ways. That’s not to say my parents weren’t influences as well. Both of my parents come from super academic backgrounds. They always taught me the importance of reading. They showed me that the world is not just Chicago. The world is way bigger than you and will always be bigger than you.

And in terms of art/creative influence… 

I always went to the museums as a kid. Shoutout to my Mom for that because she always had the free passes. I’ll always remember one of the very first memories at the Field Museum was seeing the totem poles. I loved those things. They kind of freaked me out as a kid, but I liked that feeling. It was weird, but I knew I would remember them. That, tied in with graffiti in high school and being able to create anywhere I want. That mentality of creating where I wanted and people getting mad because of that, made me keep doing it. The graffiti culture has had a huge influence on my artwork and how I move.


I see on the website, “shop opens Mid March”. With that being this week, what can we expect?

I’m dropping my first ever print, it’s called Portrait of America. It’s a 40 x 30-inch print that I’m selling for $150. I was looking at other people sell their artwork for x amount of dollars and I didn’t want to do that. I want to take it slow and give people a reason to want the art more. I could sell a print for $150 if I give them $150 worth of product or more. People can feel like they could afford my art.

I’m also dropping a couple engraved Tomahawks and a secret print. It’s going to be a Blackhawks print. The artwork is a little bit strayed away from the logo that the Blackhawks have. I wanted to show my take for their logo.

Three years ago you said, “the struggle of getting the thought on to paper accurately might haunt me for the rest of my life.” Does this still hold true?

Yeah, definitely. 99% of the time it’s not what I envisioned. It might be very close, but I end up just settling. There’s that 1% of the time where I sit back and I’m like this is good…but 10 minutes later I look at it and don’t like it. It’s the creative rollercoaster of fighting yourself as an artist. That’s actually where the moniker (alanversuszhang) that I go by comes from.

Do you think that’s just your perception though? Do you know your artwork is good?

You know what, a lot of people tell me my artwork is good, I personally think I still need a lot of improvement and learning to do. I’m not too satisfied with it right now that’s why I keep pushing. Each drawing I look to make it better than yesterdays.  I’m my own filter. We are our worst critics that’s why I haven’t dropped that much artwork right now.


You ended up obtaining a position as Art Director and Supervising Animator at Hebru studios. How did that happen?

Funny story about Hebru. I was huge into LDRS around 06-08. When they opened up their Wicker Park store, Hebru did their walls in the store. His Fly Boy and black and white characters were all over the store. I was like damn, who is this? And then Corey (owner of LDRS) was like “it’s Hebru Brantley.” That was the first time I heard of him. I really fucked with the goggles he did because it was very similar to a character that I have.

Fast forward to 2012, I’m now fresh out of college and working at LDRS and my friend Greg Buissereth used to shoot the lookbooks at LDRS and shot all of Hebru’s videos. One day I asked Greg to put me in contact with Hebru. I just wanted to chat with him. When I got back from college, I would go to all of Hebru’s shows and introduce myself. He probably met so many people at his shows, no way he would remember me. One day Greg was like, I’m going to Hebru’s studio, come with. I remember walking in and telling Hebru, I’m a big fan, also an artist. Let me know if you ever need any help around the studio. I wasn’t even worried about money, I just really wanted to hang out and help him in any way. And he said, “I’m always looking for help. Come back with your sketchbook, and we’ll do an interview” And then boom, got the job, and worked there for four(4) years.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned working alongside Hebru over the years?

Honestly, Hebru and Max taught me that you have to know your own worth and the importance of believing in yourself because nobody else will. As cliche as it is to say. I talked about it before, but I would be hesitant to share my art, and I would have guys like Hebru and Max Sansing tell me that I need to put my Art out there. That was inspirational to me. Those are things you need to hear from other people at times.

Are you ready to reveal your artwork this year?

Yeah. I think so. I’m finally at a point where I am going to finally start putting together this show. I’ve been trying for so long. I think this is the year. I’m not really a big signs guy, but a lot of signs have been popping up in my life that has been pointing me in the direction to just fucking do it. Sometime this year, hopefully, I get this off the ground.

What or when do you think was the first piece you created that helped you get bubbling in the scene?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t ever think of that. I don’t even think I’m bubbling in Chicago. I just do art and look to meet cool people. I think just through my avenue, which is art, this pen has allowed me to become cool with a lot of people who share similar interests. I don’t think there was one piece, I think it has been this nonstop ethic and word of mouth for me. I really don’t even think I’m half as big as the other creatives in the city. It’s always just been about just doing me and meeting new people along the way.

What did God look like on drugs…

It wasn’t even like one thing. God was everything if that makes any sense.


When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?

Man, just as a dude who could draw. Just a guy who had some ideas who was really into his craft. That’s really about it. It’s all I can ask for. Because when I am gone, I won’t care anymore.