From elaborate brush strokes to bold colors and intricate patterns, Chinese art has a rich and diverse history that spans millennia. Today, artists continue to be inspired by this artistic legacy, creating work that is both contemporary and rooted in traditional Chinese aesthetics. In this article, we'll introduce you to 10 talented Chinese style illustrators who are making waves in the world of art with their unique styles and fresh perspectives.
1 - Ni Chuanjing
Ni Chuanjing, an illustrator from Hong Kong, China, became one of the youngest winners on Forbes's "30 under 30" art list at the age of 25. In addition, she has received a series of awards, including two gold medals from the Society of Illustrators NY, for her excellent illustration works.
As an illustrator, Ni's works have always been exquisite endorsements. In the presentation of the picture, every viewer can deeply feel the delicacy, dreaminess, and skillful mastery of her style. At the same time, she also incorporates her own experiences and stories into her works, giving them a brand new soul. This allows every viewer to find their own memories in the picture and resonate with the author and the work.
The biggest feature of Ni's works is the perfect integration of Chinese elements into contemporary illustrations. While recounting her own experiences, the strong Chinese style in her works also comes to the fore. Those legends and allusions unique to Chinese history and culture, such as Hou Yi shooting the sun, the frog at the bottom of the well, and the monkey fishing for the moon, are better spread around the world through her works.
2 - Pu Zhen
From 2018 onwards, illustrator Pu Zhen, born in the 1990s, began his unique "journey". He created illustrations of the scenery of various major cities in China, each with its own unique style, which is stunning.
To date, Pu Zhen has visited 32 cities, leaving a unique mark on each one. In his works, he blends the cultural characteristics of each city with its unique scenery, successfully creating a perfect picture scroll.
Faced with everything before him, as an illustrator, Pu Zhen chooses to use his most familiar way of portraying every city he has visited and every landscape he has seen with a paintbrush on paper, displaying it to everyone.
In documenting each Chinese city, Pu Zhen also incorporates classical stories and legends. For example, "Handan" has Lian Po and Lin Xiangru, "Foshan" has lion dance, "Chengdu" has pandas, and "Yangzhou" uses the backdrop of the Moonlit Night on the 24 Bridges.
Pu Zhen's works not only document the current state of each city, but also review the historical and cultural context of each city. It may seem simple, but behind it, he combines and integrates the traditional culture of every Chinese city, presenting the historical culture of Chinese cities.
3 - Li Kun
Li Kun is an unquestionably masterful illustrator. Traditional figures of Eastern culture come to life in her hands, and every detail, from expressions to poses, is meticulously crafted.
Li Kun is particularly fond of incorporating elements of traditional culture into her daily creations. Many of her works feature traditional figures of the East as the protagonists. In her piece "Star Map," the familiar figures become tangible entities. Each person is so lifelike that one can hardly believe they were crafted by pen and ink.
Li Kun's work is both mysterious and lucid, and every viewer is left in awe of her skill. She has successfully showcased traditional culture to the world, and her love for it is evident in every piece. Her delicate brushstrokes and romantic style inspire a newfound appreciation for traditional culture in all who view her art.
4 - Li Min
Illustrator Li Min graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts at Tsinghua University in 2009 and has been working at China Daily ever since, currently serving as the chief editor. Since the launch of the China Daily overseas edition in 2010, Li Min has created nearly 500 illustrations.
Li Min was the first to use his own illustrations as the cover of the newspaper's front page, and this small change successfully captivated everyone's attention. By using colorful colors to render Chinese culture, he not only conveyed the essence of the culture but also attracted readers with the vivid and lively illustrations.
Gradually, Li Min blending the intricate lines of traditional Chinese painting into his own creations. This integration has resulted in more lively and agile characterizations, making him a fashionable illustrator who expresses Chinese culture.
The intricate lines of traditional Chinese painting are a unique expression of Chinese art, and Li Min successfully blends them with illustration. He continues to promote Chinese culture internationally, using art that represents China to tell beautiful stories that belong to China.
5 - Wang Xiaoyi
As a post-90s illustrator, Wang Xiaoyi is a young lady who enjoys narrating Chinese culture. In her work "Zhao Mu Ji", we can witness a world built by traditional culture and ancient charm. She employs nearly 250 exquisite works to depict almost 80 legendary stories of life's fickleness and the gathering and dispersal of feasts within the landscape she has constructed.
Those traditional cultures and ancient times of the rivers and lakes seem to have undergone a complete transformation under Wang Xiaoyi's pen. While allowing us to experience the cultural charm, the bright colors have also successfully attracted everyone's attention.
If the beauty of traditional culture lies in its profound historical factors, what we see in Wang Xiaoyi's illustrations is a completely new ancient charm culture where history has become colorful and much more in line with modern aesthetic vision. She combines ancient culture with the content that young people are interested in nowadays, constructing a new world, while all things ancient continue to flow in her works.
6 - Lin Wenjun
When it comes to the illustrator Lin Wenjun, everyone who has seen his work will not forget the delicate Chinese style, colorful colors combine to create illustrations that belong exclusively to China.
Apart from illustrating ordinary works, Lin Wenjun is also one of the powerful figures in the field of Chinese CG conceptual illustration art. He has received various awards such as CGTALK CGChoice Awards and CGHUB "Masterartist" awards.
In addition, Lin Wenjun continuously creates amazing digital art works with his unique ink CG style, combining Chinese style inheritance with the contemporary era. In his creative process, Lin Wenjun has been trying to open up new fields. If the essence of Chinese painting lies in the depiction of details and the complete portrayal of things, Lin Wenjun wants to abandon the cumbersome details and use more abstract expressions to understand the feeling of creating a picture. By combining the abstract concepts of contemporary art to control the composition of the picture, he ultimately makes viewers feel a sense of novelty.
Throughout his creative journey, Lin Wenjun has always maintained his unique style and believes that creating art is a path to pursue one's own life, not just a simple technical display. He hopes to see himself in his works and to maintain his own ideas and opinions.
7 - Ya Mai Xiao Ju
Since ancient times, cat lovers have been prevalent, and illustrator Ya Mai Xiao Ju uses traditional watercolor techniques to present adorable cats to everyone who sees them. But it's not just cute cats; we can also see the existence of traditional culture. Items with traditional culture, such as teapots, dragon chairs, and kites, allow us to enjoy cuteness while also reviewing history.
In fact, cats are also an indispensable part of Chinese traditional culture. The love of cats by ancient people is both traditional and modern, a reenactment of past history and one of the cultures we love today.
Ya Mai Xiao Ju chooses to use classical watercolor techniques to make her work more traditionally charming. She combines the ancient and the modern, presenting traditional culture to everyone in the most authentic way.
8 - Ruan Feifei
As a post-90s illustrator, Ruan Feifei has gained considerable fame in the world of illustration by combining Eastern culture with modern sci-fi art. Her illustrations not only boast of beauty and elegance, but also possess a certain narrative ability. Several years ago, her collaboration with the BBC on the "Doctor Who" series already showcased how she narrates Chinese culture and stories through her illustrations.
Moreover, her early experience of studying in the United States has equipped Ruan Feifei with excellent sci-fi thinking. Influenced by American sci-fi comics, Ruan Feifei blends Eastern classic myths and legends with a mysterious cyber world of the future, providing viewers with a certain level of visual enjoyment and impact. Integrating two cultures is a challenging task, but Ruan Feifei uses concepts such as time travel to merge the two cultures, resulting in harmonious and beautiful imagery.
In her other works, we can also see Ruan Feifei's skillful use of Chinese culture, using meaningful elements such as gods and allusions. Regardless of commercial collaborations or improvisation, Ruan Feifei maintains her unique Eastern illustration style.
Although Ruan Feifei is a post-90s individual, her achievements in the field of illustration are remarkable. She has won the gold award at the American MoCCA Awards and the bronze award at the British CreativePool Annual, making Chinese-style illustration continue to shine on the international stage.
9 - Shijia Xiaogui
Illustrator Shijia Xiaogui's love for traditional culture has made poetry and verses the main theme of her illustrations, with each painting representing a different aspect of ancient poetry.
Shijia Xiaogui's path as an illustrator began as an unprepared pursuit of her dreams. Having never studied painting before, she began her journey of learning after graduating from college because of her passion for the craft.
Today, Shijia Xiaogui has become one of the most beloved and sought-after illustrators, with her work being characterized by a refreshing and elegant style that is immediately recognizable. The cultural elements in her paintings are also her favorite style and subject matter. Inspired by the influence of traditional culture, Shijia Xiaogui's creativity flows like a fountain, resulting in the beautiful works she creates.
Her success is a testament to her perseverance and refusal to give up on her passion, which has ultimately led to her becoming the renowned illustrator she is today. Her love for illustration and traditional culture has resulted in stunning and captivating works of art.
10 - Li Yifan
Li Yifan, a young man from Chengdu born in the 90s, has been studying and exploring the art of Chinese ink painting. Illustration eventually became his chosen medium, and under his pen, we are transported to a world we have never seen before.
His possesses a beautiful and ethereal style that is not lacking in the grandeur of traditional Chinese ink painting. While inheriting the painting unique to Chinese culture, Li Yifan has been adjusting his own style to challenge the traditional way of painting.
In his works, he seems to have a particular fondness for ghosts and monsters, loving to create those mysterious beings that exist in mythology but cannot be found in reality. He also incorporates elements of Chinese traditional culture, and he never tires of it.
He used his brush to interpret everything in "Classic of Mountains and Seas," and those ghosts and monsters in the book were given new life in Li Yifan's hands. Those familiar mythical beasts and ghosts that have been lingering in our ears have taken on a new and beautiful form in Li Yifan's paintings. Bi Fang, Nine-Tailed Fox, Phoenix, Zhong Kui, and many others have become adorable and beloved by the public, even to this day.
These 10 Chinese-style illustrators showcase the incredible range and versatility of contemporary Chinese art. By reimagining traditional themes and techniques for modern audiences, they are keeping the spirit of Chinese art alive and well in the 21st century. As we look to the future, it's exciting to think about how these artists will continue to evolve and innovate, bringing new possibilities and insights to the vibrant, ever-changing world of Chinese art.
Li Kun's name in Chinese characters seems to be 李堃. Googling that seems to bring up a Weibo account that is publishing images that look like hers. Hopefully it's her account. The Taobao page for that name has several books but the style doesn't quite match what's here?