Their soft and vibrant touch is hard to resist, but there’s something eerie tucked in this cozy blanket. Peco’s artworks are puzzling and mesmerizing, like dreams that stick with you long after you’re awake.
Though she’s still in her beginner’s phase (Peco’s words, not ours!), this Chinese artist already strikes us as someone with a unique voice. Let’s hear it – in this week’s On The Spot.
Does your nickname, Peco, mean anything specific?
Peco is the main character of the Japanese animation and manga Ping Pong. He’s a passionate and talented table tennis player. I majored in computer science during my undergraduate years. After graduation, I made up my mind that I want to draw and decided to apply to an illustration MFA program. The animation Ping Pong gave me a lot of encouragement when I was preparing my portfolio and application. I wanted to be just like Pico, as passionate and persistent. But it turned out I didn’t become him – I became myself!
Where are you from and what does your studio look like?
I was born in a small town in China and now I live in Guangzhou.
I currently rent a 2b apartment and use the living room as my working space. It’s hard for me to maintain my life at the moment, so by the end of the year I’m planning to move to a smaller city with lower living costs. I hope my new studio environment will be more satisfying!
What’s your artistic path so far?
In 2017, I was lucky and got admitted to Maryland Institute College of Art for the two-year Illustration Practice program in the United States. For the first time ever I had access to so many art-related things. I treasured this chance so much and enrolled almost every course I was interested in within the credit range: ceramic, sound, live performance, contemporary drawing, etc. I was too obsessed with everything that surrounded me to focus on working on my career plan after graduation. I only knew I wanted to try and learn more and more rather than becoming a professional illustrator.
But after I returned to China, the current state of society pushed me to face the reality and think about my career development. I tried to work full time last year but felt too pressured and uncomfortable in an office environment. Here, it’s very common to put money and flattery before anything else.
I quit the job at the end of last year and went to my hometown to take a break. After the lunar spring festival, I was having a night walk on a small hill with some of my childhood friends when I said that I really hope more people could see and fall in love with my works. Everything that happened next was like a touch of magic.
The next day, I posted the drawings I created during the break on my Instagram. To my surprise, I got way more likes and followers than ever before. I still feel so lucky and grateful for each like I get! I know that some people say online things don’t really matter that much, but right now, it’s what encourages me and gets me motivated to keep creating.
I’m still in my beginner’s phase. Recently I tried to freelance and this year, I started my little web shop. My next step is to find a relatively easy part-time job in a smaller city, just to support my living and be able to spend the rest of my time creating more art, learning and trying new things!
The pastel color palette you use is really unique. How did you come up with it?
In most of my hand drawings I mix different techniques using Holbein gouache, different watercolors (I have a basic color set and I look for some special colors, like silver or fluorescent tones), Prisma colored pencils, and Pilot ball-pen. I don’t pick the color palette before I start a drawing, but patiently try and mix these materials together during the drawing process to keep the parts that touched me.
For digital drawing, I mainly use Procreate on my iPad. I like to use different layer effects to add the color – the results sometimes resemble a film with light leaks.
You perfectly nail down that dreamy vibe in all your pictures. What inspires you to create?
It’s a remix of how I feel about the many things happening around me.
I feel like we all have invisible tentacles that sense everything that is happening around them, and preserve emotions and feelings in the present moment. Those emotions and feelings, usually related to love, dreams, innocence, loneliness, and relationships – they are the main source of my creativity.
Your art seems very peaceful. Do you create with any special places or stories in mind?
I’m not really sure how to express it with words, but I always feel there’s a “core” in my heart that each of my works is in a dialogue with.
My past and my memory are also very important to me. I remember so many things! Often when I encounter something new – a smell, a sound, a word or a touch, a picture – it triggers me to think of things that exist in my memory. They connect to one another, and eventually all lead to that “core”.
Let me quote Sargon Boulus here, as his words say exactly how I feel about the past and memory. “Willingly or not, I keep going back and forth into the past.” “For me, the process of going back through memory is very important, back into those details that do not exist in anybody’s head but mine. Childhood, then, is a magical source that lies between shadow and light, so deeply embedded in the past that it is always possible to evoke it with new shadings that may fall into the realm of dreams.”
Besides drawing and painting, you also write poems. Do you illustrate them sometimes?
I wouldn’t illustrate them purposely. But I feel like all my works are about myself. They seem like the results of various memories intermingled, remixing with the moment when I was creating. So, all the drawings, poems, rhythms I made, they’re all probably connected in some way.
What are your other hobbies?
I love music so much! My favorite band is Fishmans and their live album album 98.12.28 男達の別れ is the best!
I’m also learning guitar now. Hope I can write my own songs soon!
What are some of your artistic dreams?
Well, in the last two years, I realized that art is not the most important thing under the sun. Not everyone has to be an artist, but everyone has to live. I hope I can gradually flesh out myself in dealing with the trivialities of life and becoming mature, not withered by the trivialities.
I want to face my life and live it creatively. In the meantime, I will keep creating, learning, and trying until the day I die!