People:

Fei Fei

By Sonaksha Iyengar • Issue 4, August 2017

London based illustrator and artist Fei Fei’s work spans animation, illustration and film. She finished her BFA in illustration and printmaking at the University of Connecticut, USA, and is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Arts London, UK.

We first stumbled upon Fei Fei’s ink and watercolor works on her Tumblr blog ‘Used Ink’ where she also used to post comic diaries covering themes like sadness, sexuality and human relationships. Through the years, Fei Fei’s work has been recognized with many scholarships and awards including the John Fawcett Illustration Scholarship 2014, CADC Illustration award, and most recently at the Society of Illustrators Student Competition.

We spoke to Fei Fei to learn more about her ongoing practice, inspirations, and future plans.

Could you tell us something about your childhood years?

I grew up in southern China and started studying art when I was six years old. My family has been very supportive of my passion and my pursuit of art. I developed a natural habit for drawing with chalk because my grandmother was a Maths teacher, and we always had chalks in the house because of that. I drew on the floor mostly so I was allowed to draw big and free.

Fei Fei

What influenced you creatively while growing up?

Sailor Moon and Disney films have been huge influences on me.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue illustration/design?

It was more like a natural trajectory than a realization for me, since I’ve always loved making drawings. I studied art as an extra-curricular activity while growing up. I was trained in academic art, and the teacher was keen on perspective and rendering skills. That set up a solid foundation for drawing for me.

What were the initial challenges of being an independent illustrator?

I think studying art at college level really helped me. It pushed me into thinking more about where I was professionally and what competition I was facing. I think the initial challenges included things like balancing freelance work and school, taking on projects you think particularly suit your creative talents, etc.

How do you strike a balance between client work and personal projects?

I try to prioritize client work by creating a calendar; having a deadline is helpful too. When I want to take a break, I work on my personal projects (usually simple ink drawings). Personal work is very important for me, and some of my best work comes from there.

How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?

I like to draw people, and I draw them fast.

What role does technology play in your work?

I use the internet for reference photos and a Wacom tablet for drawing on the computer, so pretty important I’d say.

Peter Looking Pleased

I think studying art at college level really helped me. It pushed me into thinking more about where I was professionally and what competition I was facing.

Grandma

We would like to know more about your series of illustrations titled ‘Feeling purple’.

I made those when I was working in Beijing and I was feeling a bit depressed. It was due to severe reverse culture shock. For instance, Chinese don’t hug. We shake hands. I was used to hugging friends in the States, and I was suddenly deprived of that human contact once I landed. Another example is that Chinese restaurants in Beijing don’t give out fortune cookies like the ones in the US did.

Fei Fei’s Diary

We saw some interesting experiments with film on your website. What equipment do you use and what is your approach to film?

I use a Canon AE-1P film camera for all the photographs. For me, it’s a more relaxed way to experiment with different mediums.

Tell us a bit about your usual day at work.

On the days I don’t have school, I usually end up procrastinating until early afternoon. Then I have a cup of coffee and make drawings throughout the rest of the day and night.

How does London as a city inspire you and your work? What are some of the things about London that you like and dislike?

I moved to London in September last year to pursue my MFA degree. I get to see a lot more contemporary art here from established and upcoming artists. The art scene in London is very experimental, which I particularly enjoy. It definitely inspires me a lot.

I like that the museums and galleries are a train ride away. I dislike the cost of living.

Who are the designers/artists whose work you admire?

To name a few off the top of my head – Geoff McFetridge, Yoko Ono and Yuko Shimizu.

What are the other things amongst music, books, films etc. that have deeply inspired you?

Wes Anderson movies, Craig Thompson’s book Blankets, Alan Watts’ lectures and books, A Course in Miracles and everything that NOBROW publishes are some of my inspirations.

What’s your biggest dream? 

I think the idea of a dream is overrated. I keep my motivation simple. I make drawings because I love making them.

What’s on your mind these days?

I want to make more work. Moving to London has changed my work habits quite significantly. While I used to work in the studio all the time, I now work mostly from home.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a few animations and a children’s book. It’s a book about Santa Claus exploring and learning about issues like global warming, human rights, indigenous culture, love, etc.

I think the idea of a dream is overrated. I keep my motivation simple. I make drawings because I love making them.

Lobby Girl

November

Fei Fei’s Diary

 

You can read the rest of the issue four here

All the images are artworks by Fei Fei. ©
Fei Fei's image is provided by her. ©
The cover artwork is titled 'Art Market'.

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