Interview with Loreli's newest curator, Angela Li, via email June 7th 2016
AL: A lot of your illustrations have a very charming ‘slice of life’ appeal. How do you go about making those moments seem organic and authentic on paper?
FF: Mainly for two reasons. 1, I make drawings about me and my life. And I embrace the imperfections both in my brush stroke and life. 2, I use a brush or brush pen to draw, the tool itself gives off an organic feel.
AL:You have made a series of women of different ethnicities generally in traditional costume yet the flowers in these works contain the most Chinese calligraphy influenced brushwork that I've seen in your pictures. How does this series reflect your ideas of gender and your own sense of identity?
FF: I have been thinking about the definition of gender a lot since I took a women’s studies course during undergrad. I had a lot of trouble identifying myself with “woman” growing up. And it wasn’t until recent years that I learned to appreciate femininity and women’s power in general. Through this series of portraits I aimed to express my affection and admiration towards femininity. These portraits are based on a group of close friends of mine. I just wanted to show how beautiful and powerful they are to me despite their own opinions on themselves. So I added a lot of fantasy elements to them. In the process of making these, I’m fueled with energy and warmth because it takes beauty to see beauty.
AL: Let’s talk about this piece of work:
There’s a trend on the #interwebz nowadays celebrating self-deprecation and the broadcasting of a purge of intense emotions by an individual. How do you relate to this? is there an equilibrium between finding catharsis for yourself and jabbing at the absurd norms to which we’re subjected?
FF: I think self-deprecation is both inevitable and manageable. The reason I made this zine is because I want to stay true to myself, and my audience. My mother suffers from severe depression and it had affected me more than I’m aware. On one hand, I’m very content and have a good control on my emotions. On the other hand, when I feel depressed, it always seems to hit me heavier than happiness. Some days I will feel paralyzed and stay in bed all day and drop all plans. And the only way for me to “talk” myself out of it is to stare straight at it by illustrating it. Only then, “I” will have nowhere to hide. I think make art about depression is important. I always try to be humorous about it too.
AL: How was your experience studying art in Connecticut? Do you think art is taught differently due to geographical differences?
FF: My college education basically shaped how I am right now as a person and artist. I had some of the best mentors and artist friends one can ask for in life. The program had taught me the tools of becoming an artist. I have never studied art on a college level in China so I can’t make a fair comparison. But from what I have seen, I think art is taught differently for sure. It’s not just art though. It’s more about the mindset that one brings to art making. From personal experience, I spent half of my college unlearning, undoing what I was taught in China, in order to take in new information.
AL: 你在 Connecticut 学画是一种怎样的经历？你觉得在不同的地方，艺术教学有什么区别吗？
AL: Your project, Fei Fei’s Diary, manages to capture some very raw moments in your life - it’s certainly more than an Instagram-esque documentation of your day-to-day experiences. What’s the story here? How did it come about?
FF: The story began with that one time when I was depressed and had a creative block. I wanted to commit to a project that runs longer than a day. And I want to make something contemporary and relevant to my life. I was obsessed with Sequential the app, buying and reading graphic novels all day long. I stumbled upon Noah Van Sciver’s More Mundane and was so inspired by it. It’s a diary filled with not-so-well-drawn-drawings. It made me realized that I won’t get better by waiting to make a book, I will get better by making and finishing a book. I was so empowered because I realized that I could make art with the skills I got right now, right here. So I started to draw diaries in my sketchbook, and I did get better with craft and story telling skills. Due to the nature of it, I want to replicate my days as real as possible, so I rarely make up anything, but I did change some of the names though, to protect their identities..
AL: 你的作品， “Fei Fei’s Diary”，完整的捕捉了你生活中一些很真实很原始的时刻 – 它没有运用Instagram上那种以流水账的方式去记录生活。这个的由来是什么呢？有什么故事吗？
FF: 故事的开始是有一次我感到挺犹豫的，遇到了灵感障碍。我想把自己投入到一个能做的比一天长的一个组品，一个比较现代，跟我的生活有关联的作品。我当时Sequential (一个app) 特别上瘾，整天在那上面看漫画小说。我无意中发现了 Noah Van Sciver 的 More Mundane (日常)，让我有了很多灵感。More Mundane 以日记的方式展示他的很多不是很完美的画。这让我发现我不能一直等着我画的更好的时候再去做一本书。反而，我可以通过从头到尾画一本书来让我画得更好。我突然充满了很多力量和自信。我发现了以我现在的能力，我已经在这一刻就可以做自己的艺术了。然后我就开始在我的画本里画日记，我真的一点点学会了如何去更好的去画，去讲一个故事。因为这个东西是个日记，我想让它真实的反映我的每一天，所以我也很少会加虚构的元素进去。我倒是改过故事里的一些人名，来保护朋友的隐私。
AL: I for one think that presenting the raw form of an event in your life to an audience takes a lot of balls. Do you relate to that at all with this project, and if so how?
FF: Thank you, I think it is a very important question to ask. It does take a lot of courage to fully expose my life in such detail. But I think that’s the beauty of art. As soon as the ink hits the paper, the character no longer belongs to me. It belongs to the audience and the void. When I draw myself out, it’s not “me” anymore. It’s some twenty-something-girl who lives in a metropolitan. And my role is to document and illustrate the things happen in her life. I used to be self-conscious and full of self-deprecation. I was so scared of what people might say when I draw myself in different stories. I feared the judgments. But surprisingly, I got 100% positive feedback from my readers. They appreciate my honesty in storytelling and the ability to expose emotional vulnerability. I don’t want to hide anymore. I choose to not feel guilty about who I am and what I do. I choose to be honest and true to myself. I found out that the “fear” in me was caused by ego, not me. My ego is always judgmental, mean, fearful, and harmful to my mental health. By going the ego’s opposite way, I’m taking over the power by exposing my fear (ego). Therefore free myself from it.
FF: 谢谢，我觉得这个问题应该被回答。去以这种方式展示我生活中的一些细节确实需要一些勇气，但我觉得这也是艺术的美。当墨碰到纸时，这个人物就已经不是我的了。它是虚空中的，也是所有看它的人的。当然在纸上画出我的时候，我就已经不是“我”了，而是一个大城市里二十左右的女孩儿。我所做的只是去记录和描述这个女孩儿的生活。我以前挺缺乏自信的。我很怕别人对我在不同故事里画自己有各种的意见。我害怕他们可能会说什么。让我挺惊喜的是一直到现在我只从读者那里得到了正面的反馈。他们喜欢我故事里的真实和我毫无保留的表现自己情感上脆弱的一面。我不想再躲避了。我选择不去为自己的所作所为而解释。我认识到我身体里所谓的恐惧完全来自我的自负。我的自我总是苛刻的，刻薄的，害怕的 – 这一系列的情感都在伤害我的精神健康。一旦我跟它分道扬镳，一旦我展现出我的恐惧和自我，我其实就占了上风。然后我就彻底自由了。
AL: You manage to blend the raw and the naiveté into visual stories that could otherwise be mundane. How did you find this voice?
FF: I’m glad you can find a voice in my work. Maybe I’m too close to it to realize my voice. I think you just summed up me. I’m a mix of raw and naivete. I love my fellow homo sapiens. (is that a weird thing to say?) Truly, I love humans, as a species, I adore them like s’mores on a stick. I just want to hug every human and tell them how beautiful they are. The stories I make are the way they are, because my work is always a reflection of my environment and me. When you draw mundane, it will no longer be mundane. Like Andy Wahol’s soup can on a canvas.
FF: 我很开心你可以在我的作品当中察觉的我的声音。可能因为我跟这个东西太亲密了，我都无法指出我自己的声音是什么。我觉得你刚才完整的概括了我。我很爱我的同类，我的人类们（这样说挺奇怪的的吧？）真的，我爱人类这个物种，像我爱拿着一个串烤S’mores一样。我想拥抱每一个人，然后告诉他们他们有多美。我的故事就是我身边的人，因为我的作品总是反映着我所在的环境和我自己。当你画出“日常”时，它就已经不只是无聊，不只是空虚的了。就像Andy Warhol的金宝汤罐头一样。
AL: How did you find your artistic style and medium? Especially the visual novel format on which your Diary project is based.
FF: Although I’m very experimental, my primary tool has always been ink. I struggled with it for a long time in college, because I was eager to try something new. I tried micron pens from 005 to 3, acrylic painting, and mechanical pencil, etc. I always go back to ink. Maybe it’s because I studied Chinese calligraphy for 3 years when I was in elementary school. I guess the influence never left me. In the diaries I choose ink as the primary medium is because I need something definite and quick. I can’t afford to spend 2 days to color it with paint. I need something bold.
AL: 你是如何找到你的风格和你的平台的呢？尤其像你的 Diary 作品里的视觉故事这种方式？
FF: 虽然我非常喜欢实验各种东西，我一直以来用的最多的工具还是墨水笔。我在大学时跟墨水笔有点儿波折，因为我当时特别想试试其他的东西。从005到3的 micron pens到亚克力，再到自动铅笔，我都试过了。但是我总是回到用墨水。可能是因为我在小学时学了三年书法，一直影响着我到现在吧。我的diary主要采用了墨水，因为我需要快和准。我没办法花两天的时间去用颜料上色。我需要能跳出来的东西。
AL: Your Insta description says “full-time illustrator, part-time alien.” Does one serve the other? How are those two identities balanced?
FF: Yes. I often get this feeling that I’m not from this planet. So I find my surrounding very intriguing. I enjoy being an observer and outsider. That definitely helps my illustrations because I’m sensitive to visual details.
AL: Anything else you wanna say?
FF: I want to be a redwood when I grow up.
FEI FEI (b. 1993, China) makes drawings, prints and mixed media artworks. By documenting her daily life in the on-going visual diary series, FEI FEI tries to understand and articulate her life as a twenty-something contemporary Chinese female artist. Her work deals with identity, sexuality and the active effort of being present. FEI FEI’s work has been exhibited mainly in the US, including The Museum of American Illustration (NYC) and Benton Museum of Art (CT). When she’s not drawing, she finds comfort in reading sad memes on Instagram.