If you could make the “what ifs” in your life come true, what would you wish for?
That’s the question posed by Chinese illustrator Zhai Yanjun, better known by his pen name, Xiaomin Lao’er. In his What If comics, which he draws late each night, a bald, bearded man with thick-framed glasses and an anxious look on his face explores every conceivable situation, making up for the shortcomings of real life.
As a child, Zhai often accompanied his parents to work, where he’d draw to help pass the time. Little did he know, art would become a life calling.
Nowadays, much of his time is spent drawing, reading, and taking quiet walks. While he enjoys socializing and mingling with others, his attitude is more that of an observer than a participant. “For everyday scenes, I just need an idea, an impression, and my mind will naturally react. My imagination does the rest, and it might end up becoming a drawing.”
Zhai has spent much of his life in Kunming, the City of Eternal Spring. People there are seldom busy, know how to enjoy themselves, and always seem to have time and money to spare. “It’s a good place to retire,” he laughs. Even though he’s in his 30s, the slow pace makes him feel more like he belongs to his parents’ generation. Maybe the source of his gentle style lies in the fact that he has no illusions and accepts the world as it is. “The What If comics are like a series of hypotheticals for myself,” he explains. “Mostly I draw things I wish I could change, things that float above my everyday life. It’s an outlet for impossible fantasies, like being invisible or flying. Everyone has those.”
长期生活在昆明这个四季如春的城市里，人们不是很忙，喜欢吃喝玩乐，而且总有闲工夫和闲钱，他笑称这是一个 “适合养老的地方”，这种慢节奏的生活状态也常常让 80 后的小民老二觉得自己属于爸妈那一辈，更像一个 60 年代的人。 也许他作品中的那份平和正来自这里，对现实了然于心、却也坦然接受。“《如果》就像我对自己的假设，很多都是遗憾，它们浮在日常生活之上，是个胡思乱想的出口。就好像现实中我不可能隐身，也不会飞，每个人都是这样。”