“My name is Ye Zhijun, I’m in my 20s, I’m a virgo, and I love photography, drawing, and food.”
Endearing and direct, just like her drawings, Ye Zhijun’s description of herself can’t help but bring a smile to your face. Ye’s works rarely strike a gloomy or grumbling note, because most of the time the people in her drawings are too busy happily stuffing their faces.
That’s the unique charm of Ye’s words and images: you feel like you’ve known her all your life.
When Ye graduated from University of the Arts London, she felt lost: “I was drawing every day, but I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.”
Back then she’d often go out to eat at little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. No matter how perplexed or lonely she felt, when seated in front of something delicious, “for a few moments my entire body felt cured. So I thought, why not put all these dishes into my drawings?”
“The first thing I drew was a super simple but extraordinarily delicious bowl of noodles with scallion oil,” she says. “You put the chopped scallions on the strained noodles, add a bit of sugar and light soy sauce, then pour the hot oil on top. You can hear the noodles sizzle, and then the fragrance of scallion fills the entire kitchen. You mix it all together and take a big bite. It simply fills your heart with joy.”
Since then, eating and drawing have become the two main parts of her day. “Drawing accounts for 60%, eating accounts for 35%. But when I draw, most of the subject matter is still food related.”
After toiling away for an entire year, in 2016 Ye published her first comic book, It’s Not Fun Until It’s Drawn: London.
From rice bowls to roujiamo (a Chinese hamburger), from French pastries to Oreos, from snacks to hors-d’oeuvre to main courses, Ye’s drawn it all—and of course, she’s probably eaten it, too.
Asked why she’s so obsessed with food, Ye gives a serious answer: “Food does more than just fill your belly—it can also comfort your soul,” she says. “Behind every dish there’s a story. There may always be something even tastier than what you’re eating, but the people and ingredients that made that dish can never be replaced. They linger in our hearts and are hard to forget.”
In fact, Ye’s favorite dish, fried Chinese bread, is something she loves because it’s filled with love. “That was the first thing Chef made for me,” she says.
Chef is her boyfriend, and as his nickname suggests, he’s the one who does the cooking. “I remember once when driving back to Beijing with Chef I said I’d never met anyone who was so good to me. I’d never felt such kindness. Chef laughed and said, ‘I love you, that’s why I like to cook for you.’ That simple sentence utterly moved me. Every day I say, ‘I’m so happy I met you.'” Sweeter words are hard to imagine.
Ye says that the pudgy girl in the drawings is “one side of me.” Everyone has something to share, and the girl in the drawing is her window for sending the world faith, hope, and love.
“What I want to tell people is, not everything you experience in life can be perfect. But whether something is good or bad is up to you to decide. I hope everyone who sees my drawings can live without fear, and enjoy the people and things they encounter in life.”
In other words, “eat, drink, and be merry.”