Work by Jiawen Chen

Work by Jiawen Chen

Looking to spark your creative juices or discover an exciting new talent for your next project? We’ve got a selection of 10 amazing illustrators that are sure to inspire you.

Looking to commission an illustrator or just seeking fresh visual inspiration for your own work? It’s easy to get stuck looking at the same kind of art, time and time again, in a kind of artistic version of an echo chamber. But it’s easy to escape because there’s a whole world of illustration out there. And right now, Asia is especially teeming with new and exciting talent.

To find the best, we turned to Caper: a modern illustration agency representing some of the most innovative and talented illustrators emerging from China and Asia. Founded by three illustrators in London and Shanghai in 2020, Caper has a knack for spotting brilliant young creatives who deserve global attention, as you’ll see below.

In the following article, we spotlight an incredible 10 Caper artists you should add to your radar. From Shanghai and Beijing to New York and Lisbon, these illustrators span a range of styles from vibrant and graphical to soft-focused and surreal. And with output as diverse as their influences (ranging from 8-bit video games and Chinese watercolours to architecture and emojis), you’re sure to find art that speaks to you personally.

And you don’t have to take our word for it: big-name clients like Apple, Google, Gucci and The New York Times are already drawing on these illustrators to bring their designs to life. So get ready to meet the animators, VR artists, comic creators and award winners from Asia, who are all steadily making their global mark in 2024.

1. Amao

Amao is an illustrator, motion designer and VR artist who lives in her home city of Shanghai, China. She’s also spent time in Japan, graduating from Osaka University of Arts and later working in Tokyo as a motion designer. On her return to China, she founded her own design studio, MOU, which focuses on illustration, motion design and art direction.

Her VR animation projects have been exhibited at a number of exhibitions, including the China International Import Expo in 2019, and her list of global clients includes Apple, Google, Facebook, Gucci, Starbucks, Tencent, Alibaba and McDonald’s.

Amao’s portfolio showcases a diverse range of captivating GIFs and animations that brilliantly blend traditional and modern elements. With a keen eye for detail and a unique artistic style, Amao’s work stands out for its creativity and depth.

Work by Amao

2. Caver Zhang

Caver Zhang is a freelance illustrator based in Jinan, China. His illustrations combine vibrant colours with a handcrafted/paper-cut ethos, giving them a striking and distinctive look. They’re inspired, he says, by ordinary life and characterised by the capturing of delightful moments in time.

This original approach has won him work with commercial clients, including Apple, Mercedes-Benz, Huawei, Nestle, Starbucks and China Post, while his list of editorial and publishing clients features the likes of People’s Literature Publishing House, China Children Press and Publication Group and Jieli Publishing House.

Caver has won a number of awards, including the Tallinn Illustrations Triennial Grand Award, the Frankfurt Global Illustration Awards and CCTV’s ‘China The Most Beautiful Illustration Book’. Having graduated in fine arts in 2008, he now leads the digital arts course at Shandong University of Arts.

Work by Caver Zhang

Work by Caver Zhang

3. Jazzy Yuan

Jazzy Yuan is a freelance illustrator who’s currently based in Lisbon, Portugal. Having graduated from Beijing Film Academy with a major in animation art, he has six years of experience in game art design, and his illustration clients include Starbucks, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Pfizer, Mobil, and Adidas.

His work, which typically features characters with outsized body parts, exudes a sense of whimsy and playfulness, focusing on storytelling through vibrant colours and dynamic compositions.

Jazzy says his personal emotions influence these illustrations, and he’s inspired by nature and the world around him. More broadly, Jazzy loves to explore a variety of illustration styles and possibilities and constantly strives for change and perfection.

Work by Jazzy Yuan

Work by Jazzy Yuan

4. Jiawen Chen

Jiawen Chen is a freelance illustrator currently based in Guangzhou, China. Mostly working digitally, her creations are typically inspired by abstract ideas, and she makes good use of symbolism to visualise her thoughts.

At the same time, there’s also a strong emphasis on storytelling and emotion, and Jiawen’s work invites viewers to delve into rich narratives depicted through captivating visuals.

Jiawen attained her MFA degree from the School of Visual Arts, where she majored in illustration and has since won many awards, including a World Illustration Award in 2020. Her commercial clients today include the likes of Alibaba, Bilibili.com, SuperSky and Shanghai Film Studio, while her editorial and publishing clients include LA Times and GuoMai Culture.

Work by Jiawen Chen

Work by Jiawen Chen

5. Katherine Lam

Katherine Lam is a freelance illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York whose work is heavily influenced by architecture and the light during sunsets, creating a sense of serenity and beauty in each piece she creates. Her work also often incorporates a sense of surrealism, helping it to grab attention and enchant the viewer.

Her inspiration, she says, is grounded in the realisation that our emotions taint our reality, and the work focuses on creating spaces that mirror our psychological state. Katherine’s editorial and publishing clients include The New York Times, New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly.

Work by Katherine Lam

Work by Katherine Lam

6. Laomo Wang

Laomo Wang is a freelance illustrator who was born in Northeast China and now lives in Huangshan City. Her dreamy, soft-focused imagery is instantly captivating, and you feel yourself being pulled into the picture in a way that feels at turns enchanting, immersive and strangely familiar.

Laomo says drawing is a way to both express herself and understand herself better. After completing an MA in Commercial Advertising in 2018, her work has been exhibited a number of times, most recently as part of WWF’s Journey of Water Exhibition in 2021.

Today, her commercial clients include Heineken, Ant Forest, Mumo, Stey and DJI Studio, and her editorial and publishing clients include Penguin Random House, New Weekly, GQ Live Magazine and QingDao Publishing Group.

Work by Laomo Wang

Work by Laomo Wang

7. Nanjiao Xi

Nanjiao Xi currently lives in Shenzhen, China, and works at ByteDance, the company that developed TikTok, as a brand visual director. With a heightened understanding of Chinese aesthetics. Nanjiao’s illustration work attempts to merge the rational beauty of “neat and distinct” vector geometry with the “pursuit of similarity and focus on artistic conception” of traditional Chinese painting.

The aim is to express visual sensations that better conform to modern aesthetic demands and create an atmosphere of “both familiar and unfamiliar” simultaneously. The result is an illustration style that looks quite unlike anything we’ve seen before and which we’d very much like to see more of.

Work by Nanjiao Xi

Work by Nanjiao Xi

8. Toyoya Li

Toyoya Li is a Beijing-based artist who specialises in creating prints, animations, and GIFs in pixel form. His works are heavily influenced by early retro 8-bit games and the electronic culture of the 80s and 90s, and his art somehow succeeds in appearing both trendy and nostalgic at the same time.

Toyoya has also published several independent comics and built his own brand, titled Low Quality, which collects and uses ’80-’90s digital products for inspiration. A member of the Chinese independent animation group Fenachi, he’s also been a judge of the Tokyo Shibuya Pixel Art Contest and his clients include Nike, Tmall and Alibaba.

Work by Toyoya Li

9. Yiting Nan

Yiting Nan is a designer and animator originally from China and currently based in New York City. With a graphic design background, her work is bold, graphical, and vibrant. At the same time, there’s a purposely low-fi quality, even a knowing naivete, that draws you in with your heart as well as your eyes.

Previously at Detroit motion design studio Hobbes, Yiting has won a number of awards, including Best in Show in Communication Arts 64 last year. Her clients include Procreate, Nikon, Google and CCTV.

Work by Yiting Nan

Work by Yiting Nan

10. Zaoyu Lin

Zaoyu Lin is a freelance illustrator based in Beijing whose work is primarily inspired by myth. His clients include Apple, The Journal Magazine, Condé Nast, LeleCha and Zcool.

Zaoyu’s illustrations are at once both distinctly Chinese and highly evocative and original. With a focus on cultural themes and contemporary aesthetics, this enticing work offers a fresh perspective on traditional subjects, inviting viewers to explore new narratives through captivating visuals.

Work by Zaoyu Lin

Work by Zaoyu Lin

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