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Meet Xinrui Chen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Xinrui Chen.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Xinrui. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in Arcadia. My parents were very STEM-oriented and our household wasn’t very cultural explorative, so creative work was a bit alien and baffling to my parents.

My interest in art developed through games, movies, and horror manga. Exploring those things and being able to process them through drawing was a way to sculpt my identity outside of the sometimes claustrophobically suburban neighborhood I grew up in.

I attended Laguna College of Art and Design, Pasadena City College, and finally graduated out of Art Center College of Design with a BFA in Illustration. All the peers and mentors I’ve met along the way have really shaped who I am as an artist and helped me figure out different ways of expressing my voice.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Making work is a continual process of self-discovery and introspection. My career interests have shifted enormously throughout the years.

For years I struggled with understanding how to express the ideas I really care about. It is an ongoing process of discovery, but I believe that without the passion and care that comes from deeply connecting with your work, everything else will fall apart.

I think the hardest parts of making fulfilling work just coincides with the fundamentally difficult parts of being a human being. That is, discovering what you care about and what you are going to do about it. Your responsibility as an artist is then to do the best job you can to express that to others and deepen that voice.

All the other external circumstances are just trivialities that get in the way – financial insecurity, uncomfortable networking, consistently having to update websites and email and junk like that. Working mind-numbing jobs just to get by. But if you know what you care about, those things don’t matter. The work is close to my heart and feeds my soul. It’s worthwhile despite all those challenges.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a freelance illustrator, painter, and comics-maker.

The personal work I enjoy making centers around questions of identity and relationships. I think my work speaks to people because it is about the ways in which humans continuously struggle to connect with themselves and others.

The comics are mostly autobiographical and personal in nature. I make them sometimes just to process and make meaning out of events and people that stumble through my life.

Making work like that can be nervewracking and embarrassing or difficult to share with others. But I find that the more honest and open I am, the more people connect to the work. I try to put out things that are candid and vulnerable. People value that too.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As a kid, I spent a lot of time running around in the suburbs doing nothing. Sometimes with friends. I remember for a while in high school, I went through a phase of laying around in the middle of streets in my neighborhood barefoot, stargazing. That’s until a car would come around the corner – we’d have to scramble out of the street to not get hit. The world seemed really big and scary then.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Noah Kowalski

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