Lose yourself in the dreamlike pencil drawings of Meicheng Chi

Find out how the illustrator uses drawing to explore the feelings evoked by the passing of the seasons, and why she has such an intense infatuation with chairs.

24 June 2022

With soft lines, delectable textures and abstract, flowing shapes, Meicheng Chi’s drawings feel like getting lost in someone else’s dream. This makes sense when learning that Meicheng specifically uses coloured pencils as a way of depicting her “half-awake memories”. For the illustrator, half-awake memories are always the most “vivid” and drawing “is like sleep talk”: “The textures I can create with coloured pencils using different strength and different speed always tell different stories, creating the images of my sleep with fluidity and firmness.”

Born in Shanyang, Meicheng travelled to the US for her undergraduate studies at Rhode Island School of design, where she is still based to this day. Majoring in Industrial Design, Meicheng allowed her passion for drawing to flourish by taking it as a concentration course. For Meicheng, drawing has always proved as a means of communication, and she finds it easiest to introduce herself through her pencil works. “Sometimes there is too much I want to talk about, but I don't know how to," she expands, “it is drawing that speaks those words for me.”


Meicheng Chi: Happy New Year (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2021)

The transitory nature of the seasons also plays an important role in Meicheng’s work. Wanting to evoke the “romantic images” from unconsciousness – the “gentle and fresh smell of grass” – many of Meicheng’s works try to capture the sensation and anticipation of looking forward to the summer months. “The strong sense of season amplifies mood swings”, Meicheng details, “also creating warmer and tighter bonds between people.” These feelings come across brilliantly in her piece Back to School, where luscious green mound of grass sit amongst lilac blue hues; their soft textures making them look perfect for a long, lazy lie-down.

Meicheng’s work doesn’t always explore positive or romantic feelings, however, and can often be a means for her to navigate deeper, more complex emotions. “I can be selfish and unreasonable when I draw,” Meicheng ponders, “recording strong or blurry emotions which I sometimes don’t know how to manage.” Interestingly, the works that convey more difficult feelings and emotions tend to be her more “realistic”, usually presented by way of interior scenes. In Half Awake Memories of my Great Grandpa’s House, Meicheng uses deeper colours and a harsher pencil lines to create darker hues and shadows. The lone table, absent of chairs, sits at the bottom of a window which shows a blue sky and birds outside. All these elements come together to suggest a certain darkness from within. “Many people say my work feels soft,” Meicheng identifies, “but I do think there are strong emotions gushing out behind the fog with a little sadness and a little energy.”

Once in a while, Meicheng’s work will veer away from solely exploring emotions and feelings entirely, instead depicting playful and slightly surreal work. A recent zine of Meicheng’s, entitled A Love Letter to my Chairs, explores (as I’m sure you’re surprised to hear) her love of chairs. Meicheng’s infatuation with chairs, which she now sees as the “main characters in her drawings”, began quite by chance. “I passed a workroom in my school and I saw a chair through the small window of the workroom and I felt an eclectic show, feeling like it was alive.” Creating such strong, vivid emotions Meicheng has included them in her work ever since. “I like how a chair seems to be talking, but it never talks much,” she adds. In two of her chair centric pieces named Departing from Me and Running Towards Me, Meicheng adds moveable elements, one slowly showing the chair become immersed in a grass-like pattern, the other showing a chair spinning on the spot, almost as if it's dancing. Giving the wooden structures a lively energy, the chairs are filled with a characterful charm that we certainly didn’t think possible for a few bits of well constructed wood.


Meicheng Chi: Back to School (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2021)


Meicheng Chi: Diving Into Summer (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2022)


Meicheng Chi: Outside the window of the quarantine hotel in Guangzhou (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2020)


Meicheng Chi: Shanghai (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2020)


Meicheng Chi: Shanghai (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2020)


Meicheng Chi: Grass Store (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2021)


Meicheng Chi: Half Awake Memories from my Grandpa's House (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2020)


Meicheng Chi: Chia Chia Chocolate Branding (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2021)

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Meicheng Chi: Water Pond (Copyright © Meicheng Chi, 2021)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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