On Gerbil Whispering and Taking Jokes Too Seriously with Local Artist Jane Q Cheng

Photo by @reecevoyer for SAD Mag

The 2nd annual Vancouver Mural Festival is now underway (until August 12th), with local and international artists making their marks on walls around East Van. The week is also packed with events (lots of which are free) in conjunction with the festival. These include talks, performances, live music, parties, a pop-up tattoo shop, a Main Street bazaar and much more. In anticipation of the festival, Scout caught up with a few of the participating muralists…

Jane Q Cheng has made an art career out of imitation by immersing herself within the spaces, practices and lives of her chosen artists. This means that, although the ECUAD graduate’s roots are in illustration, her medium, material and aesthetic are as varied as the people she copies. In an interesting twist, Cheng chose to imitate herself circa 2015 for her mural contribution to the Vancouver Mural Festival. In a recent conversation with the artist, we touched on everything from her involvement in the Vancouver Mural Festival to minor vandalism, art for ants and communicating with rodents (Cheng is very fond of her pet gerbils).

What is your neighbourhood and what makes it home? I currently live in Guildford, but I transit to Vancouver very often. I practically live on the Skytrain and, based on the frequency of use, I would argue that the Skytrain is my neighbourhood.

Your neighbourhood go-to spot to get inspired? Pacific Roasters is a sweet little cafe right beside the central library; plus they are open late!

The most unusual or unexpected source of inspiration that you encountered? Some of my favourite projects are a result of jokes being taken seriously.

The most beautiful place in the world? Wherever my gerbils Emma and Jessica are currently cuddled up.

Your favourite Vancouver building? That abandoned green building around Main and 4th. It’s a nice shade of green.

  • 08Expensive Painting (Ship), by Andy Dixon
  • 03Chelsea Sketchbook Excerpt
  • 02Identity Suit_I looked inside myself and saw what wasn't there, by Chelsea O'Bryne
  • 01Chelsea's Style (Identity Suit_I looked inside myself and saw what wasn't there)

Your favourite building in the world? Living Room, a pug cafe in Kyoto. I’ve never been there myself but I have lived vicariously through my friend’s photos.

Your favourite dish in Vancouver? Strawberry Bingsoo at Snowy Village – I would have it in December too!

It’s been a long week, what’s your drink of choice? A Gin Fizz.

Your favourite piece of public art? I might have accidentally contributed to one of the many dents on Opus at Granville Island.

The artist you most admire? The Stolen Pieces project by artist duo Eva and Franco Mattes. They spent two years collecting numerous masterpiece fragments from museums and galleries, which were later presented in a show as their own work.

A hidden talent? The gerbil whisperer.

A skill you wished you possessed? One day I’ll learn to like sit ups.

City or countryside? City.

Name one thing about Vancouver that you think should change? Later hours in general; everything closes so early in Vancouver.

What’s the smallest piece of art you’ve made thus far? And the biggest? The smallest piece would be an installation I did for ants, in a museum for ants, created and curated by my friend Chelsea Yuill. The biggest would be my Holographic Study which is 5×5 ft, but the mural that I’ll be doing for the mural festival is going to be 10×40 ft! Plan my funeral.


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How do you want people to feel when they see your mural? Maybe slight confusion. The whole thing is about illusion anyway.

What does your mural reveal about you? The mural is based on previous work done a couple years back, so perhaps my sadistic nature and apparent love for repetitiveness in the past. It is nice to revisit it though, and I’m excited to see it completed on a larger scale.

How much does the concept of ‘permanence’ factor into your mural design? I don’t like the responsibilities inherent in permanence. It would be fun to watch it change or erode over time.

How would you like to be remembered? @whojanedoe.

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