7 up-and-coming illustrators to watch out for

Last week Creative Bloq ventured to Taipei to check out the national design scene at Creative Expo Taiwan 2019. The Fair On The Move thread saw 240 leading illustrators, designers and character artists exhibiting their work at the Dome at Taipei Expo Park. Particularly exciting was the Talent 100 section, which gives 100 up-and-coming illustrators and artists, a platform to showcase their talent.

Seventy of those people come from Taiwan, and the remaining 30 from the global design community. We chatted to some of them to explore their design portfolios, and hear more about their methods and inspirations. Read on to discover the hot new designers we think you need to know, from Taiwan and beyond.

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01. Huyu

Huyu's work spans a range of styles; some highly intricate and complex

Taiwan-born, Paris-based animator and illustrator Huyu explores a range of different styles and media in her work. Recently, she's been experimenting with letterpress and risographs. "I feel print is not just print – for me it’s more like the last step,” she explains. “It completes my work.” 

In her personal work, Huyu has found herself drawn to complex, intricate designs, because they help her zone out and slow things down. “At the moment, I like to draw complicated lines because it makes me feel calm. I feel like everything is so fast. Life; city. So that’s why I want to calm myself, so I try to work on one illustration for more time.”

Recently, she's been experimenting with letterpress printing

Exhibitions like Creative Expo Taiwan are a relatively new venture for Huyu, but she's embracing the chance to connect with her audience in person. “Before, I worked at home and posted illustrations on a website, so now I feel like I’m a real person and I can talk to real people," she explains. "It’s a really good way to promote yourself because people will think ‘oh, you’re not so different from me’.”


CHIH CHIH's illustrations explore spatial structures

CHIH CHIH has been working as an illustrator for two years. Her work explores spatial structures, inspired by her interest in buildings and interiors. She uses blocks of flat colour to play around with the viewer's perception of 2D and 3D space. “The colours… they’re very noisy," she says. "It’s like blue and green and yellow. They’re actually basic colours, but I think they create a very tranquil style."


The illustrator likens her compositions to movie stills

The works are completed using acrylics on wooden board, and can be found in department stores, as part of bookshop displays, and on stationery. Compositionally, she likens her work to movie stills. "I think it’s a little bit creepy; [it feels] like something is going to happen, or has already happened. It creates a story. And that’s what I want to create," she adds. 

03. Ivy Niu

Ivy Niu and Max Foster launched a fashion label two years ago

Fashion brand Ivy Niu was launched two years ago by the eponymous Niu and her partner Max Foster. "The label started initially with Ivy being fed up with freelance illustration and just wanting to do her own work. She enjoyed fashion a lot so we thought, let’s put it on clothes and see where it goes!” laughs Foster. 

Both coming from design backgrounds, the pair paint each of the separate elements in the designs, then scan them in and layer them up in Photoshop CC  to create an interesting repeat pattern. Their vibrant creations have found them fans across their native Australia and beyond.

“We like to keep things quite eclectic, but colour plays a big part,” says Niu of the inspiration behind their work. The label puts a lot of effort into creating striking visuals to show off the designs – unsurprising, given around 90 per cent of their sales come from Instagram

04. Cheeky Boy 

Cheeky Boy's surreal illustrations enable him to do things he can't in real life

Cheeky Boy has been drawing for a decade, but just started to sell his work this year. His works – created using watercolour and ink – typically feature a naked man in various surreal situations. They’re a little bit creepy and a little bit funny, but certainly unforgettable. 

Cheeky Boy

The artist uses ink and watercolour

"This boy is me. Like a cheeky boy. When I want to do something but I can’t do it in [real life], I do it in my drawings," explains the illustrator when we meet him. His website sheds a little more light on the situation. "He never stops entertaining himself, but I still cannot put a smile on his face."

05. Weien Lee

Weien Lee created a set of tiny guides to specimen preservation as part of a university project

Much of Weien Lee's work stems from a university project that saw her collaborating with London's Grant Museum of Zoology to promote the museum's work using illustration. It was only a small project, but Lee went all out. The result was a series of tiny, detailed guides exploring different ways to preserve and present animal specimens, from taxidermy to freeze drying, pickling and pinning. “The museum was originally a library, so I combined the books and illustration and taxidermy into the work,” she explains. 

The project expanded to include pins, cards and more

To ensure accuracy, she studied explainer videos from the museum on YouTube. The tiny size is designed to pique the viewer's interest. “They will be curious. ‘What are these?’ and they’ll want to open them to find out what’s inside,” she smiles.

Lee is from Taiwan, and does much of her work there, but studied for her MA in England and also draws inspiration from Japanese drawing styles. “I really like Japanese culture and also British culture, so I kind of combine the two together," she explains.

06. Moons

Moons' pillows picked up a Creative Expo Taiwan design award

Irina Moons is a web designer and graphic design by profession, but in her spare time does lots of screen printing and illustration. The artist picked up a Creative Expo Taiwan award this year for her pillow designs (above). “It’s about not losing your pillow," she laughs. "You always recognise your pillow, because it’s the boy and the girl. Or you can have a two girls or two boys.”

The artist's screen prints capture her favourite locations

Moons is based in Luxembourg, where she works out of a printing studio shared with five other artists. “My style is very simple," she explains. "I find it more interesting to play with colours than do really complicated illustrations. I always take the basic four colours – blue, red, yellow, green." 

Many of her screen prints feature landscapes familiar to the artist: Brittany, her house in Luxembourg with friends, the French coast, a secret cafe terrace in Luxembourg. Her dog, Poncho, also makes a guest appearance in many. 

07. Mandie Kuo 

Mandie Kuo is known for her cute animal illustrations

Taiwanese illustrator Mandie Kuo is known for her cute, calming animal designs. “I create a very harmonious kind of vibe," she explains. "My favourite character is this pink elephant because he is so soft and big.” Kuo works both in Photoshop, and traditionally, using watercolours and coloured pencil. She sells her designs as prints, products, and original art. 

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Ruth Hamilton

Ruth spent a couple of years as Deputy Editor of Creative Bloq, and has also either worked on or written for almost all of the site's former and current print titles, from Computer Arts to ImagineFX. She now spends her days reviewing mattresses and hiking boots as the Outdoors and Wellness editor at T3.com, but continues to write about design on a freelance basis in her spare time.