Illustrator Weitong Mai on the beauty of linework, finding your focus and tattooed cats

A multi-cultural background influences Weitong's hand-drawn flora, wildlife and black cats.


Weitong Mai

Growing up in China, Canada, and finally London has given freelance illustrator Weitong Mai's delicate line work of flora, wildlife and cats (she's a self-confessed cat-lover) a beautiful multi-cultural influence.

Now based in London – one year on from finishing her BA Illustration major at Camberwell College of Arts and internship at studio Shotopop – Weitong has thrown her eagerness to transfer everything she feels and sees into packaging, editorial and commercial projects for the likes of Moleskine and Dutch magazine, Mixology.

"I'm a huge fan of lines," says Weitong. "There is always a lot of possibilities when playing with lines – the differences between the lengths, the curves, the weights, the sharpness, the softness, the flexibility and the elasticity of lines can nicely support me to transfer my ideas to illustrations."

Weitong Mai

Weitong carries her sketchbook at all times, transforming sketches to either pencil or fineliner illustrations – but salvaging the texture and characteristics of hand-drawn lines – with a finish of colour in Adobe Photoshop.

She’s still learning how the creative process involves not just starting a project with "some amazing ideas", but working with a client to make those ideas happen.

"Being a freelance illustrator needs to balance with other talented people, some people are better on animating, some people are better on graphic design, some people are better with communicating with clients. I am still learning to find my own focus point and advantage to fulfil the project."


Weitong Mai

Illustrating for Swedish pregnancy fashion line Embla Intimate became Weitong’s first branding project (seen here), which allowed her total creative freedom. It was her first project using flowers at the main subject, alongside animals, freely collaging the images into different combinations to use on several platforms such as advertising posters, packaging and social media.

"Nature, flowers, animals are always my favourite [to illustrate]," she says.

"I used to think flowers are the decorative elements for illustration, but after I understand more about different kinds of flowers and different stage of a flower’s life, I realised nature has its own mood and power."

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Weitong Mai

She also illustrated the cover of Mixology magazine (a publication about bar culture) depicting 'zero waste'. She rose to the challenge of combining the image of a trash can into a bar context.

"By referencing the idea of the movie Lady and the Tramp, I transform the environment of the dull alley to a romantic bar, and also create the cat couple to highlight the final outcome," she says.


Weitong Mai

The self-confessed cat-lover spends a lot of time watching "cat porn" on the internet. Here’s an illustration from her personal series, Tattooed Cats.

"I find out most of the cat pictures online are fluffy and adorable," says Weitong.

"One of my friends is allergic to cat hair and owns an elegant Sphynx (a cat breed known for its lack of coat). I was amazed by its cool shape at the first glance, and had the idea of creating a series of tattooed cat to show the mystery of cat."


Weitong Mai

Weitong is currently working with another illustrator and graphic designer as a studio, called Caper Paper, in which they design and illustrate a series of greeting cards and letter paper.

"[We] want to help people to remember the feeling about a handwritten message. Nowadays, people intend to send their message through email or social media platforms. I think the happiness of receiving a handwritten letter is non-replicable."

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Weitong Mai