Vee Chenting Qian's illustrations spread joy throughout PDX

Published August 30, 2021

(Photo credit: Vee Chenting Qian)

Vee Chenting Qian's delightful characters greet you the moment you walk through the doors of PDX. Their colorful, playful drawings are everywhere, from detour signs to walkways, and the coffee cups high-fiving each other and rollerskating clouds are sure to make you smile —  which is 100% intentional. Born in Wuxi, China, Vee came to Oregon to study at Portland State University, and since graduating they have worked as a graphic designer and illustrator in Portland and New York. We called up Vee to chat about their illustrations and see what else is in the works.

Characters like the ones you see at PDX are always bursting out of Vee Chenting Qian’s brain.


What drew you to this project?

PDX came to me and said, "We want you to draw some simple doodle-like characters that are fun and make people smile when they walk into the airport." I haven't ever done anything so big that so many people can see. I've done editorial illustrations for Willamette Week [the weekly newspaper] that people around town will see, but a big installation sounded so fun. They gave me so much freedom to do whatever I wanted.


The illustrations are so joyful, even when they're rainclouds. How do you hope they strike people who see them?

From the start of the project, we wanted people to feel happy when they saw a skateboarding tree or a giant, food-loving snake. I want these characters to make people feel welcome and more relaxed, even when it's an exhausting, somewhat scary time traveling during COVID.


It must be something to see your drawings, blown up this big, all over the airport.

It's so amazing. Everything turned just like I drew it—but huge!


We hear you have another batch of drawings in the works.

For the new corridors leading to concourses C and D, we're going to have characters popping out from windows, just having fun, so people can feel like they're relaxing in the airplane and taking a sneak peek of regional attractions like the Blazers, bowls of ramen, and Mount Hood. We’re still working on the construction wall, but I’m excited for people to see them in the future.