Hi Peach, can you tell us a short description about yourself?
Hi! My name is Peach - like the fruit. I was born and raised in Beijing and now I’m an illustrator/muralist based in NYC.
How did you ended up being an artist in New York?
Growing up, I was very fortunate because my mom made sure I have exposure to art. My parents took me to museums, shows and even operas. In high school, I got the opportunity to go exchange in the State, where I got to meet a lot of other exchange students from different countries and it was then I saw a magazine featuring SCAD - Savannah College of Art and Design. I eventually went back to China to finish high school and even took the University entrance exam but I got accepted to SCAD and that’s where I got my Bachelor of Illustration & Print Making. It was a wonderful 4-years and after graduation, my best friend and I decided to load all of our stuff onto her van and we drove to New York. That’s how I became a New Yorker.
What happened after you moved to New York?
I honestly didn’t have any plans. I got an internship with a print making artist Kathy Carracio. She was a true old-school New Yorker, she survived cancer and had pink hair, that was really inspiring.
Peach and Kathy in Kathy’s print making studio
Peach doing traditional wood cut print
At the same time, I worked at art fairs & galleries but it didn’t feel very right like just not my crowd. I did feel a bit stagnant for the first couple years, not until 2017 when I got connected to Thrive Collective, they do a lot of school murals around NYC, I started doing more painting & murals. It started from one mural a year to two and many more followed.
Your background is traditional print making up until this point, how was the transition to being a muralist like?
Yeah, I didn’t paint much up until 2016. the majority of my portfolio is print making, etching and pastel sketches. I wasn’t confident with my painting skill at all. I slowly got back into painting by helping out another artist with window painting and painting murals with Thrive Collective then becoming the lead of one of their mural project. My personality works well with kids and I realized there’s so much I can give and teach them painting the murals together. Eventually I was painting murals and windows full time.
Peach’s mural in 2020 August for a local elementary school in Bedstuy.
The biggest thing about painting murals is that you need to work with different surfaces but you learn to adapt. But that’s not the most challenging part. While doing the school murals, I’ll work with the kids to see what they want and work with the school director to account for the history, culture of the neighborhood as well.
How did the pandemic affect you in 2020?
The school murals was very successful and lead to many more murals in 2019 with shops, hospitals to the point where I was painting murals that whole year so I was planning to paint murals full-time in 2020. But 2020 came and everything just stopped, I was making the most out of it by painting on my own roof. The neighbors would come out and clap and get through the lock-down together. That piece on my roof eventually got me a job to paint a promotional mural for Netflix. I posted the photo on social media and the producer saw it.
Mural during lock-down 2020 from Peach’s own roof
Summer 2020 was when I started Chinatown Mural Project with Karlin Chan - a Chinatown resident and activist. He looks like a Hong Kong mafia with all white hair and beard (she laughs). Karlin was born and raised in Chinatown and he’s very involved with the neighborhood, looking out for everyone. We met each other at a rally that he organized to protest the plans the city had to preserve an historic building - PS23, that burned down.
Rally to save PS23 - 70 Mulberry St. Chinatown
I helped paint the dragons in the background for the rally and I got along very well with Karlin. I showed him my sketch book which has a lot of animal metaphors inspired by animals around us and the Chinese zodiac. Karlin has always wanted to paint murals in the the neighborhood and proposed we do more murals together in the neighborhood. That was the start of Chinatown Mural Project. Since that summer, we have done seven murals together in Chinatown area.
Peach, Karlin & the community painting a lion dance mural at 138 Division St.
How did you decided what to paint for the murals in Chinatown?
We wanted up-lifting, fun, whimsical murals so for one of the murals, the idea came from our favorite food which is a heartwarming bowl of noodle soup. We also added interactive elements to make it fun for everyone.
Noodle Shop Mural on Mosco St.
Which mural is your favorite?
My personal favorite is Pigeon Playing Mahjong because since moving to New York, I’ve been fascinated with the pigeons all over the city, you can give them so many characters. I also made sure all the buildings in the painting reflected the real buildings in the same area capturing the period in 2020 when people had all the signs and posters on their windows.
Peach painting Mahjong Social at 52 Canal St.
How do you like being a muralist?
I think it’s a perfect occupation for me. I’m quite extroverted and by painting outside, I get to interact with the public. I’ll always have sketches before I paint the murals but as I paint and interact with people onsite, I end up changing things on the spot so my finished murals always look different from my original sketches.
When I was painting the Pigeon Playing Mahjong mural, for example, an old lady on a wheelchair passed by and she really liked the piece, she also expressed that she doesn't see many murals depicting people on wheelchairs, that inspired me and I was about to add her onto the same mural but she stopped me saying the piece is almost done already. I kept that in mind and for my next piece in the area and I added her in the scene.
Working outside, you’ll start with the sunrise and done at sunset, you can’t control the weather or the surface so you need to be flexible. It’s similar to a life lesson, I learn a lot by being a muralist.
Tell us about your show at Artbean Coffee.
The phrase “Bloom Where You Are Planted” has gotten me through hard times so for my art show at Artbean, I have decided to do a new art piece with this phrase. It is also to celebrate the Lunar New Year, I’m super excited since it’s my year - Year of the Rabbit.
Peach’s exhibition will be showing until March 27th, 2023. She will be hosting coloring sessions the last weekend of the show on March, 25th & 26th 11am-4pm.