Illustrator Audrey He builds fantasy worlds out of love, beauty and dreams

Award-winning illustrator Audrey He has perfected a larger than life aesthetic that blends Western and Eastern cultures with traditional and trendy styles. The result is a fantasy world of her own imagination which she delights in sharing with readers and viewers.

The Shanghai and New York-based illustrator is a formidable talent who has graduated from Tsinghua and Cambridge University. Drawing on influences as wide-ranging as literature, psychology, and her degree in economics management, she has created illustrations for fashion brand Modern Beijing and various newspapers, books, and magazines.

Working digitally, Audrey tried to catch a feeling or a certain kind of atmosphere in her illustrations. "Colour is my best friend," she tells Creative Boom. "I try to remain more expressive by using hand-made brush strokes to convey emotions. I believe imperfect makes perfect."

Being born into a loving family who encouraged Audrey to chase her creative aspirations can clearly be seen in her work, with many critics describing it as optimistic, romantic and emotional. "My main inspirations come from either my knowledge and values of the world or my memories and feelings from earlier in life.

"And that's also how I like to build my 'fantasy world'. In short, the fantasy world in my illustrations is made of love, beauty, faith, dreams and hope. It is a high concentration of the best moments and brightest sides of our lives."

This doesn't mean Audrey is naively oblivious to the darker sides of life or that she wants to over-beautify them. Instead, she feels that these sombre feelings can be inferred from her art, whether it's a woman looking wistfully out of a window or a series of clouds drifting and changing shape overhead. "I just try to remain detached and restrained," she explains. "I try to see the world as it is and to love it."

She adds: "We all experience ups and downs, but we never give up hope. I always cherish my life and the world, and I hope my artworks can be soothing and healing to both readers and myself, especially when we suffer."

Armed with a way with words and a keen eye for art, Audrey has three metaphors that she uses to help process thoughts and feelings during times of suffering. The first is that thoughts are like clouds, which explains their recurring appearance in her illustrations. "Sometimes too many clouds make temporary gloom," she explains.

"But if we just sit on a bench in a garden leisurely and patiently, watching them coming and going without any judgement, we would find that the crystal clear sky is always there after clouds have drifted away."

Secondly, she claims that thoughts are just like a wild horse. "To tame and calm them, we might need to loosen the rein and win the horseback little by little by treating it gently and patiently." Finally, she says that when our thoughts are too busy, we need to "pack them into separate luggage bags and just let them go."

It's a comforting outlook on life and one that is encapsulated in her art both in terms of style and content. And if you want to enjoy Audrey's reassuring art and philosophy in your home or while out and about, be sure to check out the prints and merchandise in her online shop.


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