Equipped with a background in oil painting and printmaking that play a subtle influence on her illustrations, Hannah Li is always exploring new ways to find the perfect balance between digital and traditional tools to bring out unique elements to every piece of work.

Originally hailing from Changsha, China, the New York-based freelance illustrator earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in oil painting in China before moving to the US to pursue Master of Fine Arts in Illustration at the esteemed Savannah College of Art and Design. Drawing inspiration from her daily life, her work presents the world as she sees it – full of passion and curiosity.

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Q: How has your work developed since moving to the US?
A: Personally, seeing this world by moving from China to the States and standing from a distance geographically has helped me to develop a different view. By the time I was born, our generation became the very first group that witnessed China’s growth as an international country. The advantage of this era indeed offered our generation better chances to embrace the world, obtaining better education and living in wealthier conditions.

However, I became aware about the fact that there are always arguments between the elders and the youth regarding learning Chinese traditions. I never had consciousness growing up about finding self-identity and protecting my heritage. After I moved to the US, I was amazed by how much in common my classmates and I share in our growth even though we live on different continental plates, and whenever they asked me of the history and culture that I grew up in, I frequently feel that I don’t have a precise answer. I do feel this sense of cultural deficiency, but I don’t see this as a negative now.

Being widely acknowledged in international studies doesn’t mean there is a replacement of local traditions by foreign influences. The reason for this cultural deficiency may urge me to go overseas and study, but it also further helped me to fulfil my artistic achievements.

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Q: What are the perks of being a freelance illustrator?
A: One of the best things of being a freelance illustrator is getting paid from a job you are truly passionate about. Though drawing for a living seems completely different from drawing as a habit, I still enjoyed the challenging part of business in art—you get to manage your own time, learn to negotiate with clients over a budget, making work productively, and promoting yourself.

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Q: You beautifully illustrated a 14-page series called ‘The Walk’ that tells the story of a little girl and her guardian walking in different environments. How did it happen?
A: My illustrated picture book ‘The Walk’ is presented as a vehicle of my education in visual arts as well as a personal expression of self-growth. ‘The Walk’ builds a story of a little girl, and her guardian who go on a walk in a deep forest, to an imagery world, and encounter different creatures on each spread. Less of a book and more of a panorama one-shot movie into the forest or imaginary world, the journey presents growth, life circulation, and bravery.

Emotionally, the purpose of making this project was due to my strong bond with my grandmother. She occupies most of my childhood memories, and I’m trying to describe the relationship between her and me. Furthermore, the way she raised me helped to build the personality and self-identity of the person I am today.

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Q: How much attention do you pay to the feedback of others when it comes to your work?
A: It’s always fun to hear how people feel about your art, whether it be in the form of compliments or criticisms. I’m pretty much on Instagram the whole time and I enjoy interacting with my fellow artists and art directors. When it comes to commission work, I take the feedback more seriously and act as a problem solver to find a balance between my creation and the client’s needs.

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Q: Describe your art style.
A: The hardest question of all. Technically, I love to explore ways between digital and traditional tools to bring unique touches to my images. My style keeps changing based on my state of mind. I often hear some keywords from people who describe my work as whimsical, optimistic, soothing, etc. I think style is a part of your voice as an artist and it’s all based on who you are as a person.

Q: If you can give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
A: Doubt less, work harder.

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Good things are meant to be shared. 😉 To see more of Hannah Li’s work, check out the links below!
Website: www.hannahliart.com
Behance: hannahli
Instagram: hannahhhli