The inspiration for our Chinese Warrior shoot was a Thomas Vermaelen poster designed by 28-year-old Arsenal fan Wang Shuo from Beijing. We asked her about the original design and her love for the Gunners...
Why did you design these posters?
My husband and I are both wholehearted Arsenal fans. We know it is very nice of Arsenal to choose China for their pre-season tour considering the time difference problem. Besides booking hotels, air tickets and tickets for the game, we want to do something extra to show our love for Arsenal. As professional footballers, they must have seen thousands of posters and many designed by foreign fans are very classic, either straight or funny. But Arsenal seldom travel to places like China, so we want some Chinese factors in our design, given the fact that China is a country of long history and diverse culture. We thought it would be really great to design something that shows both the profound culture of China and our sincere love for Arsenal.
What difficulties have you overcome in designing the posters? How long did it take?
Honestly, I know nothing about Photoshop. I started doing these posters after several online Photoshop lessons. So, my biggest challenge was a technical problem. It took me two weeks to finish the nine of them (except time for printing). I made nine posters, but I only took six to Hangzhou last year without the ones of Fabregas and Nasri because of the transfer rumours at that time. The other one that I didn’t take is Rosicky, because I was not satisfied about my work. He is so handsome that I could not find any material to describe him. Also, many print shops don’t print the size of 2m x 2m. Fortunately, I managed to work this out in the end after a long time.
Why did you give Vermaelen the image of Guan Yu?
In his first season for Arsenal, he performed perfectly both offensively and defensively. He is a man of power, perseverance and leadership, so I wanted to find someone that matched these characteristics. The first one that came to my mind was Guan Yu, who is famous for his power and grace. The Chinese for power is pronounced as“Wei Wu”, which sounds really similar to the Chinese pronunciation of Vermaelen. Actually, Guan Yu is a famous image of loyalty, righteousness, benevolence and courage. His stories of “riding alone for thousands of miles” and “scraping poison off the bones” are very widely known in China. Vermaelen also had a firm image (although his face is not as red as Guan Yu’s) and a loyal heart. I found the picture of Guan Yu on the internet and made this poster with the help of Photoshop.
For the other posters, why do you give them their specific characters?
Arsène Wenger is a man of wisdom. Considering his rich experience and handsome look, I think the most proper character is Jiang Ziya. He is also diligent and knowledgeable. He resisted the brutal King of Shang, he took refuge in the kingdom of Zhou before he was taken as the teacher of the King of Zhou. He also helped the king to overthrew the brutal king and build a brilliant era. In my opinion, Wenger has similar experiences, because he shows his wisdom in not only football but other fields like economics.
When Jiang Ziya - a mythological figure in The Story of Chinese Gods - was helping the king of Zhou, he offered plenty of strategies for enhancing the strength of the kingdom. Wenger takes his role at Arsenal as a football manager, doing much more than a coach and contributing a lot to the Club. It seems that he really possesses mystical powers.
The design of Jack Wilshere comes from God Erlang in the famous Chinese novel Journey to the West. Jack is so young and talented, while another similarity they share is that they both have a little dog. I have seen Jack showing his dog on Twitter. After the game in Hangzhou last year, my husband and I were lucky enough to get into the mixed zone and showed this poster to him. We told him about this Chinese character and his super power.
The inspiration for Theo Walcott's poster comes from a hero named Dai Zong in another famous Chinese novel, Water Margin Biography. Speed is the most outstanding thing about him and he was described as being able to travel 800 miles per day with the help of some special magic. So the image of Theo must be agile and powerful.
During the 2011/12 season, fans in China give Robin van Persie a new nickname - Robin the General - because of his outstanding performances. During the past eight years, he has grown into a superstar who scores when he wants. My feeling for him is so complicated and profound that many images came to my mind when designing his poster. Eventually I chose Ma Chao, a general in Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He achieves a lot when young with his capacity and good looks.
Aaron Ramsey is considered as the most handsome guy on the team and the future for the club, so the most important thing when designing his poster is to include handsome looks and magic, which reminds people of midfield magician. There is no prototype for him; I just go with his image and my imagination.
We have created a video of Vermaelen actually playing the role you designed for him. What do you think of this?
I am so flattered and excited. Actually, I almost burst into tears. Vermaelen has done a really good job playing this role. He looks so cute and awesome. I can say I only offer a few musical notes, and he turned this into a melody. One more thing that touches me very much is that the poster has been so well preserved by the staff at Arsenal. I am so grateful.
If you see Thomas in China on tour this summer, what do you want to say to him?
I want to ask him if he remembers me. I also want to thank him for playing the role that I designed and how much Guan Yu is worshipped in China. Many people in China don’t say 'I swear to God' like people in the West. They just say I swear to Guan Yu! And I swear to Guan Yu that I hope that Thomas can become the captain of Arsenal and retire at The Emirates.
Why do you love Arsenal so much? How excited are you about Arsenal coming to China this year?
I fell in love with Arsenal at very first sight 10 years ago. It grew as time went by, but I really don’t know why, because you can never analyse love. It is faith. It is trust. It is a feeling that comes from the bottom of your heart. My husband and I are so excited about this China Tour. We spent even more time preparing than last year. We made an Arsenal picture album and bought tickets for both Beijing and HK. I will follow Arsenal’s footsteps from the first minute they land in China to the second they leave for England. I used to be worried about them because they have to travel so far for the pre-season games, but it is better now because of their fantastic performance last year.