Illustrator of the Day: Ping Zhu

ADC Young Guns winner describes her style as "Charley Harper and Isamu Noguchi’s love child"

November marks Illustration Month here at ADC. While our gallery will play host to an incredible exhibition this Wednesday, here on the ADC blog we will follow in the footsteps of our well-received Photographer of the Day feature this past summer. This time, we will shine a spotlight on the many illustrators who are also ADC Members. Some are professionals, some are students, and some just draw for fun. And to kick the month off, our Illustrator of the Day is also a successful ADC Young Guns winner!

pingzhuPING ZHU

Brooklyn, NY, USA
626 566 0604


Almost every kid likes to draw. When did it become more than just a kindergarten project for you? How was that interest nurtured?

I started taking drawing lessons around 12 years old because I wanted to be around my friends who had signed up for the course. Eventually they moved on to other things but drawing had opened up a channel for me. My point of no return was around 16 or 17 when I started realizing that people do this for a living, and somehow I’ve wandered to where I am now by making loads of mistakes and trying not to commit them a second time. 

How much of your ability is self-taught versus through schooling?

My ability to draw was learned through schooling by different teachers from different backgrounds. The first drawing classes I took was all taught by Chinese draftsmen who had a different education (and only spoke to me in Chinese), and their focus was not on concept in any way but rather technical ability. In college my instructors were all of Western backgrounds who were also focused on the technical side of things, but it was also the time when concept had to be integrated with the image. The self-taught part of my work is probably just following instincts.

How would you best describe your illustration style? Would you say that you had a specialty?

Graphic yet gestural. Flat yet dimensional. Charley Harper and Isamu Noguchi’s love child? I work by hand and appreciate the natural flow of mistake making. The style is supported by the medium and I try to get along with it rather than fight against it.

I’m not sure if it’s a specialty, but I feel that the most alive doing editorial work. It’s very immediate and based on your database of metaphors, like a test of your reflexes. I admire comics very much but I’m definitely on the sidelines rather than in the playing field.

“…I feel that the most alive doing editorial work. It’s very immediate and based on your database of metaphors, like a test of your reflexes.”

What’s your weapon of choice? Any particular brands or models you swear by?

Gouache has a flatness that reminds me of printmaking but also can exist like watercolor. It’s a strange medium that can be finicky depending on weather (like hair) but I like wrestling with it. 

Finish this sentence: “Despite what you might think, illustration is not _______ .”

 Illustration is not about illustration.

What other artistic passions do you have?

I would say it’s more because of necessity rather than passion: to go outside and do something that is unrelated to illustration for maintaining balance and perspective.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

That my way of translating and explaining what’s around me in drawn- form actually has an audience, and they aren’t throwing tomatoes at me… yet.