1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
Hi! My name is Jiaqi Zhou and I am a freelance illustrator based in NYC. I am originally from Shanghai, China. At the age of 18, I moved to the United States for college and I spent 4 years in Richmond, Virginia, an artsy, hipster but peaceful city by the east coast. After graduation, I came to NYC to pursue my freelance illustrator career.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
It’s actually a very tough question for me. My aesthetic is always evolving and shifting through the years. I have embraced colors, shapes, patterns, textures into my illustrations but I also deeply attached to peaceful and poetic imageries.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
I work primarily in digital tools for commissions nowadays, but I still like to get my hands dirty and to experiment with traditional media for my personal works and sketchbook doodles. For me, the simple joy of touching the paper and pigment could never be replaced by digital tools. It could be frustrating sometimes but when the unexpectedness occurs during the process, it is always fascinating and inspiring to me. I enjoy the combination of gouache and color pencils the most.
4. What is your artistic process like?
I usually start with doodling really roughly the ideas I got on my sketchbook. In this phase, I would not worry about how pretty the drawing is. It’s just for the ideation purpose. After I got the composition that I’m happy with, I would jump into digital tools to develop a more understandable sketch and to render it in colors and with more details for the final. During the process, there is always a bit of changing and back and forwards.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I would say everything I experience, watch, read, listen to and even the people I met. Fortunately, NYC is such a great place for experiencing all the ups and downs.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
I am grateful for having the experience of studying art in college since I born in a very traditional and typical Asian family and my parents have nothing to do with the creative field. It totally changed my ways of seeing the world, I started to appreciate the beauty of every ordinary.
7. Where did you study?
I got my BFA in Communication Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Honestly, I don’t have a strict plan for my career path that I have to follow. But hopefully, I could keep evolving my personal voice in art and would able to fully support myself with works that I got excited about. It would also be nice if I could have some cross-disciplinary collaborations and maybe a cozy studio space in the near future.
Or maybe I would combine my interests in illustration and urban dance and do something about it in five years?
9. What about in ten?
Ten years seems so far but hopefully, I could finally find the balance between work and life. (It could be very challenging for a freelancing lifestyle.) I would like to give myself more free time to read and travel.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I hope I could keep illustrating and get better with the atmosphere and subtleness in my artwork.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
It’s too hard to pick a favorite one but all kinds of Asian fusions are definitely on my top list!
And coffee is my best friend.
12. Favourite book?
I have too many favorites. I just finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley recently, a classic dystopian novel everyone should give it a try.
13. Favourite genre of music?
All kinds of music, it totally depends on my mood of the day. Indie Pop is possibly on my playlist most frequently. I’ve been addicted to Sunset Rollercoaster, Hyukoh, and Mac DeMarco for a while.
14. What are your hobbies?
I love traveling, watching films, reading, visiting museums and botanical gardens! Most recently, urban dance has been my emerging new hobby.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
Maybe a writer, a musician or a dancer if I got the talent.