Ping Zhu’s illustrations manage to say a lot without saying much. Loose, minimalistic, and colorful, her creations have been featured in esteemed publications such as The New Yorker, Penguin, and Nobrow Press. “I started learning about the subtle differences between fine art and illustration in college,” explained Zhu in an interview with The Great Discontent. It was then that she also realized that her skills were better suited for illustration than fine art. “I think both are incredibly hard, but I think that I would do poorly in the fine art world because, at this point, it feels like a foreign language to me,” she admits.
The key difference between illustration and fine art, according to Zhu, is the purpose it serves. According to her, illustration has to communicate with the viewer, acting as a sort of bridge between people who consume and people who create. “As illustrators, we are handing off a baton every time we make a piece of work,” explained the Brooklyn-based illustrator. “It’s nice to imagine saying to someone, ‘Ta-dah! See how I see the world for just a moment.’ Maybe someone can respond to or be inspired by that?”
Understanding her role as an illustrator also means understanding its responsibilities, and Zhu acknowledges the great privilege she has working full time in an artistic field. “What I do is more of a privilege than a responsibility,” she admits. “I feel proud to be able to do something for other people, so if it is a responsibility, I’ll take it.”
We’ll take it as well.