If there’s one thing we were super happy to wake up to this morning, it was Minmin Wu’s illustrations. Yes, that is a happy brown dinosaur showing its toothy grin to us lucky viewers. And yes, that is an angel (halo and all) blowing glowing stars down to us with all his might. For Minmin, the path to creativity actually started in quite a different way. She studied at the China Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou a few years back, majoring in the art of Fresco; the traditional Italian technique of mural painting executed on freshly laid, or wet lime plaster. Then, she went onto study a master’s degree in illustration at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, switching up her style to the wonderfully energetic brush strokes that we see today.
Everything changed for the Beijing-based illustrator however, after she graduated. “I got married and pregnant, and I decided to be a full time mum,” she tells It’s Nice That of this period of change. “After I gave birth to my first child, I got postpartum depression. I felt blue everyday but thought I should do something substantial instead of crying, so I started drawing some short funny stories to read to my daughter.” After a while, Minmin started to post her daily doodles on social media, in this case Weibo. It comes as so no surprise that the illustration quickly started to gather a lot of fans.
The artist’s joyful style, full of charming characters and endearing animals quickly struck a chord with eager audiences. Eventually, publishers approached Minmin, inviting her to apply her distinctive illustration style to children’s books, something that she continues to do to this day. Though she originally studied fresco, now, Minmin explains, “I can’t draw in a detailed way. I draw things freely, depicting whatever I want to express.” She cites Remy Charlip as her idol, in particular, appreciating his knack for engaging both children and adults in his colourful works. In a similar vein, that is Minmin’s ultimate goal, to create picture books brimming with humour and tingles of relaxation. And from our perspective, it’s safe to say that she achieves this pretty effortlessly, too.
“Compared with the conventional pattern of stories,” Minmin continues, “I really like the stories that are told in a poetic way. I think it’s funnier and more emotional.” The balance is evident throughout the artist’s work, even amongst those who can’t read Kanji and rely solely on images to evoke the humorous narratives. In one of her latest books for example, Minmin tells us a story about a lovely dinosaur with a very very very long neck. He wants to go outside to buy something, when all of a sudden he remembers he’s forgotten something. He turns around, heading home (a nice green space complete with decorative tree and picturesque mountain backdrop) to retrieve… the mask he left behind! Phew! You gotta have that in trying times such as these.
“I drew this one during the outbreak of the Covid-19,” says Minmin. “Everybody in China was so anxious and stressed so I wanted to draw something relaxing while reminding people the importance of wearing a mask, and that’s how the story came about.” Usually, Minmin devises her stories from small observations in daily life. It could be something funny her daughter said, or a funny image that’s cropped up, but no matter how small the piece of inspiration, Minmin can expand this initial image into a complete story. In some cases, dinosaur and all.
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.