Inside “the feminine and fluid” world of artist Yimiao Liu

The illustrator and painter talks to us about her stunning craft, and “trusting sensitivity” to lead the way.

23 March 2022


The work of New York-based artist Yimiao Liu feels meticulous. Her drawings are beautiful and esoteric, often creating otherworldly metaphors for real-world situations. “I would describe my visual aesthetic as feminine, fluid, quiet, reserved, earthy,” says Yimiao when we catch up with her. “And sometimes they’re grotesque, enveloping all aspects of nature.” It’s true that a peek into Yimiao’s portfolio feels like staring into the heart of an introvert: elaborate small details unfold on every corner at the drawing, as if noticed by a keen yet silent eye. “I have a small notebook where I write down key words of ideas and thoughts that come across my mind and sketch down rough thumbnails,” Yimiao says on her process of creation. “Since my working process is very long and meditative I hold these ideas in my mind, thinking about them over and over, sometimes new thoughts emerge and go into the piece and others filter themselves out.”

Her paintings are much the same too, displaying what Yimaio describes as “ visceral emotions that are somehow built a bit like a short story, or a monologue,” rather than simply a collection of several ideas. Her references and inspiration comes from the world around her, most noticeably the natural organic imagery of flora and fauna “of all sorts,” she says. Yet, in Yimiao’s work nature becomes slightly distorted into the uncanny, as if recognisable but still out of reach. “One of my latest drawings, A Pounding Heart, was about being in the world, being extremely sensitive, while wilfully being vulnerable and trusting it,” she explains. “It is a kind of devotion to the process we are in but that can also lead to kinds of desperation that can manifest in acts of destruction.”


Yimiao Liu: 自食其果 As You Sow, So Shall You Reap (Copyright: Yimiao Liu, 2020)

Her latest piece for The New York Times also caught our eye, in which Yimaio uses her signature style to transmute the concept of self-love. “The turnaround was very fast which was challenging, because my work is extremely time-consuming,” Yimaoi says. “Overall it was a special and new experience for me because I had few editorial commissions and it was very exciting to be commissioned by the New York Times.”

So, where did this fervent drive for art come from? “I’ve been drawing for my whole life,” the artist explains. From pre-school to graduate school, there’s been no stopping the creative ever-working mind of Yimiao. “After I graduated from grad school, I went on to illustration projects,” she adds. “Then after doing commissioned work for editorial and other various projects including murals and marketing jobs, starting from two years ago I decided to focus exclusively on personal works that are fine arts-oriented in nature.”

It’s a pivot that has paid off, as Yimiao has quickly become one of the most interesting fine artists in the drawing field today. With her mixing of traditional mediums and digital art, Yimiao’s work stands out for its “translucent textures that give a distinctive character,” as the artist herself describes. “I’m moving onto new surfaces,” she adds. “I’ve always wanted to try work on linen, and it will also be refreshing to take a break from coloured pencil and switch to new media such as pastel and oil. I’m curious to see how new mediums can shift my way of translating ideas into a new visual language.”


Yimiao Liu: You Are/Were (Still) A Gift (Copyright: Yimiao Liu, 2020)


Yimiao Liu: To Catch A Feeling (Copyright: Yimiao Liu, 2021)


Yimiao Liu: The New York Times Commission (Copyright: The New York Times, 2021)


Yimiao Liu: Moon Hill (Copyright: Yimiao Liu, 2020)


Yimiao Liu: Emotions Sway (Copyright: Yimiao Liu, 2020)


Yimiao Liu: Cocktail Hour (Copyright: Yimiao Liu, 2021)

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Yimiao Liu: Eve's Apple and Infinity (Copyright: Yimiao Liu, 2020)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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