Creativepool Annual Spotlight: The unique eastern fantasy style of Feifei Ruan

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Feifei Ruan is a freelance illustrator based in New York with a keen eye for mixing the traditional and the exotic with the modern and the counter-cultural. Combining the aesthetics of eastern classic with the drama and vision of science fiction and fantasy, her work has been commissioned by everyone from Penguin Books and BuzzFeed to the BBC.

As part of our series catching up with the creative visionaries who claimed awards in the Creativepool Annual 2019, we spoke to Feifei about her hopes for the future, her creative processes and what the Creativepool Annual means to her.


How did you find out about the Creativepool Annual initially?

A few years ago when I was creating an account on CreativePool, I saw the Annual banner and I gave it a try. I never looked back!

Where do you keep your bespoke copies of the Annual?

My bookshelf, of course, alongside my other annuals.

What do you think it is about the Creativepool Annual that sets it apart from other awards within the creative industries?

I like how it invites the participants to vote as well. I enjoy the experience going through all the categories and making my personal picks. It makes you more excited about all the results — not just the result of your own submission. Plus, there’s the ceremony in London, which leads to real-life connections. It all makes you feel like you want to be part of the community.


Can you tell us about the Doctor Who - Chinese project that won you the bronze award in illustration last year and what it is you think about it that resonated with our judges?

The Doctor Who project was commissioned by BBC Studios Creative. The illustrations were part of a huge new launch for Doctor Who to the Chinese market. Each image features the TARDIS and different Chinese cities. The biggest challenge here was to make it “resonate” with the Chinese audiences, as most people in China were not familiar with the show. It turned out that people were amused to see the integration of western and eastern culture. The images spoke to both western and eastern audiences. 

You also claimed the same award the year previously for the Giant and the Fisherman comic. Can you tell us about this project and what you think it is that the two projects share and also what makes them different?

“The Giant and the Fisherman” was a short story commissioned by the Jim Henson company. This comic project is based on the original Jim Henson TV series from the 80s — The Storyteller. (A storyteller shares folk tales with viewers and with his dog.) It’s interesting that both “Doctor Who” and “The Storyteller” are classic British TV series, and both projects won the same award in different annuals. The biggest difference here is probably the format — one is a poster series while the other is a comic story.

On that note, can you take us into your creative process a little? How would you describe your style and what mediums do you use to create your illustrations? Has technology affected your workflow, for example?

The first step is always to learn about the assignment. After some studies and research, I start doodling then pick the possible ideas for client reviews. When one of the directions got selected, I move on to inking and colouring. My main drawing equipment is my iMac+Wacom. I work digitally from sketch to final — with a tangible hand-drawn style. Unlike traditional arts, digital techniques allow me to make adjustments easily. Like rescale an element, changing a colour, etc. So I would be able to respond clients’ notes quickly.


Did the Annual open up any exciting new opportunities for you last year?

I wish I knew the answer. There were some exciting collaborations that followed up the win but I’m not sure how those clients found me. I will enter again this year of course. It would be great to get exposure – if I’m lucky enough to be shortlisted again.

On a more general level, do you think awards and award ceremonies are still an important part of the creative landscape? 

I believe so. We need a spotlight for the best work. We need a stage for talent. And it’s not only about recognition. It gives the creatives a chance to celebrate together, to get inspired and get motivated. We should be thankful for the creative awards and ceremonies for supporting this industry. 

How do you feel the creative landscape shifted in 2019? For better or for worse. 

From my personal perspective, emotional content has taken a bigger role. Storytelling has become a trending tool to resonate with the audience. I’m excited to see more possibilities, like how they would merge with future technologies.


What are your hopes for 2020 and will you be attending the Annual launch party this year?

2020 has been full of challenges (due to some global issues). I won’t be able to visit London this year and I hope everything gets better soon.

What advice would you give you agencies and individuals looking to make an impression and earn a place in this year’s Annual?

Besides the main content, people also seem to enjoy the project details, work process, and some behind-the-scenes stuff. You might want to consider these as part of the submission, to make it a fun viewing experience for the audiences.


Submit your work today for the Creativepool Annual 2020. To enter your best work from 2019, to be included in the Annual 2020, click HERE and to nominate Agency/Brand, Newcomer, Influencer of the Year or Best Place to Work click HERE. Best of luck and we look forward to seeing you at the Annual launch party on May 28th.


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