"A Cut" (2023), pencil illustration

This week we talk to Xinhe Zhao, an animator and illustrator who grew up in China. She is currently a master’s degree candidate at the Rhode Island School of Design. Zhao says she strives to record the evolution of her consciousness and feelings as an Asian woman still trying to find her place in society.  

“Lil Sherbert” (2023), excerpt from hand-drawn animation

“My works represent feelings of addiction, inferiority, loneliness, and the diminishing of love. These are all sensations that I commonly experience as a 25-year-old female, “ she says. “By using a bottom-up approach, I combine subconscious symbols and metaphors to present an exploration of interior worlds.” 

“Come and Adore” (2023), pencil illustration

Of her creative process, Zhao explains that every artwork is created by fine-tuning details and incorporating new ideas spontaneously, instead of planning everything from the outset. “The uncertainty of my artistic process stimulates my divergent thinking and inspires me to expand my mental horizons,” she says. 

“Vase Girl” (2023) pencil illustration

Zhao’s intention, she adds, is for her work to inspire women to embrace their fragility and love themselves.

“I prefer to express myself in an instinctive style that not only serves as an aeration of my anxiety, but also induces sensory perceptions from the audience,” she says. “Regarding the subjects for my artworks, I adopt the approach endorsed by Frida Kahlo: ‘I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best.’”

Lil Sherbert, excerpt from hand-drawn animation, 2023

See more of Zhao’s work on her website.

Nitin is a visual designer, gallery artist, and community arts activist. Past desk-oriented posts include: PBS, Digitas, K12, Inc., Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and Sesame Workshop International....

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