Meet the Artist Behind VisArts’ Anime-Inspired Spring 2023 Class Catalog

February 07, 2023 News

VisArts’ Spring 2023 class catalog has dropped and people are buzzing about the vibrant artwork gracing its cover. The anime-inspired illustrations were created by Feixue Mei, a Missouri-based illustrator from China.

Mei’s creative practice and research explore internet culture, animation, comics, Surrealism, Chinese folk decorative art, and maximalism. In her work, she seeks to free symbols and visuals from their original contexts and put them into new narratives.

Feixue was one of over 40 artists who applied to illustrate one of four seasonal covers of VisArts’ 2023 class catalogs. Using her signature Anime style, Feixue created one of VisArts’ most coveted covers yet. Here, Feixue speaks about the inspiration and process that went into designing VisArts’ Spring 2023 class catalog.

VisArts: What inspired you to start illustrating?

FM: When I was a little girl, I spent most of my time watching animation and reading manga. This is the very beginning of my love of illustration and image-making. I also draw my own comic books, create my own stories and share them online.

VisArts: Can you tell us what inspires your work?

FM: I create conceptual, iconic imagery, and rich narrative details. My work explores publications, illustrations, sequential arts, videos, installations, and performances. Internet culture, animation, comics, Surrealism, and Chinese folk decorative art are among the influences that shaped my intricate style.

VisArts: How did you get involved with the Featured Illustrator program at VisArts?

FM: I saw this opportunity on Instagram, so I submitted my portfolio and got selected. I really like this project. There are not a lot of limitations, I have a lot of freedom to create illustrations. It was very fun!

VisArts: What goes into your creative process?

FM: Usually, I would start by creating a mind map, writing down some keywords, and trying to generate some ideas. Then, I’d type those ideas into the search bar and get some images. After gathering some relevant images and inspirations, I start to make thumbnails and sketches. I then choose my favorite ideas and start to work digitally.

VisArts: What was the inspiration behind the 2023 Spring catalog design?

FM: The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is a great place that helps children and adults explore their creativity and make great art. It is a good art education institution. When I think about education, I relate it to loops and something that goes on and on and never ends. Because we educate art lovers and they make great work, the great work they make inspires other art lovers and helps to educate the next generations. Art education is a never-ending process, and I wanted to express this idea visually. In my illustrations, printmakers make prints of other printmakers; designers use images of other designers’ workspaces to make their own projects; artists draw people who are painting their own artworks, etc.

VisArts: What do you love about illustrating in this style?

FM: In this project, I used a lot of round lines for the illustrations, because I wanted to create a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. The Visual Arts Center in Richmond is a very diverse and inclusive place where all art lovers can have fun learning and playing. I think this soft line and color convey the idea very well.

VisArts: What past projects are you most proud of and do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

FM: I had an interesting project called “The Crowd” in the past, in that project I explored the idiocy of crowds. A series of illustrations present my reflection on people’s negative group behavior, both online and offline. An individual immersed for some length of time in a crowd soon finds oneself either in consequence of magnetic influence given out by the crowd or from some other cause of which we are ignorant. They are impulsive and irritable. They exaggerate the sentiments. They follow each other. They judge for no reason.

Currently, I am working on a project called “Escape”. Inspired by the “boys’ love” manga in Japan, which explores how authors and readers work within and against the local heteronormative paradigm in the exploration of alternatives. These stories are about fantasy intimate relationships between two male characters. They are produced by females and created for female readers. The characters in BL works function in the construction of readers’ and authors’ sense of sexual subjectivity and identity. This genre liberates readers not only from patriarchy but from gender dualism and heteronormativity. This is a cultural, entertaining play that transcends the geographical boundaries of media platforms. Viewers will ponder how they perceive and deal with situations where their desire for a new gender order ends up objectifying and otherizing other marginalized groups. The project will also address the multi-layered relationships between men and women, and between straight and non-straight, and seeks to help viewers differentiate themselves from existing heteropatriarchal paradigms.

Feixue Mei’s work has been recognized by multiple national and international publications and she has chaired and presented at numerous international conferences. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Fanny Fox Decker Gallery at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Palazzo Bembo in Italy, and Nanyang Technology University Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore.

She previously taught at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCUarts) and is currently an assistant professor in Graphic Design at Northwest Missouri State University.