Xin Li works at DP Architects, by day and draws at night. He has done several illustrations on Singapore’s culture, heritage and food, especially on its changing landmarks which were compiled into the book, Sayang Singapura. An avid traveler, he is a fan of The Adventures of Tin Tin and uses illustration as a portal into adventure, where he re-discovers familiar landscapes. Xin Li has done commissions for the Singapore Tourism Board, the Maritime and Port Authority, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, MUJI, DBS and Shell. He answered our artist interview questions below…
1. Three words that best describe you.
Contemplative, nostalgic and reserved.
2. Your favourite quote and why?
‘Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family, is that everyone in your family — you included — uses intelligence to justify sickness.’
‘You chose to come here, you chose to talk in a way to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your own universe. And yet here you are, dripping in rat blood and faeces — your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.’
‘It’s just work. And the bottom line is that some people are OK going to work. And some people — well — some people would rather die. Each of us gets to choose.’ Dr. Wong in Rick & Morty Season 3, Episode 3.
Dr. Wong, a family therapist, addressing Rick, a genius/ crazy scientist on the Rick & Morty show. Rick decided to turn himself into a pickle because he could and because he wanted to avoid a therapy session. I thought it was spot on about how we go through daily life with its boredom and difficulties while yearning for something interesting. Sometimes we get myopic in our pursuit of something creative and give ourselves excuses along the way.
3. What’s your favourite art medium to create something?
4. What do you always carry with you in your man bag?
A camera, sketchbook and stationery.
5. Favourite song to sing in the shower?
Shall we Dance? (by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, 1951)
6. Best arts venue in Singapore and why?
Esplanade Theatres on the Bay because it is an interesting piece of architecture by Russell Johnson and DP Architects. The ‘durians’ are not only an arts venue with various activities and programs, they have humane public spaces too such as the library and the atrium and most importantly, Esplanade has a sense of place.
7. What are your 3 favourite desert island discs?
Probably a The Best of Mozart album, a Frédéric Chopin compilation and an album of assorted 16 Chinese songs from the 1920s -1970s by singers like Tsui Ping, Yu Yar, Rebecca Pan and Teresa Teng.
8. What wrecks inspiration and creativity?
I find that comfort, certainty and the pursuit of inspiration and creativity, limit inspiration and creativity.
9. Name a film or documentary we should all see.
Mr. Nobody (2009) directed by Jaco Van Dormael.
10. Recommend an (art) book we should all read. Tell us why?
‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger, because it is a timeless piece that reminds us to think of art in perspectives beyond the conventional, in relation to changing times, technology and society etc.
11. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Finding time for friends and loved ones or getting started on work.
12. The greatest thing I have ever done is….
Yet to be done.
13. Tell us about a project/collection you’re really proud of and why?
Peta Singapura I, was an impromptu work which I really enjoyed in the process. It was something I haven’t done before and I learnt a lot about Singapore and myself. It was fruitful.
14. What’s your favourite Singaporean dish to eat and why?
Hainanese Chicken Rice: ginger, dark soy sauce, chilli and soup…. a seemingly simple dish but there’s several ways to eat it with different ratios of condiments etc.
15. Best advice for getting rid of procrastination?
Set a deadline and go and do something you like. Take a walk, talk to friends or sketch.
16. Who is your favourite Instagram artist?
Vincent Mahe (@vincentillustrator)
17. Which artist should we be looking out for in Singapore?
Darel Seow, an illustrator. I enjoy his ideas and kway chap talk.
18. Who are your biggest creative influences?
Herzog & de Meuron, Georges Prosper Remi (Herge), Guy Delisle, Christoph Niemann, Vincent Mahe, Tom Haugomat and Hayao Miyazaki.
19. A place you love to go to (in Singapore ideally) to have some quiet time?
Pulau Tekong (or Changi). Beautiful landscapes, quiet weekends, bitter-sweet memories and an excellent spot for plane-watching. Beyond Singapore, Kyoto in Japan is a great place to get lost.
20. Shameless plug for your work or a cause you feel passionately about?
I also take part in activities organised by The Organisation of Illustrator’s Council (OIC) Singapore, an informal group of illustrators who have been raising awareness of illustration by engaging the public and peers in the industry such as Supermama, Black and Goodstuph, sharing industry advice and more. I would recommend checking out the group’s activities and programmes.
Check out another artist interview here.