Discover / Meet the Artist
Interview with Jiayue Li
"I think creativity lies in everybody, but sometimes there's a lock that we need to find the key to open."
Today, we'd like to introduce you to
Jiayue is an illustrator and graphic designer born in Chengdu, China and currently based in New York and Istanbul.
We reached out to Jiayue curious about her refreshing illustrations, to find out more about her story and art. Here is what she shared...
Tell us a bit about your background.
Born and raised in Chengdu, China, currently I'm an illustrator and graphic designer based in New York and Istanbul. I'm a graduate of the College of Design and Innovation, Tongji University in Shanghai, and the MFA Design Entrepreneurship program of the School of Visual Arts in New York. I've been working as a freelance graphic designer for two years since I graduated in 2019 and making illustrations and paintings for both commission and personal work on the side.
I started to learn how to draw when I was 6. I'm grateful to my art teacher, an artist and a "passionate woman" who loved igniting creativity in children. She told us that "Drawing lines, choosing a color, and creating compositions are like games. We should enjoy the process of creating art." In the summertime, she would take us on a trip to a village, historical town, or zoo with all kinds of art material, so that we could draw what we saw. These experiences all became my happy memories along the journey of my art education.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature, or must it be nurtured and learned?
I think we all have a strong instinct of expressing ourselves and crafting things. However, I also believe that creativity and taste can be taught or learned by practice or influenced by the surrounding environment. I started learning how to draw at a very young age. At that time, I was taught different ways of drawing, such as using dry media like pastel or pencils or using wet media like watercolor or gouache. I got familiar with the drawing material and colors, which helped me get creative and fearless with how to express with different material to get the outcome that I want. Learning to think differently is also a necessity for me. Once in a while, I was stuck in spending a lot of time trying to find something to draw, such as imitating a beautiful illustration that others made, or sketching a photo that was beautifully shot, or just doing countless but meaningless practices. But none of these came from my creativity. So I took some classes that inspired me to develop my voice in drawings, such as building a concept before starting to draw, what to do when you are out of ideas, etc. Therefore, I think creativity lies in everybody, but sometimes there's a lock that we need to find the key to open.
How do you manage to stay both personal and original in your creative endeavours?
I gather ideas and inspiration from almost everything in life and eccentrically combine them in a well-considered composition. I like keeping my brainstorming ideas or sudden sparkles in a small-sized notebook, such as random words, a super rough sketch, or anything I found interesting, to reach out and create original concepts easily. I create female characters reflecting on myself. I would imagine and design characters in a surrealistic scenario, using elements like clouds, food, plants, geometric shapes. It's important to design the composition in a storytelling way. I would try to somehow implant an abstract message or narrative in the drawing, which may come from my current state of mind or ideas I saw or read from films or books. The process is often started with a keyword, such as "melting", "breathe", or "hide and seek", then I would build out more structure and details into a canvas with the keywords in my head.
Can you see your finished product before you start it?
Usually not, and I think that's the fun part. The process of actually making the art can always create unexpected surprises and be affected by the current mood and feeling of the work. Sometimes the mistake or unplanned freehand stroke while drawing can also change the end product.
I always come up with the color palette when I start to color the piece, so developing concepts and drawing are two different procedures for me. While designing the composition, I'll only focus on making the image interesting, placing each element, and the look of the character without considering the color or texture. When I decide I'm happy with the composition, I'll concentrate on the color combination and crafting details.
Art in the Age of Instagram: An artist's best friend or worst enemy?
Is seeking validation from likes and followers killing or reinforcing creativity?
Instagram makes it easier for people to see artists' work and for artists to get exposure and establish themselves in the industry. Instagram also creates the largest art community around the world. So I think though the number of likes may cause some anxiety after sharing my work, Instagram mostly helped me stay creative and motivated by other artists' great work or progress. Consciously curating my work in the feed is also a good practice for me to look at my work and improve. Sharing work is a good amount of pressure, so I can always feel like creating and moving more towards my goal for now.
Can art be therapeutic?
Definitely! For me, making art is like escaping from daily life and entering a different world. It's usually hard at the beginning of making art. But once I immerse myself into sketching out the concept, drafting, and refining, the time around me seems to be stopped. I love listening to music or podcasts while making art. Drawing helps me focus and cancel the noise around me. It's a great way to reduce pressure and anxiety.
Curious to explore more of Jiayue's art? Visit her website and browse her collections at https://jiayue.li/.