Creator to Creator: Wenting Li

I discovered Wenting’s works during one of those times when I aimlessly scroll through and rummage around Instagram. The first post on her profile was an illustration dedicated to Lunar New Year. Despite many other visuals I saw celebrating the holiday, I was immediately drawn to the warmth and softness of Wenting’s rendering. Amongst the bright colours and simple forms, her illustrations hold a narrative – a story to break open, to explore, to pause and think. Her most recent series, Oh, Canada, is a perfect example, and represents precisely why I am a fan of her work. Read below as Wenting shares her creative journey, and introduces us to her “favourite” Asian.Canadian writer! – Mirae.


Photo: Rena Rong

Can you tell us about your art practice?

I’m an illustrator, currently finishing up my fourth year at OCAD & freelancing in between! I’m also an occasional ceramicist & I’ve become interested recently in exploring a fine art practice.

When I look through your collection of illustrations, people – specifically female figures – seem to be an ongoing motif. Can you tell us more about this?

That’s true! I love drawing the human figure because it has so much expressive potential – for movement, communication, abstraction. It is immediately arresting and elicits emotional response and identification from the viewer (and from the artist). I am also a particular fan of drawing the female body. Female is a broadly encompassing term, & I am drawn to women’s bodies both aesthetically and conceptually. I feel like women are full of stories, and so often we’re subjects of the gazes of others, not necessarily sympathetically.

I initially found you through Instagram, and I feel like Instagram and digital space at large has become one of the primary sources of discovering and meeting artists nowadays. What do you think is the benefit of Instagram, or digital platform for an emerging artist? What role does it have in your own creative process?

Instagram & other digital platforms can be really helpful for connecting with an audience and getting used to putting yourself out there. For emerging artists, I think it can particularly lead to connections with a creative community that you may not otherwise find. I’ve been lucky to meet many talented, creative people through Instagram, who’ve gone on to be friends & a general support system in real life. People are for the most part friendly and amazingly generous!

What are questions or themes you are currently exploring or interested in exploring more?

I just completed my fourth year thesis, which explores themes of injustice in Canada – our country is a lot darker and more complex than its mythos as a land of exceedingly polite people. My work in general is concerned with metaphor and narrative, telling stories with images and alongside words. And I’m also very interested in exploring representation, especially trying to represent stories that are uniquely Asian in a non-tokenized way. Like many, I grew up in a media environment that felt largely homogenous and it’s taken me awhile to realize stories that don’t fit into the dominant culture are also relevant. I don’t think I ever drew anyone Asian (or People of Colour) until I got to university & realized that this was really problematic.

What can we look forward to, in your creative career, in the next few months? 

Fingers crossed I’ll be graduating in June, and then freelancing full-time and hopefully avoiding being a cashier ever again. I have some work in an upcoming gallery show in Minneapolis (Light Grey Art Lab), and hope to do more of that. And I want to table at more zine fairs!

Lastly, what does your identity mean to you?

I’m still figuring out who I am. I’ve heard this is a lifelong process. Being Asian, and also Canadian can be confusing. When I was younger I felt like I had to prove I was Canadian. I would deliberately misunderstand the question, where are you from? I still wonder what assumptions my name carries for other people – my father has told me I should change it. But it’s also my name. And this has come to be very important to me.



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