Illustration January 22, 2016
by Lauren Festa
It’s Illustration Month at the ADC and we’re featuring some glowing work from our ADC Members. Not a member yet? Resolve to become an ADC Member in 2016 while you sip green juices and join the community. Illustration Month is our chance to highlight ADC Members who consider themselves illustrators, whether professionals, students or just really keen amateurs. The common thread is that they have a passion for drawing that can’t be contained. Feifei Ruan graduated from the MFA Visual Narrative program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and currently lives and works in New York as a visual storyteller. Her work ranges from illustration to graphic design and can be seen in magazines, apps and product designs.
When did you kind of ‘discover’ your own talent and then later, turn it into a viable working gig?
Growing up as a kid, I always followed my interests without thinking where they would lead me. Realizing I was not interested in turning anything else into a viable working career, I kept creating pictures first as a self-indulgence, which eventually built itself up into a profession.
How long have you been an illustrator?
Around 5 years. I’ve been drawing for magazines since 2010.
Self taught? School?
My digital techniques are self-taught, but my drawing skills developed through school. Two years ago I joined the MFA Visual Narrative program at SVA and learned how to better use illustration as a visual storytelling tool.
Was a career in the arts encouraged from a young age?
Definitely. My parents expected me to be a dancer. Dancing almost broke my chin. I found drawing to be much safer. Nothing could be more comfortable than holding a pen. It just feels right.
Take us through your creative process.
For commissioned works, I will read the client’s stories first and then try to find appropriate ways to help them visualize their stories. The style and technique all depend on the content. When it comes to my personal project, I am usually tempted to draw a certain feeling that comes from my own experiences or my friends’ stories. The most challenging part is to find the right visual words for abstract topics. Once I figure this out, all the rest come together.
In illustrating, what are the tools you can’t live without?
What is one of the most exciting projects or a favorite one you’ve worked on or are working on?
My latest project – a 23 foot long mural commissioned by a storm-themed ramen restaurant. It was the biggest canvas I have ever faced and it was a challenging process. I was also very fortunate and grateful that my client entrusted me 100% with the illustration. We are very happy with the final product.
How do you describe your aesthetic?
I like the art that can “speak” for itself. It might has a meaningful content, an interesting composition, or just some powerful strokes. I enjoy reading these visual languages that artists use to communicate to the audience.
What is the biggest challenge about being an illustrator?
The biggest challenges for illustrators are the nuances that come with the business such as dealing with contracts, negotiating fees, promoting work. Being an illustrator more about running a business and drawing for part of the time.
What do you love most about it?
Illustration is a lifestyle for me that includes all I think is cool and love; it is using one’s interest to earn a living. It is so exciting to be a part of the illustration world and meet people in the industry who I enjoy spending time with.
Any dream collaborations or brands you’d like to work with?
I hope there will be more opportunities to work on space-related illustrations. The mural project surprised me in how much power an illustration could bring to a space. Collaborating with interior designers to build the environment was also a fun process. In the future, I wish to keep using illustration to create “experiences” for audiences.
Where is your favorite place to go/thing to do to get inspired?
Strolling at downtown Manhattan, sitting in a Brooklyn café, eavesdropping on strangers’ stories, observing weird people, analyzing dreams and nightmares, etc.
Any contemporary artists on your radar? (illustrators or other)
Tomer Hanuka, Nathan Fox, Chris Buzelli, Jeams Jean, Nicolas Delort, Hope Gangloff, Yuko Shimizu, Victo Ngai, Matt Rota, Mario Wagner, David Plunkert, Julian Callos… The list can go on and on.
For anyone considering illustration as a career or just something to try for curiosity, do you have any advice?
No matter what happens, always remember what kept you drawing since the beginning and keep that original passion in mind while moving forward.