Yu Cai is an artist/illustrator/explorer living in a pink nostalgic universe. She speaks with us on moving from physical to digital, the network effects of dropping a large-scale project, and following your instinct as an artist.
My background is in traditional painting and printmaking, so I have been drawing by hand for years. However, I recently started using digital tools because I wanted to be able to create more precise color gradations. I’m especially inspired by the vaporwave aesthetic, which often features very light shades of pink and blue, which can be difficult to achieve with the more traditional media. With digital tools, I can easily control the exact shades of color and make them look smooth.
I think of my aesthetic as a combination of vaporwave, futuristic, and pastel colors. I am influenced by both my Chinese heritage and my current location in Europe. A lot of the time, this is reflected in the mix of Eastern and European architectural elements in my art. In this new collection and my previous work, the color palette and style are consistent, and the way I draw people is similar.
The theme of my latest work draws a lot on the world of my previous pieces, particularly the last collection "City Lives: Alone Together." The inspiration for this collection was triggered in the process of creating the previous one. The backgrounds in this new work are similar to those in my previous pieces. However, in my previous work, the focus was more on the architecture, with people being a secondary element. Dragon Street is the first project I’ve put together that is really focused on the individuals living in this world that I’ve built out over the years.
I wanted to create a virtual scene, a cool meeting place in the city, one that collectors can see their past/future/present version of themselves in. The name, in particular, is meaningful to me: Dragon is a legendary creature in Chinese mythology, it`s the symbol of courage and perseverance which is the spirit of the characters I draw, and it brings luck.
What stuck out to me the most was the network effects. When more people have your work, they'll likely tweet about it, which leads to more people seeing and interacting with it, and so on. I want more people to see my work and then have it reach more people. That was my intention when I started, but it was still wild to watch that happen.
Before I had maybe 10 or 20 works that people collected, so not a ton. But now there are so many more collectors in such a short period of time. It's a great opportunity to get your work out there in front of a large audience.
In my practice, I'm doing things that I really like and believe in, not doing things that I think will sell necessarily.
One of the reasons I wanted to work on a project like this was because people have been asking me if I have any lower-priced pieces available for them to collect. I had thought about creating more affordable pieces before, but wasn’t sure of the best way to do that till recently.
Generally speaking, I do think it's better to price the work a bit lower in respect to your larger body of work. It's better for both actually, it makes the drop more likely to sell out and also keeps the value of your 1/1s high, which is good.
If you're a creator and feeling nervous about the process, that's totally normal. I felt that way too. I was worried about whether it would sell. Although it's really nerve-wrecking for a creator to consider, it's actually quite important. Especially because it's a body of work that's quite large, you need to have confidence that there will be enough collectors to sell it out.
I’d recommend creators find ways to gauge interest in the drop beforehand. You can begin to get a sense of how your audience would potentially receive the work by starting to tweet about it or showing your friends. What is the engagement like? Is there buzz around it? And from there you can start to assess how many you might be able to sell and at what price, etc.
When more people have your work, they'll likely tweet about it, which leads to more people seeing and interacting with it.
That’s the very practical, business side of things. But on a personal level, I find that I have to truly think the work is cool, I have to be proud of it. In my practice, I'm doing things that I really like and believe in, not doing things that I think will sell necessarily. I think alot of artists probably have this feeling. It’s kind of hard to talk about, but you can be looking at a work and just know it’s ready, that it’s good enough. You just feel it. I think the creator is really the only person who can decide that, it’s important to listen to that instinct.
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