Jing Wei, Illustrator

We're so excited to share Jing Wei's thoughtful responses and colourful illustrations with you today. Jing was born in China, and now lives and created from Brooklyn, New York. Her work is now only fun, but each image is full of beautiful detail and personality. Thanks Jing! 

What do you do?

I am an illustrator. I make pictures for a living, and sometimes for fun.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

Stop checking in with what’s normal or popular, do things the way you want to do them.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

- When I was seven, my family and I permanently moved from China to the United States. If that didn’t happen, I probably wouldn’t be working in a creative field. In fact, I’d probably be a different person altogether!

- A little while after graduating, I decided to take freelancing more seriously and get a studio that was separate from my apartment. Doing that prompted a mental shift, and the investment really helped me get my shit together.

- Five years ago, I started freelancing for Etsy and it opened up a whole new direction for my work that I never could have imagined. I think I’ll always look back on the entire experience as one of tremendous learning and growth.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’m working on a couple of projects for Warby Parker and Google at the moment, and both have been really fun and loose. In addition to that, I’ve started a personal project that exists in a secret place on the internet, that I hope to keep contributing to and evolving throughout the year.

What is your dream project?

Anything that involves food and travel. Or even just one of those things. The term “dream project” is a bit heavy, and I think your idea of what that can be is constantly changing as you gain more experience. But if I were to name a couple of things, I’ve always had my eye on The Jaunt. It seems like an incredible opportunity to make a body of work that is free of restrictions. I’d also love to work on a long form project, like a book or series of pieces for a show.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

All of those things! I see a lot of women struggle to ask for the rates that they think they deserve. I think this is a huge problem, because to start, there’s very little transparency surrounding pricing in the freelance world. We should all be able to talk more openly about it so we can champion other women to not undervalue their work and time.

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

Q: How do you make your pancakes so fluffy? A: whip the egg whites first!

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I sleep with my eyes open. It’s incredibly terrifying for anyone who’s ever slept in the same room as me. There have been times when my friends have tried having a conversation with me, only to realize that I was totally not awake.

What places are important to you?

I’m probably my best self whenever I’m in a body of water. It could be a pool or a lake or an ocean. When you’re swimming or floating, you’re essentially forced to relax and not fight the current. I normally have a lot of anxiety, so that process of letting go is very therapeutic.

As for a more specific location, China is a very meaningful place for me. I was born there, and most of my family is there, but I don’t visit often. When I go, there’s usually a mix of feelings surrounding identity, and the tension between familiarity and being an outsider. Because of the lapse in time, every trip has been extremely different, but the experiences are always impactful.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

If you focus only on your failures, you’ll never move forward. I just heard that on Terrace House (don’t judge).

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

YES, absolutely 100%. I feel lucky to have some truly and inspiring and brilliant women in my life. This definitely started at an early age, because my mom has always supported me, even when I knew she didn’t agree with my decisions. Having that kind of foundation is something I could never take for granted. As I’ve gotten older, I look around and realize that most of my female peers are generally very kind and open people. Even though freelance illustration is primarily a solitary job, I don’t think it’s possible to completely go it alone. It’s important to be able to reach out to people when you need help, and have a network you trust and respect. I have several close lady friends who I can consistently count on, which makes this whole thing a lot easier.

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining? 

I remember the first time I watched Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. I was so struck by how much emotion I felt from such little dialogue and subtle storytelling. It was a moment where I was actively pausing to recognize how beautiful this piece of work was.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

Watching: I just finished The Leftovers, and now I have to balance it out with The Bachelorette.

Listening: Lately it’s been more podcasts than music, especially while I’m working. I love The Adventure Zone, which is basically a long rambling D&D game played by three dudes and their dad. I was also recently introduced to a podcast called Teen Creeps, where these girls analyze the plots of YA pulp fiction books from the 90s, like RL Stine and Sweet Valley High. It’s a pretty perfect premise.

Reading: Branching off podcasts, I’m also a big fan of audiobooks. I’m currently reading/listening to The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.

How can we find our more about your work?

I’m really bad at taking care of things, which includes animals, plants and social media. However, my instagram is something I’ve managed to update on a fairly regular basis. So that’s probably the first place you should look to see what I’m up to. My website is www.jingweistudio.com.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

Keetra Dean Dixon. She is just the best.