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Xiaoguii Zhang

Xiaoguii Zhang

Meet illustrator and scene designer from Shanghai, Xiaoguii Zhang.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My pen name is Xiaoguii, which is the Chinese Pinyin of my Chinese nickname. I was keen on telling ghost stories when I was a student, so my friends jokingly called me ” Xiaogui “, which means “little ghost” in Chinese. I think it’s very interesting and I have been using it since then.

I was born in Fujian. I came to Shanghai with my parents when I was a pupil. After graduating from senior high school, I went to Wuhan to complete my four-year undergraduate courses, and then I stayed in Xiamen for two years. What I have learned during university had nothing to do with painting. I changed to become an illustrator as a result of my interest. It has been about four or five years. At the beginning of 2016, after deciding to become an illustrator, I returned to Shanghai and now I work as an illustrator and scene designer in an animation studio. Occasionally I’m also responsible for animation production.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I have lived in three cities. Among them, I spent most of my time living in Shanghai, which is definitely the most impressive city for me. Having stayed here for more than ten years, Shanghai is like my second hometown. It is a modern and diversified city with rapid development, convenient transportation, and numerous stores, so it is very convenient for people here. The art exhibition industry is also very developed in Shanghai. It often holds exhibitions of various scales. If you are fond of art, you don’t need to worry about where to go on the weekend.

 

Shanghai will make you feel that you have a vast space to become a unique individual and create different art.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

I think the greatest attraction in Shanghai is its inclusiveness. You can see the most modern look that a city can have, traces of history such as old Alley and Shikumen scenic spot, the latest popcorn movies, and various exquisite art exhibitions. Shanghai will make you feel that you have a vast space to become a unique individual and create different art.

The disadvantages are that it is too cold in winter and very hot in summer. It would be the best if spring and autumn with an appropriate temperature can be longer.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Modern, diversified, convenient

 

How did you start your career in art?

Although I have been crazy about painting since I was a child, it’s just a hobby and I have never considered working on it. During university, I majored in Editing and Publishing. My first job after graduation was about content review. After work, I regained my interest in painting and spent the weekends learning painting in the studio. It was at this time that I came up with the idea of switching to a professional illustrator. After working for one year, I resigned to concentrate on studying the painting basics such as sketch and quick sketch in the studio for a period, and then I started my career as an illustrator. Some people think that interest will disappear if you take it as your occupation, but I’m still very glad that I made this choice at that time. Although sometimes it is difficult for me to get up and sometimes I may feel irritable, generally I love my current job. For me, painting is a means of expression. As long as I have a passion for life and I have something to say, I will not stop painting.

 

As long as I have a passion for life and I have something to say, I will not stop painting.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

I feel that I’m very lucky. When I made the decision to resign from my stable job, my family was very supportive. They would not stop me from doing what I like to do. During the period between the resignation until I had a stable source of income, my brother bore the most costs of my life and study. During the study period, I sometimes felt confused about the future and wondered whether I could become an illustrator. At that time, my friends would give me a lot of encouragement. They thought it was very cool for me to pursue my dream bravely and hoped that I wouldn’t give up. The material and spiritual support of my family and friends were one of the motivations that made me insist on painting. I’m very grateful for their help.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I always hope that I can become a storyteller. At present, I’m also making attempts to create some illustration books, comics and animations. I hope I can create a great story. In addition, I also want to try producing some handmade works by using different forms, materials and media to draw, such as VR, pop-up books, embroidery, clay, photography and so on. In addition to painting-related fields, I also want to learn a musical instrument, cooking, and a new language. I wish these goals can be achieved one by one in the future.

 

I always hope that I can become a storyteller.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I really admire the painter Shaun Tan and hope to get the opportunity to communicate with him. There are many creators I like and admire, and I hope that I can stand with them as a better artist in the near future.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

There are a variety of females around me, and all of them are unique and interesting. Because of the change of career, most of my female friends are not engaged in creative industries. Some of them are financial analysts, journalists, editors, accountants, etc. The common point is that they are full of vitality, enthusiastic about life, and striving to do a better job in career and life. My mother is both traditional and modern. She often urges me to get married. At the same time, she supports me to have an independent career. What makes me proud is that the females around me have not lost themselves mentally, no matter they are married or not and no matter their job is ordinary or not.

 

There are a variety of females around me, and all of them are unique and interesting.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Many people I look up to are females. Many of my female teachers have helped me a lot in my growing process. For example, my Chinese teacher in senior high school often encouraged her students to express bravely and has offered me a lot of assistance, which she may not have realized. I built self-confidence at that time.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

The illustration industry is mainly based on works, which is more friendly to women than in many other industries. I think Shanghai is an open city, and people who are talented and have a lot of ideas can make a difference here. Currently, numerous females will face the conflict between a traditional family role and a career in their industry. I hope that after I get married in the future, I can insist on creating and steadily move towards the original goal without giving up a career for family.

 

My advice is to never stop learning new things, spend more time reading, experience life with concentrated attention, and enjoy painting while trying to improve the skills

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

My advice is to never stop learning new things, spend more time reading, experience life with concentrated attention, and enjoy painting while trying to improve the skills. In addition, I hope girls always remember to enjoy their meals, get enough sleep and insist on exercising.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Xiaoguii Zhang.

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