1. Tell us about yourself.
I am an artist, picturebook creator and print maker from Hong Kong. I received my Bachelor of Art from the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong in 2012 and my Master’s in Children's Book Illustration from Anglia Ruskin University in 2020.
My art mainly focuses on the pursuit and discovery of wonder through intimate aspects of daily life. With my final year project Hello Nomads, I won the Batsford Prize in the Children's Illustration category in 2021. My illustrations were also selected for the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Children's Book Fair 2020 and World Illustration Awards 2020.
2. What is your fondest memory of Anglia Ruskin University?
The first module I had in Cambridge covered observational drawing, so everyone in class brought a sketchbook with them everywhere, all the time, in order to sketch things day and night!
The pub is another encounter that I won't forget; I remember the days when I would go to pubs with my classmates and enjoy the beer there while illustrating. It was one of the best experiences I had!
3. What has been your favourite job?
Working as a full-time artist and illustrator now is a dream come true for me. Growing up, I always had a great interest in art-related subjects which is why I studied visual arts in high school and graduated with a major in Creative Media at university.
2014’s social movement in Hong Kong triggered my desire to share the stories of my hometown with the next generation, so with my partner, I spent more and more time reading books and carrying out different experiments. We created illustrations and made children’s books, and as luck would have it, the first illustration book we created won the award for Creative Writing in Chinese in 2016 and got published thereafter. This experience escalated my eagerness for learning illustration which is why I pursued a master’s degree in Illustration in Cambridge, UK later on.
4. In one word, how would you describe Anglia Ruskin University?
5. How did your time at ARU help you?
I received an International Excellence Scholarship from ARU for my studies which helped a lot financially as an international student. Also, the children’s book collection at ARU’s library was heaven for me. I remember once spending two weeks there trying to finish reading every picture book they had. It was a challenge, and I almost completed my mission!
Last but not least, joining the tennis society and representing ARU by playing games with students from other universities is another unforgettable memory from my time in Cambridge.
6. What did you love about your chosen course?
I am glad I chose the Master’s in Children's Book illustration at ARU, as it helped me a lot. Personally, I think it is one of the best illustration courses in the UK; the tutors are all very experienced illustrators and authors from the industry, the course is designed to help every individual, and I was allowed to choose the tutor suitable to my personal project for each module.
It was my first time studying in a traditional art school and I really enjoyed the practice of sharing workshops and facilities with students from other art programmes. For example, I joined the life drawing sessions with Fine Art and Design students every week.
Finally, the print room in the school is a magical place that I never wanted to leave. Learning and practicing printmaking changed the way I create images, because by knowing how an image can be printed layer after layer manually, I learnt how to present an image with limited colours (layers) and focus on the essential elements I wanted to display.
7. What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
It is a difficult time; the world has been in lockdown for more than a year because of the pandemic. Back in 2020, our graduation showcase in Bologna Children's Book Fair was cancelled and many of us lost the chance to present our work at the world's largest picture book market. Luckily, we learnt and changed, and started to connect with people in the digital world, and now we are able to work with people all around the world easily.
For me, as an illustrator, that is quite important, because I always wanted to live in different places and work with people across different locations. Now we’re used to digital communication, this might come true in the near future!
My advice to current students is to be optimistic and be prepared. Send your work to different competitions and display platforms. When God closes a door, he opens a window, and we have to learn to adapt in difficult situations.
8. What do you know now that you wish you had known whilst studying?
I am actually quite satisfied with my journey in Cambridge. Maybe it’s because I took a master’s degree that I really liked, and I understood what I was looking for. The course provided more than I expected so I have no regrets about that. If I have to pick one thing I wish I had known, I guess maybe I should have joined more sport clubs and enjoyed university life more.
9. Who was the biggest influence on your career?
I believe there are certain things that we cannot express through words. In Journey, by Mitsumasa Anno, readers are invited to follow his small and detailed figures as they travel through a nation’s landscape, and explore its art, food and culture. Every picture in the book is meticulously drawn in fine lines and subtle colours. One can spend hours on each page spotting everything that’s going on within the picture. Anno’s wordless book spreads beyond the boundary of language and creates a new imaginary world from his vision for readers to explore. His works demonstrates the power of drawing.
The book series reminds me of my childhood, where my family of four lived in a confined 50 square-feet room. I had to stay there with my brother during the summer holidays and my favourite activity was reading picture-books. I felt free to imagine, and there was no border to explore different cultures and stories around the world whilst I was reading. Even after more than 20 years, I can still recall some of the scenes from the books I read. This supports me to use drawing as my art medium to communicate with others. Mitsumasa Anno's works have had a great influence on me.
10. What advice would you give your younger self?
Be more confident and pursue your goal bravely.
11. Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
When I was a primary student, I was asked to write about my dream job. I thought it was hopeless to be a painter in my city which is why I wrote that I wanted to be an astronaut – something I thought also impossible, but which sounded funnier at the time. Twenty years later, I draw every day and tell the story of my town. I am glad that I have not given up the thing I really enjoy. Studying in Cambridge really helped.
12. What’s next?
I am now working on a non-fiction picture book with an UK publisher, it will be a thick one, introducing different people's living style around the globe. I am very exciting towards this collaboration and cannot wait to share the work with my lovely classmates, friends and tutors in the UK soon.