A Communication Design Portfolio

Category: Artist Biography

Artist Research Paper

A Look Into Digital Artist and Designer Yuumei and her Influence

Wenqing Yan A.K.A Yuumei

The artist chosen for this assignment is Wenqing Yan, who is better known as Yuumei to her fans online. Yuumei is a Chinese-American digital artist and designer who became popular in the early 2000s via the online art community DeviantArt. It was some years later when I, an awkward teenager who spoke more words to online trolls than to my own family at the time, found myself making an account in that same online community where I discovered her work. The work that captivated me was an illustration titled “Tape It Back Together” which depicted a young girl (who is presumably Yuumei herself) holding up a torn up drawing of her family that she had desperately taped back together followed with cleverly placed text that both tells and shows of the rift between the little girl’s torn up family. The illustration had struck a nerve within me because while my own family was nowhere near the physical separation depicted in her illustration, there had always been a divide that separated us from one another despite our façade of a happy family. The more I learned about Yuumei, the more I began to realize that “oh, I relate to her because she’s like me. There’s others like me out there. I’m not the only one suffering.” Her works helped me recognize my depression, which in turn prompted me to desperately work towards a better outlook in life lest I wish to spend my life wallowing in self-pity.

“Tape it Back Together”

The creative process is an interesting journey to explore because no matter which artist one might ask, the response for said process is always different from one artist to another. In the words of Yuumei, “Art is the language through which I interact with the world and with myself. It is a flurry of emotions, a stream of consciousness and subconsciousness. The creation process is also a journey of introspection. It helps me process and understand the events in my life, the society around me, and where I stand within it all.” For Yuumei, art is something that is closely linked with her emotions and outlook. In her retelling of her childhood, she explained that she created her first activist drawing titled “Selfish” when she had returned to China to visit her father. At the time, the government had issued an order for all dogs in the neighboring provinces to be slaughtered and had explained that it was done so as a precaution of rabies despite the fact that vaccinated dogs were not excluded from the tragedy that took place and despite the fact that the international free vaccines that were offered were refused. Yuumei’s activist drawing “Selfish” received countless responses from netizens who expressed that Yuumei’s art had “opened [their] eyes.”

“Selfish”

Due to a split in her family, Yuumei grew up in the care of her grandparents and spent the first nine years of her life in China where she had attended Chinese art classes that focused on realism. She eventually obtained her visa and traveled to America to live with her then single mother. Yuumei was at the center of a custody battle between a father who had one too many lucrative get-rich-quick schemes in China and a depressed and suicidal single mother in America. At the age of 12, Yuumei joined the online art community DeviantArt and began to garner much recognition there. Much of her work is influenced by nature, personal experiences, and the “beauty and complexity of life” in her words. She is known for her webcomic “Fisheye Placebo” and her participation in founding the Axent Wear company. Despite having a very apparent gravitation to illustration, Yuumei also practices sculpting, photography, design, and storytelling when she is not illustrating.

Yuumei’s Axent Wear Headphone Design

Much if not all of Yuumei’s works are created with purpose. She has previously described herself as both an activist and a lover of animals and nature, which is apparent throughout her works. One of her first activist drawings, “Selfish,” was done so in response to China’s choice to indiscriminately slaughter all dogs in her neighboring provinces. The positive response to this piece is what propelled her to continue her expressions of activism via her art. In her webcomic “Fisheye Placebo,” she tells the story of how the main character is roped into a conspiracy to expose the corruption of an authoritarian regime in a world overrun by extensive censorship. Despite this webcomic being vastly successful at first, it was eventually linked to the 2019–2020 protests in Hong Kong. As a result, Yuumei was spammed with hateful and negative comments over her social media platform which even led to her being temporarily shadowbanned on Instagram. Not once did Yuumei stand down, however. In fact, the artist, spoke up against the wumaos (internet commentators who are hired by authority figures in China to essentially manipulate the public opinion) who tried to discredit her, solidifying her stance in support of Hong Kong and earning the much approval from her growing audience.

Fisheye Placebo Panel

Yuumei’s art is inspirational and she has served as a role model for me from my early teenage years. As an introvert myself, I resonate with her thoughts on the creative process in that art is not just something to look at. It is a language, it is an expression of emotions, and it is something that can deliver a powerful message. Through her activist drawings, I had my eyes opened to the ugliness and cruelty of the world countless times. Through her art, I am encouraged to express my emotions in its truest forms. Rather than just inspiring me to be a better artist, I feel that Yuumei also inspires me to be a better person overall.

Works Cited

Yan, Wenqing. “About.” Yuumei Art, https://www.yuumeiart.com/about.

Yan, Wenqing. “Fisheye Placebo.” Yuumei, https://www.yuumeiart.com/fisheye-placebo.

Yan, Wenqing. “Selfish.” Yuumei, 13 Aug. 2006, https://www.yuumeiart.com/selfish.

Yan, Wenqing. “Tape it Back Together.” Yuumei, 6 Mar. 2009, https://www.yuumeiart.com/#/tape-it-back-together/.

Three Artists

The three artists who I have chosen to analyze for this project are: Zhao Xiao Li, Lindsey Stirling, and Yuumei.

Xiao Li Zhao is a Beijing-based artist who is known to take discarded furniture to turn into works of art. She began her work in 2014 under the username lemon_zhaoxiaoli and garnered massive attention on Instagram and Douyin (a video-sharing platform similar to Tiktok), having a total of 1 million followers on Instagram and 8.5 million followers on Douyin. Zhao finds inspiration from classical painters like Van Gogh to Art Curator Rongzhi Lu and studied painting alongside Ukranian Painter Mykhailo Guida. On both platforms, she uploaded videos of her process, showing the world how she throws her oil paints over her canvas without any reservation and consequently splattering it over the room as well as her clothes and hair in the process. Her form of art is not just the painting she produces. Rather, the entire process, the room, the music played in the video, her ruined dresses—all of it is a part of her form of art.

Lindsey Stirling is an American violinist who rose to fame after competing in the 2010 season of America’s Got Talent. Despite being told that she would not be able to become a successful solo-artist by the three judges and being voted off, Stirling came to prove each and everyone of their statements wrong and was eventually even invited back on the show to perform in the 2014 season of America’s Got Talent. While Stirling might be comparable to other EDM artists in terms of music, her form of art is not just the music played on her violin. Her form of art is the amalgamation of electronic dance, hip-hop, and classical music, which creates a performance altogether for her audience to experience. This is reflected amongst her education. Despite her obvious love for music, Stirling had gone to school for film rather than for music, which is where she draws inspiration for her art from, going so far as to come up with the idea for a video first before the song itself.

Yuumei, also known as Wenqing Yan, is a Chinese digital artist based in California. She spent the first nine years of her life in China where she had attended Chinese art classes that focused on realism and earned a bachelor’s degree in UC Berkeley’s heavily philosophical art program. She gained recognition via Deviantart in the early 2000s. According to her website, much of Yuumei’s art is influenced by nature, personal experiences, and the “beauty and complexity of life.” Despite having a very apparent gravitation to illustration, Yuumei also practices sculpting, photography, design, and storytelling via webcomics when she is not illustrating.

In terms of my reason for choosing these three artists, I can say that it is due to the constant present in their works: the expression of emotion. Xiao Li Zhao produces paintings in unrestrained emotion, not caring for the mess or consequence that comes from the creation of her art. Lindsey Stirling showcases her music in a theatrical performance that inspires the viewer to dance along with her. Yuumei’s illustrations are all purposeful and exist to inspire thought and emotion, be it sorrow or wonder, in the viewer.