Enter the futuristic, vaporwave dreamland of illustrator Yu Cai

Originally trained as an oil painter, the Hunan-based artist has now ditched the paintbrush for her trusty iPad.

22 August 2022


Yu Cai’s work is completely and utterly hectic – in the very best way possible. Like entering a feverish, futuristic dreamland, her works look freshly plucked from a hi-tech arcade console.

Despite being trained in traditional oil painting methods, it was when stumbling across one specific style that Yu’s perspective on art completely changed: vaporwave. “I felt like I’d found a home,” she says, “as all the elements and colours that I already loved were present in this aesthetic.”

Using her iPad and her distinctive colour palette – luminescent greens, neon pinks and eclectic blues – Yu creates work that reflects modern urban life, “where the pace is fast, efficiency is paramount, and anxiety and stress come unexpected”. But, nestled within her drawings are moments of calm, like reading on a rooftop, journaling and listening to music. She imagines alternative ways for us to live in this modern landscape.


Yu Cai: Sky Mall, Gear City (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)


Yu Cai: Teahouse in the Sky (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)


Yu Cai: Our Homes, High in the City (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)


Yu Cai: Sky Square (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)


Yu Cai: Home on a Mountain (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)


Yu Cai: Sky Arcade (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)


Yu Cai: Dream Catcher (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)


Yu Cai: Spring in the City (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)

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Yu Cai: Clockwork City (Copyright © Yu Cai, 2022)

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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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