Welcome to our third interview on our CiHK blog – where we get up close and personal with movers and shakers in Hong Kong who are proud to call themselves Canadian. I’ve known Kitty for a long time and her funky yet feminine watercolor art has always caught my eye – here I am interviewing Kitty!
1. Hi Kitty! Tell us a quick intro about yourself 🙂
Hi everyone! My name is Kitty and I’m an award-winning illustrator based in Hong Kong. I was born here but my family and I immigrated to a small town near Vancouver when I was 8 years old. I’ll give you a hint about the town I grew up in: it’s known for airplanes, farms and cheap gas! I love to create playful fashion and food illustrations inspired by Hong Kong’s culture which feels like a love letter to the city. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with some amazing clients such as Apple, Kiehl’s, Tiffany & Co. and Lane Crawford and I was named Perspective’s ’40 Under 40′ creative stars.
2. How did you get started in illustration?
I got my start as an illustrator after working as an assistant fashion designer here in Hong Kong. It was my first job here and my first corporate job after university. I felt very conflicted at the time and decided it wasn’t the right career path for me. So I started as a freelance illustrator. In reality I had no idea what I was doing, but I started by going to networking events to advertise myself and sending cold pitches to Art Directors and Editors at magazines. It was a slow start but I’m really glad I took the leap!
3. How did you find your style?
I found my style just from pure experimentation. When I first started as a freelancer, I was also suffering from hyperthyroidism (an autoimmune disease) at the time. I had a lot of downtime while I was recovering at home and I would paint a lot and post them online for people to see.
For my artworks I always start simply with pencil and paper! First I start with a rough sketch on paper, and I’ll trace over this rough sketch on watercolour paper and paint with gouache, then I’ll scan it on my Epson scanner and clean it up on Photoshop! It’s all very simple, i’m not a tech savvy gal!
5. What inspires you to create your works?
A lot of my work is inspired by my childhood memories growing up in Hong Kong, and my nostalgia of those memories since I’ve moved back. You can see it in one of my newest pieces, it’s called ‘Let’s Go 茶餐廳’ and in it I paint all my favourite dishes at the Cha Chaan Teng and my memories of each item.
6. How does social media influence your work and your career?
I have a love /hate relationship with social media! On one hand, it’s a free way to share my work with people and reach new audiences but on the other hand – it can be quite toxic. I feel pressured to spend a lot of time on it to keep up with promotion and often will end up comparing myself with other creators and artists. As we all know, comparison is the thief of joy. But at the end of the day, being active on social media has given me a lot of opportunities so I’m grateful for it. If I didn’t live in the time of Instagram how would I promote myself? Maybe I would have had to put my artwork on printouts and tack them to the notice board of the local Safeway!?
7. Your illustrations have a very sophisticated, yet playful quality. Do you pursue any other art forms? Describe to us one of your favorite projects!
Well one of my favorite projects I actually started during the pandemic with fellow Canadian in Hong Kong Virginia Chan of “Humid with a Chance of Fishball” tours! We started a mystery jigsaw company that is all about Hong Kong. It’s called “Hong Kong Puzzle Mystery”. We are currently in the process of raising funds on Kickstarter for our second series! It’s all about wildlife in Hong Kong with beautiful intricate artwork painted by yours truly!
It feels so good that our little self initiated project has gotten a lot of amazing attention. Our puzzle won Silver at this year’s Hong Kong Smart Design Award and has been featured in the South China Morning Post and Tatler Magazine. We’re now stocked at M+ museum’s gift shop and at Bookazine!
8. What would you like to say to Canadians in Hong Kong? 🙂
I just want to say “hello/bonjour” to all my fellow Canadians in Hong Kong. It can be stressful living in Hong Kong with its fast pace and tight spaces. You might be like me and look at your Canadian friends back home all having kids and buying houses with amazing backyards – but Hong Kong has given me so many opportunities and I’m really grateful to be here! Now if someone can let me know where I can get a nanaimo bar around here, I’d be set! Thanks so much for reading!