A Bold Dreamer From Xinjiang, Atlanta-based Illustrator Bingjie “BJ” Cui

Born and raised in Xinjiang, China, a city known for its cultural diversity, Bingjie “BJ” Cui is heavily influenced by ethnic aesthetics and the local spirit. The interesting jump between her ‘rational’ background in science and ‘emotional’ thinking in art allows her to create artwork that are corresponding to the literacy and texts. 

She creates most of her work digitally, taking inspiration from daily life, social phenomenon, and literature. Bold colors, whimsical elements, and visual puns reveal her passion for visual communication through powerful images.

Reflection, Digital, 2022

Thank you for joining us, Bingjie. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in Xinjiang, China, a city known for its cultural diversity. I currently work as a freelance illustrator- Shanghai and Atlanta are the two major cities I base most.

I was a science student at the beginning. I found myself full of flashed whimsical ideas about life moments and social phenomena. I like literature and get interesting ideas from reading and thinking. I got my first graduate degree from UGA in urban planning. Working on some urban design projects inspired my deep yearning for art. Similar to urban design which uses design philosophy to solve problems, I found illustration attractive in connecting people with powerful visual languages and evoking their thoughts, then I went to SCAD for another graduate degree. The transitions in my background from science to design, then to art shaped my creation. I take the interesting jump between my ‘rational’ background and ‘emotional’ thinking as the treasure for creation. I want my illustrations to be connected with my audiences, whether in thinking or visual joy. 

In Paradise, Digital, 2022
The Shanghairen, Digital, 2022

What ideas are you exploring in your creative practice?

I love to explore the inner meaning behind social phenomena and speak for diversity with my art language. I like the way that art leaves the audience with open thinking. Born and raised in Xinjiang, China, I’m heavily influenced by ethnic aesthetics and local spirit. Most of my works are inspired by films, taking inspiration from daily life, social phenomenon, and literature. I like to explore a way to connect with my audiences and create a ‘thinking wonderland’ for them with my work- shaped by visual puns, whimsical elements, and bold colors. I see my work as a way of connecting to my audience and sharing a collective mood with their inner world. As above about my hometown- a province known for its diversity, I also want to explore a way of speaking for the culture and identity diversity in my creative practice.

Juicy Joy, Digital, 2022

Do you have a mentor or piece of advice that influenced your practice?

I would say, Huang Hai – his design philosophy and unique art movie posters are widely known in the advertising industry, which has always inspired me to branch out in connecting my artwork to audiences and exploring the power of visual communication. From my personal practice, I would say, don’t be afraid to draw your ideas down, even if it’s just some flash thoughts. Keeping a sketchbook with a collection of fragmented thoughts would someday brighten up your creative process – you would never know how it triggers your creative moments. 

Birth, Digital, 2022

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

As an illustrator, I see ‘community’ as a group of people who share common interests and feelings under certain circumstances. I’m always appreciated for being in this community, where people share thoughts through artwork, celebrate life moments with visual language, and more importantly, connect to each other through art. Also, the community lets us do something that recognizes ourselves on the inside, not the outside. 

The Wizard of Oz, Digital, 2022

Do you have any advice you would like to share with others?

It’s never too late. I wouldn’t say my jump from the ‘rational’ background in science to ‘emotional’ thinking in art was obstacle free, but I’m forever thankful for myself to be brave enough to take these challenges and follow my heart. I see passion as one of the most important triggers in creation, so if you have a passion for art, be appreciated and take action. Maybe it’s not like what it shows at the moment, but in the future, you’ll see how it leads to where you are now. 

Three Billboards, 2022

text & photo courtesy of Bingjie “BJ” Cui

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