Illustrator Fei Fei Talks Capital City Inspiration

By Valerie Osipov, March 16, 2020

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Established as an artist and illustrator, Fei Fei has always been inspired by the dynamic capital city. The Hunan native first moved to Beijing in 2016, after a program abroad in the US. In the time since completing her studies, Fei Fei has collaborated with several businesses like Vogue magazine, Gung Ho! Pizza, Pang Mei Noodles and more, coloring brands with her whimsical and thought-provoking illustrations. During the day, she’s an in-house illustrator for a tech company, but after hours, you can find her organizing a handful of art markets spotlighting the underground creative community in the capital, while also working on her own personal pieces. We caught up with the charismatic artist about her art background, what she loves most about Beijing and to chat about her favorite projects.

Tell us about your arts background. Was creativity always important to you while you were growing up?
I completed a bachelor’s degree in Illustration and Printmaking in the US in 2015 and studied for a Masters in Fine Art at UAL Wimbledon for a year. But education aside, I’ve always liked drawing. It’s my way of looking, studying and learning about the world around me.

Drawing came naturally to me as a kid; I’d spend hours drawing on the floor with chalk. Art lessons or art-related activities were definitely a major part of my childhood. I think from an early age it was instilled in me that studying art was very important. My parents once hired a full-time live-in art tutor for me over a summer holiday.

Did you have your mind set on being an illustrator initially?
I guess the term illustrator came up when they were trying to fit us into various majors in university. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist, just because it’s such a big part of my life, but ever since I started working and making a living, ‘illustrator’ seems to be the title that suits me the most.

Image provided by Fei Fei

What are your favorite mediums to work with?
Ink, watercolor and iPad/digital painting, to name a few.

Tell us about your favorite projects you’ve been a part of.
I’m super into editorial illustration, the kind of illustration that works with a narrative. To express an opinion via visual metaphor always excites me. That being said, I’ve done two sets of illustrations for work that really made me happy. One was for the yearly report magazines at my work. The book content is very dry and filled with numbers; I often had to translate difficult terms into visuals to help make the magazine more readable and aesthetically pleasing.

Fei-fei-cover.jpgImage provided by Fei Fei

A similar project is the series of editorial illustrations I did for Medium – my good friend from university hooked me up with a few of those. The subjects include climate change and climate justice, racial stereotypes and what it means to be a woman in the contemporary world.

How does your personal work differ from your professional projects?
Allow me to use a metaphor to explain: My personal works are like a piece of raw wood, whereas my professional works are made from raw wood, but are cut and designed into more defined shapes – like furniture, they fulfill a certain purpose.

Imge provided by Fei Fei

You’re based in Beijing. What inspires you most about the city?
This is a difficult question to answer. I guess it’s the people that inspire me the most. It’s rare to find another city in China that shares the same level of openness as Beijing; I’m talking about the different people you can meet from every corner of the earth. It’s also close to Southeast Asia (well, kind of), which means the ocean is only a flight away…

You also collaborate with many local artists and organize art markets here. What do you love most about the city’s art scene?
That it gives a chance to rising and young artists to showcase their work, no matter what stage they are at. Being a visual artist is very lonesome; we spend a majority of our time hunched over a desk from day to night. I think it means a lot to artists when we get to have a big party a few times a year, sharing our recent works, the ones make us proud, happy or sad.

Getting to know newcomers, making friends and just getting to know your favorite artists better is very rare. I think our participants are really happy to see the customers buying their works as well – it’s strong validation when someone gives you money for what you made.

Image provided by Fei Fei

You can follow Fei Fei’s work on Instagram (@feifeiart) and her website:

[Cover image provided by Fei Fei]

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