Bournemouth-based freelance illustrator Julia Jin combines oriental art styles with Western graphics to create unique artworks that tackle topics of nature and womanhood. We caught up with her to learn more about her creative process.
Originally from Shenzen, China, Julia Jin moved to England to study illustration at Arts University Bournemouth. Following on from her undergraduate studies at Jingdezhen Ceramic University, the decision to travel and learn at a Western institute has profoundly affected her outlook and perception of people, as well as her artistic approach.
At the heart of Julia's creative practice is an interest in the status of women and the inequalities they face. "I am very concerned about their inner world of emotions, and I want to discover the full range of women's aesthetics," she tells Creative Boom. "My sense and understanding of female identity and the pursuit of natural beauty are my greatest sources of inspiration."
Moving from East to West has also shaped how Julia works. Traditional drawing techniques blend with digital processes to create truly unique results. Instantly recognisable thanks to her limited colour palettes, which flow into forms that sit within white negative spaces, Julia's work also relies on dark gestural lines that represent an integration of oriental ink painting and Western graphic design.
"I love to combine traditional oriental cultural features with Western styles," she adds. "I like to use meticulous and fluid lines to portray details and add a decorative touch to my illustrations.
"In particular, I have been inspired by the use of restrictive colours in the works of Sydney Smith and the moody atmospheres created by loose brushstrokes. These have led me to experiment with the use of restrictive colours when portraying the mood of a picture."
It's not just Western styles that had impacted Julia either. Studying in the UK has also changed her perspective on nature. "When I came to this new culture and saw natural landscapes different to those from my home country, I became better at observing the details of nature," she says.
"I particularly love to observe the traces of different trees growing. I feel that growing trees are similar to women, and I think that women's beauty has the same vitality and constant power."
The bond of beauty between nature and women is what Julia wants people to feel the most when they look at her illustrations. "I want viewers to find in them a relaxing and uninhibited joy, an inner world where they can rest," she says. "I want people to be inspired and for women to feel the beauty that they have in themselves."
Her Mushroom Woman series is a prime example of how Julia's interest in nature and womanhood overlap. In these images, she depicts a woman engulfed with a mushroom parasite who lives alone in the dark and damp. Contrary to how she usually seeks out the beauty of nature, though, this series examines loneliness.
"Now and then, I struggle with my own negative emotions due to loneliness," she reveals. "In this project, I depicted the four different living environments of a mushroom woman. Through them, I wanted to show the process of the mushroom woman constantly fighting against her dark imprisonment."
The deliberate decision to incorporate mushroom parasites allowed Julia to express her real-life experience of living alone. "I portrayed the inner world of my solitary time as a fantasy," she says. "It was an unforgettable time, where I experienced both the pandemic as well as confusion surrounding the future of my life abroad."