'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 24 June 2021

Meet The illustrator: Xin Li

Xin Li

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Painterly, colourful, dream like.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Pencil and office printer paper. I often draw thumbnails on loose sheets of paper - it feels less serious, and leaves room for experiment and play.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I produce most of my final artwork digitally, mainly due to the tight schedules and flexibility for client work. But I always keep lot of art supplies around me and I use them when I just want to play, or when I hit a creative block. I love Chinese calligraphy brushes, and watercolour. I would like to do a picture book using watercolour paintings one day. 

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
This is a really hard question for me, the answer changes all the time. I took a couple years of painting class when I was a teenager. Back then I was very into impressionism. It was when I read Neil Gaiman´s Sandman in my early 20s that I realised that art can do more than hanging on the wall. I think Scott Mccould´s book  Understanding Comics had a lot of impact on me as a storyteller.
In terms of picture books, my favourite artist would be Shaun Tan. For me, his artwork feels like postcards from a parallel universe, with secret messages in them. If only I look harder, I will discover something profound.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
It would be the impressionist era - late 19th century and early 20th century of  Paris. Impressionism was my first love crush with art.

 Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I tried to get into the fine art program after high school. But I did not get in because I could not draw well enough. So I majored in graphic design and worked as a designer more than a decade. I never considered I have the talent to draw and paint. After becoming a mom, I started looking for picture books so I can read with my daughter. I see all kinds of art styles, subject matter, and ways of telling stories in the picture book world. I was very inspired. When I read enough of picture books, I could not help to start drawing and painting again, wanting to write and illustrate my own picture books.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most
often? Talk us through it.

My studio is a temporary setup. We just moved out of the capital city partly due to the pandemic. Currently, we are renting an apartment and looking for a house to buy at the same time.
I normally paint on a 13 inch Cintiq. I have a A3 printer, mainly for printing out my illustration and see it in real size physically. More than half of the drawings hanging on my studio wall currently are by my 3 years old daughter - she loves decorating my studio. I also print out illustrations I love in postcard size and hanging next to my desk for inspiration.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I love the beginning, the phase which all possibilities are still open.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Spend as much time as you can to learn the craft, and learn about yourself. Every piece of artwork you are making is essentially an experiment.

Xin Li was born and raised in China and currently lives in Norway with her husband and their daughter. After years working as an interaction designer in the software design industry, she found her true passion in visual storytelling. Xin loves quiet magic, surrealism, and stories that evoke imagination.

For more information, please visit Xin's website or follow her on instagram.