Illustrator Yuxing Li loves to dance, and often feels that there should be more similarities made between the practice of drawing and getting up on your feet. “I am fascinated by dancing,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I love the energy in a room when people move around. I want to have the same energy when making images.”
It’s a practice Yuxing’s managed to upkeep to date, working primarily in creating collaged illustration pieces where perspective is used to make bold movements. Bringing her practice back to dancing again, the illustrator adds that when she approaches an image she at first warms up, “and always considers how they interact with each other.” An all-consuming way of illustrating, just like dancing Yuxing adds, “it’s so easy to forget about time.”
Although it may seem as if Yuxing’s signature style has always been part of her, it’s taken a little while for the illustrator to settle on this collaged approach. Always a lover of drawing and creating things, when she moved to Germany as a child, “images became even more important for me,” she recalls. Always holding “pictures and memories in my head,” Yuxing studied graphic design and illustration in Dusseldorf, Essen and Hamburg respectively, to further explore these narratives in her mind. Learning about the “methods of printmaking, bookbinding, and the entire world of image-making,” she settled on a practice which pulls from real life joyfully.
Settling on collage as her primary medium also stems from how Yuxing would always make everything using analogue techniques right through to university. “Even in typography class I would make cut out letters instead of using digital programmes,” she explains. “It was quite inconvenient, but I loved making things with my hands.” At this time Yuxing was also zooming in on drawing from moments in her life, deciding to “combine the cut out shapes with the more loose lines that I loved,” she says.
Now her practice is as follows: first, Yuxing will sketch out an idea, while making coloured sketches to figure out composition and further details. She’ll then cut all the shapes from a bunch of coloured papers, sometimes working completely digitally after these steps are taken. “I always leave room for play, and try not to be too strict with the sketch,” she adds. The flatness in the illustrator’s work has developed from this approach too, describing how her sensitivity towards colours and shapes leads to this perspective. “Of course, you can also feel a strong sense of ‘correct’ perspective in my work because I find most themes from real life. Also, I think the process of collage-making has influenced the way I approach perspectives, as I am building up an image piece by piece.”
In turn, Yuxing’s illustration practice simply makes us really very happy. Characters have such expression in just a few shapes and positions the illustrator whips up, silly in parts too. It’s a stylistic attribute that leads the viewer to make their own decision on what feeling the work might be alluding to. “I want the viewers to look at my work and enjoy it,” she says on this point. “I would describe my work as joyful, bright and relaxing. It’s simple and easy to understand. I use colour combinations that reflect a cheerful and calming feeling.”
Creating such consistently positive work is no easy task given the bombardment of bad news we’re regularly faced with at the moment, but Yuxing creatively and personally remains cheerful. “It was difficult to accept these uncertainties at first, but I think in any challenging situation there will be some form of a positive outcome,” the illustrator points out. “And the way I approach illustration has reminded me that, especially in difficult times, I have to continue making imagery that would bring joy, and hope that we can have a brief moment of relaxation.”
Yuxing Li (Copyright © Yuxing Li, 2020)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.