Huilin Gui’s cosy, nostalgic illustrations play with perspective

Originally from Beijing and now based in New York, the illustrator’s scenes are reminiscent of a charming small town. Or is it just the way that her young characters see their surroundings?

The works of Huilin Gui bring on a certain wave of nostalgia. Not just because they project a familial connection, or quaint, small-town life, but because a child is often the central character, often at the corner of the frame engrossed in some activity or glaring at the adults around them.

Despite the charming markets or country-road bends shown in her work, Huilin is now based in New York, after moving from her hometown in Beijing. The illustrator “doesn’t confine” herself to specific materials and instead works with the “most suitable for the project,” she tells us, such as watercolours, pastels, coloured pencil, crayons, collage and some digital techniques. Always walking with a sketchbook, she is in a constant state of observing those around her and recording what she sees. But, from her subject matter, we know that imagination is a large part of her oeuvre (as the child character can even be spotted playing poker). This makes her scenes a mix of inspiration from everyday moments and nature, and the memories of her childhood, made distinctive by their cosy aesthetic and the way she plays with perspective and viewpoint.

With a love for “picture books with emotionally resonant stories” she is guided by the markers of her influences which include the illustrator Gao Cai, cartoonist Nahid Kazemi and illustrator and author Beatrice Alemagna. “I am profoundly influenced by their child-like, evocative and warm work.”


Huilin Gui: Dining Room (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2022)


Huilin Gui: Grandma’s House (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2022)


Huilin Gui: Living Room (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2022)


Huilin Gui: Playing Poker (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2023)


Huilin Gui: Street Corner (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2023)


Huilin Gui: The Wet Market (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2023)


Huilin Gui: A Quiet Afternoon (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2023)


Huilin Gui: Square Dancing (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2023)

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Huilin Gui: Playing Chess (Copyright © Huilin Gui, 2023)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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