Cai is an international fashion illustrator and photographer who has breathed life into some of the biggest known names in fashion and beauty.
Her illustrations are recognised as being perfectly imperfect as it typically features lines and smudges. Her works have featured Dior, Chanel, Montblanc, Prada and Tiffany and Co. and have been recognised by celebrities and high-profile fashion influencers including Bambi Northwood-Blyth, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Marni x Marni, Aimee Song, and Jena Atkin.
When and how did you realise you had a passion for art?
I’ve been creating illustrations based off of magazine pictures since I was a kid but never really pursued it until about two years ago. I got thrown into the deep end when I attended my first fashion week back in 2012. I was always known as a photographer at fashion week but one year I decided to whip out my iPad and draw something as well. Since then I've been both photographing and illustrating backstage for designers.
How would you describe your style of art?
Loud, spontaneous and modern.
Would you say your personality suits your style of art, or is it a complete rebellion of who you are?
I would say yes and no. I think of myself as a perfectionist sometimes but I like a bit of chaos and uncertainty too. I think both are present in my art.
Digital is my medium of choice right now. It fits my art style because it's flexible, fast paced and limitless.
Can you run through the process of how you produce your art?
I sketch out the shapes that I see then add layers gradually. I draw quickly which adds a roughness and quirkiness to my work. I am not tedious about proportions or getting the exact colouring. I like to just see how it turns out and not get too focused on getting the hands perfect or the shade of the dress exactly the same.
For some artists, getting proportions absolutely right is satisfying, but not for me. I think art should be fun and free flowing. Personally, precision is not my cup of tea.
What are your do’s and don’ts for people who want to start getting into art space as a hobby or career?
Go to a museum and draw as many paintings as you can within an hour. This is how I fell in love with drawing. I also get a lot of joy out of seeing how much time I spend on a drawing. Consider timing yourself and setting yourself little challenges to push your skills.
Another ‘do’ is use social media to your advantage and don’t be afraid to show off your work. I started using Instagram just for fun, but soon I realised how powerful it can be. I have received so many emails and direct messages that start off with "I just saw your drawings on Instagram".
Illustration doesn’t need to be your full time job, I also do photography and I also have an office job during the day. I like to keep my life full of different things to keep myself busy but I also never get tired of doing what I love.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by fashion editorials, other artists and influential women. I am constantly looking through vintage Dior and Saint Laurent. I love the mod and beatnik era in fashion but at the same time I'm a huge fan of Dion Lee who is subverting the traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. I love drawing fashion that has strong silhouettes and empowering sensuality.
And how do you hope to inspire?
I hope to inspire young artists to follow their dreams! I hope to prove illustration is not a dead art as it is constantly evolving. And to keep up with the times we can thank apps like Procreate and Adobe Illustrator Draw.
Do you have a favourite artist?
Do you have favourite colours that you work with?
It's hard to choose favourites but I do have a soft side for blues, greens and greys.
You feature a lot of celebs and fashion icons in your work. Who are some of your favourites?
What do you find are the hardest and easiest ‘things’ to draw?
Drawing people is always a challenge – even now. I also like to draw objects and places which I find that I can draw much faster.
Who is an iconic woman you would want to recreate with your style of art?
Jackie Kennedy and Brigitte Bardot are next on the list.
Do you have a favourite piece of work that you’ve produced?
So hard to choose a favourite. I love the one I did of the Hadid sisters from the VMAS, as well as the one I drew during the Romance was Born showcase at MFWA 2018. Another favourite is this recent piece featuring Xia Yan.