Express In the Pictorial Space, Atlanta-based Illustrator Jessie Lin

Jessie Lin is a freelance illustrator and translator from China. Currently, she is studying MFA in Illustration at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She received recognition from 3×3 Illustration, Creative Quarterly, Adobe Design Achievement Awards, Applied Arts, etc. Her main focus includes children’s books, book covers, editorial, etc. She works with both traditional and digital media, and teaches watercolor skills. In her spare time, Jessie loves to cook, travel, and read. She also plays a little bit Ukulele. And she is a cat lover!

Reunite, Watercolor & Colorpencil & Digital, 2019

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m an illustrator from China, and I am now a second-year MFA Illustration student at SCAD, Atlanta. I freelanced about 3 years before I came here. 

Art hasn’t always been part of my life as it should have. I had to give up drawing since junior high school even though I love it, as my parents didn’t think I could make a life out of it. As a result, I chose to study business in college just as everyone else did back then, for a “better” job. I worked first as a translator, then a purchasing manager. Until I was almost 30 years old, I decided that it wasn’t the life I wanted. I picked up my pencils and brushes again and started a sideline. About a year after that, I thought I was ready, and quit the job. Studying here is to help myself get better in the field and to help building my dream more effectively. 

Risk return balance, Digital, 2019

What ideas are you exploring in your practice? Is there a theme you are currently addressing?

I love the narrative attribute in illustration, and that could be either the basic idea of an article expressed in an editorial piece, or a story told in the form of a children’s book. For me, anything that tells a background story is interesting, and could be more so when different audience interprets it differently. Reflecting the real world and nature of human has always been my preference in my personal work. Recently I did a theme on reality. The unsettling situation around the world since the beginning of 2020 has made me question and rethink a lot of things. Sometimes it feels so surreal and that all these are happening in the novel of Garcia Marquez. I guess I was a bit depressed during the time I created this theme. But drawing is my way of speaking, and I often feel a lot better after it’s done. It is a relief to see what I need to say is expressed in the pictorial space. 

Reality1, Digital, 2020

You’ve been very active during the past few years. What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far?

I guess the most exciting thing was the commission work for Guomai on the Little Prince picture book Chinese Edition last year. The Little Prince is one of my favorite stories, and I was so pleased to have the chance to illustrate it. The schedule was quite tight and I did in total 37 spreads of illustrations in 4 months, while I still went to classes and finished the daily assignments of my MFA program. I worked closely with my editors and we formed an efficient team. It was a super challenging but very rewarding experience. The book was published last July in China, almost the same time as my other book on watercolor technique. I flew back during summer vacation and did a lot of promotional events for these two books. 

What does “community” mean to you? How do you see yourself in a community?

Honestly, I’m not a very social person. Most of the time I stay in my studio and draw, or read, or cook. Most of my “human interaction” happens virtually, so it is more of an online community for me. I guess I feel more safe and comfortable chatting with others online, especially with someone I’m not familiar with. I often spend a lot of time browsing social media platforms, looking for new artworks, stories, and news. Although my version of the community might be limited compared to others, it is still a life source for me, which triggers my creation. And I would also be delighted if I could provide the same in the other direction. 

City Views Tea Can Mockup, Digital, 2020

What are you working on right now?

I‘m close to graduation by this time, and I’m working on my thesis project, which is a picture book based on a story I wrote. It is about finding who you are and your place in the world.

Is there any advice you would like to share with others?

I think each and every individual has his/her own path, and I’m not sure whether it is my position to give advice. I can only say that if you are in a similar situation as I once was where you want to change your way of life, change your career, it is important to keep holding the idea of your dream and just do it. It might be difficult not to get affected by the environment, but your initial desire and interest will always be the light to guide you. As long as you want that dream strong enough, you will get there, sooner or later. There’s no hurry, and it would be better if you enjoy the journey.

Oliver Twist, Digital, 2019

text & photo courtesy of Jessie Lin

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