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Feifei Ruan blends Doctor Who with classic Chinese style

We’ve seen the Doctor and the TARDIS appear in many art forms over the years. Last year BBC Studios approached artist Feifei Ruan with a brand new art challenge. She was asked to create a series of illustrations featuring the TARDIS in famous Chinese cities. The challenge was accepted and the images speak for themselves. This was certainly a triumph.

The collection of illustrations would serve as part of a new launch for Doctor Who in the Chinese market, as well as to celebrate the last series. Each illustration serves a purpose to resonate with the various Chinese locations that are represented within them. These images also had to work across multiple platforms for the ad campaign.

The artist originates from Shenzhen, China, and her heritage certainly gets conveyed in her artwork. She currently resides in New York (US) as a freelance illustrator. Feifei Ruan has lots of illustration experience from book covers to editorials. She has also worked with many companies such as Jim Henson Co and Penguin.

The TARDIS has been neglecting trips to China over the years it seems. The popular science fiction program has had references to China in the past. However, Doctor Who hasn’t featured the country in an episode since the early years of the classic series. Of course the Doctor does tend to visit the UK most often. Perhaps this new campaign might suggest a future trip to China for the thirteenth Doctor. Only time will tell…

The first illustration released in this set was created in honour of the Taobao Maker Festival in Hangzhou. This four day long festival celebrates China’s young inventors, designers and product makers. The artist stated that the illustration promoted “Doctor Who’s activity around the Taobao Maker Festival”. Other illustrations from this set were released at Shanhai Comic Con late last year.

The Process

Feifei Ruan explained the process in creating these beautiful pieces and the challenges she faced in a recent interview. She explained that it “wasn’t easy” when she started working with the legendary TARDIS.  She continued her explanation stating, “After some crazy sketches and some back-and-forth with the BBC Studios Creative team, we decided in the end to keep it as simple as possible”. The TARDIS would be seen as a character in and of itself. This character would be pictured enjoying its journey around China.

BBC Studios insisted on the locations and colour palettes to use, but the artist retained freedom of control over any other elements within the illustrations.

“The selected locations are all either iconic or historic landmarks from the famous cities of China. [ . . . ] Each city has its own culture and history which I pay homage to in my illustrations. For instance, while working on the Wuhan piece, I used the poems and the original murals in the Yellow Crane Tower as reference. The TARDIS looks towards the tower, like a poet of sorts.” — Feifei Ruan

The artist utilised several photo references to perfect her images. However, she claims that the colouring relied more on “rules and feelings”. “I tried to give each image a unique colour scheme based on the cultural differences while also following the colour palettes to match the Doctor Who branding“, she explained. She added that this process was challenging but also fun.

Feifei Ruan’s full collection of Doctor Who illustrations along with her other works can be seen on the artist’s website.

[Source: Digital Arts]