Artist spotlight: Zi Xu

On creative blocks and doing what you love

Female warrior with armor inspired by the Chinese opera

by Adobe Drawing and Painting Team

posted on 08-05-2020

Zi Xu is an illustrator and concept artist. She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2018 with a B.F.A. in Illustration and Art History.

Zi has worked with a variety of clients in film, advertising, and games, producing everything from officially licensed posters to concept art and matte paintings. As of 2020, her art has been recognized by Spectrum, ImagineFX, Society of Illustrators, 3×3, Creative Quarterly, and CMYK.

Was there an aha! moment when you realized you wanted to have a career in illustration?

I’ve always been drawing, so this was the only career I’ve ever considered and pursued.

You’re one of the lucky ones! It seems like so many artists have a winding path to get to where they are. Have you ever had a “pinch me I’m dreaming” moment on a project?

Yes – I tend to have those moments especially when companies like Adobe reach out to me! I’ve always wanted to work with big names so being able to do art for clients such as Metallica, Adobe, Warner Brothers, and more over the past year has been nothing short of a dream for me.

Creative blocks are something that every artist experiences. Do you have any tips for escaping them?

I’ve found that nothing works. As in, -doing nothing- works to get out of creative blocks. Every single time I get an idea I like, or get out of a block, it’s always been when I’m completely relaxed and focused on nothing in particular. On the other hand, whenever I think or try too hard on a piece, I always end up ruining it and further digging myself into the creative block. So I think, at least for me, the answer is to not try… not as in, “be lazy,” but to accept the block and not put any importance on it. Sooner or later, new ideas will come.

That’s great advice. Speaking of advice, what is one piece of advice you have for artists who are just starting out?

Draw what you like. I think if someone wants to start pursuing art as a hobby or a career, they will probably need a reason to draw a lot. And I think the way they can motivate themselves to draw a lot is to draw the things they like. Maybe it’s fanart, maybe it’s anime, maybe it’s trains, maybe it’s fanart of anime trains… doesn’t matter. If you start out by drawing what you like, then there will come a day where you’ll be interested in learning how to get better at drawing those things, and then you can start mastering the fundamentals of art (color, lighting, etc.). And by then you’ll probably have an interest in drawing other things and expanding your horizon. But your original interest in drawing will still be there underneath.

Zi’s process in Adobe Fresco

We asked Zi to share how she combines Pixel brushes and Live brushes in her piece inspired by Chinese Opera. She also walks us through using the Touch Shortcut for faster workflows in Adobe Fresco.

Zi Xu is a recipient of the Adobe Creative Residency Community Fund. To see more of Zi’s work you can visit her website or find her on Instagram.

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Topics: Creativity, Illustration

Products: Creative Cloud