Jiayue Li’s surreal illustrations spark sparks of thought and excitement

Originally from Chengdu, China, Jiayue graduated from the College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai. His passion for creating storytelling solutions using graphic design and illustration was reinforced by an MFA Design degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

With a self-proclaimed talent for “turning complex information into effective and impactful visual communication,” Jiayue has worked on brand identity for Pfizer, concept rebranding for Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and poster designs for short stories. features including Vultur, as well as projects for many other clients. Thanks to her keen sense of composition and virtuoso mastery of color and form, it’s no wonder that Jiayue won the Graphis Design Annual Gold Award and was shortlisted for the 100th ADC Annual Awards for her work as a drawing.






“I started learning to draw and practicing realistic drawing at a very young age, but found my true passion in drawing conceptual and surreal illustrations during my MFA design program at the School of Visual Arts of New York, ”Jiayue told Creative Boom. “I like to create surreal or abstract compositions with female characters, nature and mysterious objects.”

Choosing to work primarily with colored pencils on textured paper, Jiayue’s illustrations inhabit a mysterious world of their own. We see women emerge from puddles of misty water, camouflage themselves against a cloudy sky, even see their faces arranged in a slice of cake. It is an eerie and alluring wallet that is woven by Jiayue’s distinctive and gently drawn style.

“I would describe my style of illustration as surreal, elusive and insightful,” Jiayue adds. “I always try to create compositions that can ignite the sparks of thought and excitement, instead of just capturing the appearance of the subject.”







Besides being inspired by photography and nature, Jiayue’s biggest influence in fashion design. “One of my favorite fashion designers is Windows, who has such a unique style and crazy ideas for using colors and shapes on the human body, “she reveals. Fashion photographers such as Zhong lin, Leslie Zhang, and Cho Gi-Seok also informed his aesthetic thanks to their portraits with “simple but convincing compositions” and “strange” but harmonious colors “.

“In addition, I like the work of the Slovak illustrator Dušan Kallay who created beautiful images and compositions “eccentrically” with animals, human figures and imaginative color palettes. “







As a multidisciplinary designer, Jiayue agrees that her work as a designer nourishes and enriches her work as an illustrator. “Learning graphic design has certainly given me a better sense of composition and a broader way of thinking. For me, the practice of graphic design has trained me to focus on the combination of function and aesthetics. . “

While creating an illustration, Jiayue reveals that she spends a lot of time planning the idea and sketching out the composition before fine-tuning the details and defining the final coloring. This helps her create an image that communicates with her audience as strongly as possible.

“Also, as a graphic designer, being able to illustrate helps a lot when clients want to use illustrations in their projects,” she adds. “I learned a lot about conveying an idea through a little illustration in these projects.”







What these ideas ultimately mean is fortunately left to the viewer. Thanks to their deliberate ambiguity, Jiayue’s illustrations draw you in and invite you to collaborate on the themes they suggest. Far from being confusing, they help put you in the same dreamlike, meditative state that Jiayue created them in.












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