Young Guns 20: Xinmei Liu

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 02, 2022

Spotlighting the stupendous class of Young Guns 20

Nearly 100 renowned industry professionals made up the jury for Young Guns this year. And after revealing the 84 finalists, it is finally time to unveil the 31 winners who make up the class of Young Guns 20.

Every year, we add another class of young talent from all over the globe to the exclusive Young Guns community. The winners of Young Guns 20 are your next project directors, animators, designers, editors, illustrators, artists, photographers, storytellers, coders, and writers. So this is your cue to follow them on Instagram immediately– because they are our industry’s future legends after all.

In two weeks, the winners will fly into NYC from around the world to celebrate their accomplishments, make new friends, have a few cocktails, and take home their official Young Guns Cube. We can’t wait to celebrate with them at Sony Hall on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, at 6:30 PM– and we hope to see you there too!

Before the party begins, we took the time to get to know each of our winners so you can read up on the highly creative individuals who make up Young Guns 20.







When did you first hear about Young Guns? What were your initial impressions of the Young Guns competition — the award and the community?

I heard about Young Guns years ago when I was an illustration student in college. Some past winners were big names in the industry and some came to my school as guest speakers. Initially, I thought the award must be the highest honor for young creatives because there are so few winners each year, and you have to be really famous like such and such to win it. I didn’t know much about the community then– I was an art student struggling hard to be professional and couldn’t even think of being among those big names one day.

Congrats on the win! What made you enter this year?

I am a first-time entrant. I thought of entering last year, but didn’t think I had enough professional work in my portfolio. Then my good friend from MFA (hi Dani!) became a winner so I thought I’d try this year. Besides, I’ve been “blessed” with a good amount of editorial work in this tragic time of human history. In fact, the question was really why not enter? I entered COLORFUL (which is a free opportunity for BIPOC artists) and was selected as a finalist, which gave me free entry into Young Guns. Needless to say, I am really thankful to the nice people who initiated COLORFUL. Who doesn’t like free stuff after all?

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you decide which pieces were best to enter and truly reflected you and your work?

Ah, that wasn’t easy. There are a few I definitely knew should be included, and a couple I couldn’t decide between. First of all, I entered projects that include multiple pieces so I could make the most out of the six-project opportunity. Then it was a matter of what I enjoyed creating the most. I believe I show my true self when enjoying what I do.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, especially knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns? How did you celebrate?

Oh, I didn’t know how difficult it is… I thought it must not be as difficult as I imagined since I can win it. That was my first thought, but maybe I am wrong. Then I thought of how hard I’ve been working this year (and unfortunately how little I’ve been paid for all this work) and thought, "hmm maybe it is kind of badass that I won." I was in my colleague's home studio editing comic book photos I had just taken when I received the email. I celebrated by acting out my acceptance speech in my mind on the subway.

"I was in my colleague's home studio editing comic book photos I had just taken when I received the email. I celebrated by acting out my acceptance speech in my mind on the subway."

How would you describe your personal brand in one sentence? Now, try defining it in three words.

I hope to illustrate the lived experience of humanity. Humans. Environments. Emotions.

Who are some of the biggest influences on you and your work and career? Who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

Yuko Shimizu was a big influence in my early career. As a student, I reconstructed her coloring process by studying the screenshots she shared, and that was how I learned to color my illustrations. She was so generous with sharing tips and advice on social media, which I took great advantage of and am super grateful for her time.

My MFA thesis advisor, the legendary Guy Billout, was also significant in shaping my artistic style and voice. He guided me through my last project in school, and by doing so, taught me a lot about forming concepts and communicating effectively, with logic. “What would Guy do?,” is sometimes the question I ask myself when dealing with a difficult assignment.

Of course, many people have given me a hand along the way and I am grateful for all, including those who didn’t respect me or my work—you taught me what to avoid in my future career.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns crew, are there any past winners you look up to and admire? What is it about their work that you love?

There are many– I admire how insanely well Victo Ngai (YG16) draws, and the expressiveness of Ping Zhu’s (YG11) gouache paintings. I admire the dreaminess and surrealism in Max Löffler’s (YG17) work. Dani Choi (YG19) has been my friend since grad school and I have always adored and been inspired by her work.

Name a professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

This is not so much a dream, but something I want to do when I have time—I’d like to interview my parents’ generation about their lived experience and how it was shaped by history in the larger scale, and create a visual representation of it. I’d also love to work on history-related projects with professionals working in journalism or historical research.

This is YG20, but what do you imagine you’ll be up to when YG30 rolls around in 2032, both personally and professionally?

I cannot imagine doing anything different from now in 10 years. In fact, I am quite satisfied with where I am professionally, and don’t know how it could get any better. I hope by then there will be more room for free expression in China so I can be a part of the blooming community there, where I grew up. But also, I imagine I will spend more time on projects that are completely my own, such as books I write and illustrate from scratch. In terms of my personal life– anything can happen anytime so who knows.

Any thoughts on how you are feeling about winning YG20? Best piece of advice you have ever received? Life motto? Goals heading into 2023? Something you do to feel energized? Will we see you at the official YG20 party in NYC in November?

Oh do I have to answer all of this? I feel good about winning YG20 because now I don’t need to enter again next year. The best advice I’ve received is to always put ideas on paper. The second best advice I’ve received is to always make work that is honest to myself. My life motto is, "it’s always better to regret doing something than to regret not doing something." My goal heading into 2023 is to keep up with all the deadlines. There’s nothing I can do to feel energized–I’m always exhausted. And yeah you will probably see me at the YG20 party in November!



Come party with us and celebrate all the Young Guns 20 winners on Wednesday, November 16 at Sony Hall!

Get tickets! It's party time!

The class of Young Guns 20



Fire + Fragility: Zuzanna Rogatty's YG21 Cube Design
Young Guns 21: Max Amato
Young Guns 21: Justin Au
Young Guns 21: Tess Ayano







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