Last week Creative Bloq ventured to Taipei to check out the national design scene at Creative Expo Taiwan 2019 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab), 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.
Click the icon in the top right of each image to enlarge it
01. Huyu(opens in new tab)
Taiwan-born, Paris-based animator and illustrator Huyu (opens in new tab) 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.”(opens in new tab)
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’.”
02. CHIH CHIH(opens in new tab)
CHIH CHIH (opens in new tab) 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 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(opens in new tab)
Fashion brand Ivy Niu (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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(opens in new tab)
Cheeky Boy (opens in new tab) 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.
"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(opens in new tab)
Much of Weien Lee (opens in new tab)'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.(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
Irina Moons (opens in new tab) 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.”(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
Taiwanese illustrator Mandie Kuo (opens in new tab) 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.
- Find out about Taipei Creative Expo 2019 (opens in new tab)
- The best pencils for colouring, drawing and sketching (opens in new tab)
- 10 illustration books every artist should read (opens in new tab)