How Ikkonz Jin learned to appreciate East Asian culture over lockdown through illustration

When the illustrator had to take an unexpected year out of university due to the pandemic, her creative practice underwent a great transformation as she strived for self-exploration.

7 October 2021

Up until a few years ago, Ikkonz Jin wasn’t interested in illustration outside the digital realms. For the student currently studying at UAL, digital drawing was easy to control. Its effects were easily achievable as opposed to the unpredictable wobbles of physical tools. But after a while, the novelty of the media began to fade and she felt a need to start experimenting with something else. She picked up coloured pencils, then oil pastels, pens, watercolours and acrylics; materials which showed dynamism and contrast as nibs hit the paper. In time, she realised the charm of the texture and decided to change the tune of her work to feature these disparate elements.

Now, the London-based illustrator’s works are filled with these unexpected surprises she once disliked. Born in Beijing, Ikkonz always dreamed of becoming an artist. Growing up, she used her creativity to sharpen her technical skills, learning to accurately depict her surroundings. It wasn’t until she started university that “my creativity began to enter a whole new stage,” she tells us, and she developed a unique point of view where she could express herself in a refreshing way.

When the pandemic hit, Ikkonz was in Beijing and struggled to find a way back to the UK. After going back and forth in her mind about what to do, she eventually decided to take a year out of uni. “At the beginning, I was very anxious,” she tells us, “because I didn’t know what kind of impact the year of interruption had on me.” She experienced a period of depression, and found the only way to ease her emotions was to find solace in the outdoors. “At this moment, I really began to understand my hometown and the country where I lived,” she adds.

Up until then, she classified herself as just another student in the Chinese capital. She would go to school every day and focus on her studies. “I never really understood this city,” she says. Rarely paying attention to her surroundings let alone the rich history that underpinned the architecture and society, she started to take note of the beautiful Chinese aesthetics and styles that lay in plain sight previously. She immersed herself in the artistic interpretation of plants, trees and landscapes and poured these findings into her own work. The mountains and rivers gave her a sense of calm, and in turn, she found inspiration a combination of these feelings, symbols and surroundings which made themselves into her work.


Ikkonz Jin: Sight Window (Copyright © Ikkonz Jin, 2021)

Ikkonz’s year out turned out to be a creatively fruitful and fulfilling time. What began as a period of anxiety and depression transformed into a creative explosion where the world around her and daily experiences birthed a flowing river of artistry. “I am a very introverted person,” says the illustrator. “I essentially hide my feelings and thoughts to express my emotions in my creation.” But through her work, she can abstract these emotions and create symbolic ways of revealing her deepest feelings through various details across an artwork. Ikkonz then combines these works into zines or publications, creating an extensive document of her feelings where she can convey what she’s been going through all in one place.

There are two projects she points out in particular, Sight and Bonsai, which demonstrate this particularly. In the latter, she provides a deeper meaning of the East as told through the perspective of these carefully cultivated plants. She constructs miniature man-made landscapes in a similar vein for this series, allowing the viewer to immerse themselves in East Asian aesthetics in turn. Slightly changing the appearance of bonsais to alter the narrative and “my personal sustenance to them,” Ikkonz’s story sees her shape abstract geometric shapes in an appreciation of East Asian culture. In Sight on the other hand, she shares her singular view of the world through sensory illustrations.

More than a year later from when the pandemic first hit and Ikkonz’s practice has transformed from someone who had just started to work with physical materials, to a fully fledged illustration practice filled with heartfelt concept and intricate technicalities. Now back in London continuing her studies once again, she hopes the course and the city of London will bring fresh inspiration after her revelation, and hopes to make more pieces which further push her work across boundaries.

GalleryIkkonz Jin (Copyright © Ikkonz Jin, 2021)


Transportation tour car


Transportation Boat


Sight bridge


Sight bookshelf







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Ikkonz Jin: Sight hole (Copyright © Ikkonz Jin, 2021)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.

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