For this part of the field research assignment we were asked to document the process of editorial image making. The artist who I decided to go with is Xinmei Liu. I find their illustrations to be aesthetically-pleasing, cute but also a bit ominous. The reason for that is the fact that their art-style is reminiscent of older Chinese propaganda poster art. It looks very innocent but upon closer inspection, some ominous elements are noticeable. The artist developed this style by redrawing pictures from their picture books as a child out of sheer boredom. This nostalgic approach has stuck around with them till present day.
The colours, composition and narratives are made in such a way that the viewer can’t help but feel nostalgic when looking at the images. There’s a sense of familiarity and comfort in each illustration. The fuzzy texture shrouds the pieces in a veil of nostalgia, it almost feels like a good memory from your past has come to visit your mind again. There’s a lovely contrast that draws the viewer’s eyes to certain areas in the image and using the technique of gradual colour desaturation/degradation to walk the eyes thoroughly through the illustration, helping the viewer make up the storyline, sort of putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Another thing that has truly captivated me is the element of satire and surrealism in Xinmei’s work. This piece, for instance, is a big joke about how everyone made 2020 out to be the greatest year that will ever have been, but as we have seen for ourselves, that is very much not the case. At all. The artist captured both of these aspects with the march representing the positive expectations and the black cat (symbol of bad luck in many cultures) representing the thing that made these expectations go straight to the bin.
Xinmei Liu works with big names like the New York Times, Amazon Publishing, Scholastic and more. She describes them as dream clients as they allow her to work in a way that she wants to work – illustrating things that she cares about. Perhaps this close connection with the topic is what drives her to create pieces that feel so nostalgic? The artist uses their passion and personal interest as tools when creating her images. I find that to be very inspirational and admirable.
The art industry is overfilled with people that value profit over passion, it’s nice seeing artists like Xinmei who were able to find a fine line between making a living and creating what they love.