Studio Visits

Ping Zhu Harnesses the Wild Energy of Tampopo

Inside Criterion / Criterion Designs — Oct 16, 2018


The work of New York–based artist Ping Zhu, one of the most brightly expressive illustrators around, has a way of instantly winning you over. The contours of her eccentric, lively worlds began to take shape when she was growing up in Los Angeles, as a child of scientists who was drawn to more creative pursuits, and it was during her college years that she received her first professional assignment, from the New York Times. In the decade since then, she has found herself in high demand, appearing regularly in the pages of the Times and the New Yorker, and lending her talents to brands such as Google, Instagram, and Warby Parker. Her thick, flowing brushstrokes convey an irrepressible sense of energy and movement, and eventually led Criterion to reach out to her with a mouthwatering assignment: to create a theatrical poster and disc cover for Juzo Itami’s eccentric, episodic “ramen western” Tampopo, images that would capture the buoyant, sensual flavor of the film.

For the latest installment of our Studio Visits series, we trekked out to Zhu’s studio at a converted pencil factory in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn to take a look at how she puts her magic to paper. There, the playfully droll artist showed us some of her most memorable recent work, and talked about the development of her tactile and free-flowing process—including her approach to the Tampopo poster, for which she painted a bath of noodles studded with memorable scenes from the film. “I wanted to preserve some of [the film’s] weirdness and sexiness, to kind of bring that to the table visually,” she says. To top it all off, Zhu let us watch her at work on her latest project, a children’s book about Flannery O’Connor that has her experimenting with paper cutouts to render the author’s beloved peacocks. If your day needs a splash of color—and whose doesn’t?—check out the whole video above.