This week we will be talking to artist and illustrator Feixue Mei, who will be discussing her latest series of illustrations represent her reflection on people’s negative group behaviour, both online and offline. Looking at the idiocy of crowds, she is fascinated by pop culture, social media, cultural manipulation, language adaptation, and identity formation.
Image description: a landscape poster depicting 2 vivid illustrations. One on the left shows a large white figure covered in blue bird designs, walking through trees. The right depicts a group of people dressed in purple clothes all holding plant pots. Long pink tentacles bust out of each pot and wrap around each figure. Bold white text in the centre reads Feixue Mei, underneath in a smaller font reads @feixueue.
Can you briefly describe who you are and the kind of artwork you are currently making?
My name is Feixue Mei. I am an artist, illustrator, and designer from China and based in Missouri, US. I am fascinated by pop culture, social media, cultural adaptation, intimate relation, and identity formation. My work explores publications, illustrations, sequential arts, videos, installations, and performances. With a strong desire to communicate, I believe in Maximalism - the philosophy of “more is more.” Life is complicated; we have many identities when we grow up. Those identities and labels interact, struggle and fight with others and finally tell who we are. The usage of contrasting colours, illustration of multiple subjects, and narration of a long story all resemble my belief and introduce a world to the audience where they can forget their stress and own a new identity. I hold an MFA in Design with a concentration in Visual Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University. Now I am an Assistant Professor in Graphic Design at Northwest Missouri State University.
What drew you to a practice in illustration?
I have long been interested in pop culture, animation and comics. I enjoy making fan art for my favourite animations and comics. I think my life is a cycle of consuming pop cultural products, producing fan works related to them (usually illustration and comics), and doing research about interesting cultural phenomena in this context. I always want to include some metaphor and iconic imagery in my work, because I think they can make my work look deeper and more meaningful. I would like people to see my work, spend some time with them and reflect on them, I hope audiences can get something from my work.
Feixue Mei, Contagion, Digital Illustration, 2021
Image description: The digital illustration depicts a group of people dressed in purple clothes all holding plant pots. Long pink tentacles bust out of each pot and wrap around each figure.
You have described your work as being a reflection on people’s negative group behaviour. What interests you in this idea?
Before I started to create “The Crowd” series, I witnessed a cyber-bully of a celebrity, and this made me think of people’s negative group behaviour. So I use my illustrations to explore the idiocy of crowds. This series of illustrations represent my reflection on people’s negative group behaviour, 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 their sentiments. They follow each other. They judge for no reason.
Feixue Mei, Nightmare or Daydream, Digital Illustration, 2021
Image description: an illustration in a deep blue colour palette depicting a woman cowering in the top left hand corner. The scene if crowded with boxed screens depicting the same figure in different scenarios showing snapshots of her life as they tumble down the frame.
What is your process for creating a new illustration?
Usually, I see a phenomenon and think of the reasons behind it. Thinking of various elements related to the phenomenon to reflect my ideas, I love to incorporate symbolic imagery and metaphors. After I get the idea, I usually find some reference images online or from my own photography. Then, I sketch on paper and transfer the sketch to iPad or Tablet and draw it.
Your work involves elements of symbolic imagery. Is this important to include within your work?
Yes, symbolic imagery helps me to express my ideas in an indirect way. This is a great approach to make people spend more time with my work and think about the true meaning behind them. They are not just “look nice”, they are also meaningful and sometimes contain dark humour.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the creative community. How have you adapted to creating artwork and has it influenced or changed your approach?
I feel like my approach hasn’t changed a lot, because I always do digital illustrations. I only need an iPad or a Tablet. I feel like I spent more time online, since I cannot go out. But, I feel like my interest and approach to make work hasn’t changed a lot, since my interest is internet culture, online platform and fan-space.
Feixue Mei, Vase, Digital Illustration, 2021
Image description: a digital illustration depicting a large white figure covered in blue bird designs, walking through trees. At the top of the frame a key light sends a beam of light down on the figure. At the bottom of the frame 4 small figures use watering cans to water the ground.
Your work includes very surreal and otherworldly settings. What inspired you to explore this?
I love surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. Their works are very witty and thought-provoking, they often draw ordinary objects in an unusual setting and challenge observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality. I love striking and bizarre images in their works. I like the feeling that something looks like a dream but it is actually a reflection on reality. I am fascinated by blurring the boundary between the virtual world and reality.
Do you know what projects you will be doing next?
Now I am interested in idol culture in East Asia, I will probably make some images, comics or maybe videos related to this topic. In the context of globalization, cultural manipulation, and language adaptation, how does consumerism present in talent shows, and what’s the meaning behind this kind of TV show format. There are a lot of idol production shows in East Asia now, my next idea may be based on my reflection on these shows. How does the internet, fan-space, and shared online platforms shape cultural identity and idols' public personas?
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.