Each illustration is a portal into another world, a still life of a fantasy universe.
Sometimes an image is so arresting, you can’t help but stop and stare. I first discovered the artwork of Li Shuxing, a Chinese videogame concept artist and illustrator from Shanghai, through the image above. It’s enchanting, a whole fantasy world, with great depth and sorrow, perseverance and human courage, encapsulated in one image. The best paintings tell a story, and this image, replacing the long-in-the-tooth Smaug-style dragon with a traditional Chinese serpent, has a thousand stories to tell.
Then, I started digging around the Internet for more of Li Shuxing’s work, and found that each of his illustrations was a portal into another world, a still life of a fantasy universe. I couldn’t help but be lost in the details.
“What I typically do is, first, make a lot of small sketches,” Li told hxsd.com in an interview. “They don’t need to be very detailed or specific. Finally, I select the most satisfying one to serve as a base and merge best points of the other sketches into it. Continuing to improve the sketch defines its composition. Good composition needs to have a sure grasp of the combination of point, line, area, and volume. I don’t consider details at first. As long as the overall effect is good, that’s fine.”
Editor’s Note: Thanks to John Chu for providing an updated translation of the original simplified Chinese.
Li discusses the illustrations above, many of which were created for an illustration contest called “Unearthly Challenge 2013,” which Li won, in this interview with hxsd.com. Even if you can’t read Simplified Chinese (like me), it’s well worth pushing through the Google Translated interview to see some of the artist’s in progress sketches and to get an inside look at how he creates such wonderful fantasy worlds.
Li Shuxing also runs a busy blog under his online screenname, STAR, where he posts many more illustrations and sketches.