This month we talked with Seain Liu, a Hong Kong illustrator who designed a series of Staying in at The Nate illustrations for us.
1. Seain (@seainart), tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?
I’d say there is no exact moment that I became an artist. I’ve always loved art in all kinds of forms since I was a kid; I love singing, dancing and of course drawing. I’m originally from Chongqing and I moved to Hong Kong when I was a teenager. Living here for the last 11 years has opened my eyes to the wider world. I studied at Baptist University’s Academy of Visual Arts and since graduating I’ve taken part in a number of group exhibitions in Europe. Being surrounded by other artists of different nationalities was stimulating and a lot of fun, I learned a lot of things that they don’t teach you at art school! But now I’m focussing on developing my own career in Hong Kong and I’m learning a lot about myself through my own work.
2. Is having to stay at home these days helped with giving you more time to focus on your artwork? Or does staying in the same place often hamper your creativity?
It’s definitely helped me to focus and I treasure this time a lot. I feel like there’s no excuse not to work when I’m safely sitting at home and others are out there going through a tough time. Hong Kong could use a hug right now and I am exploring ways of using my work to cheer people up. I like using vivid colours and that can help brighten up the day when stuck indoors. My mind and my creativity can easily wander and escape my apartment. There have been times when the ideas and energy have been flowing so much that I just have to create something. But, of course, there have also been plenty of other moments (or even days) when I couldn’t work. When my brain is out of the zone it helps to read or do other things that I enjoy.
3. What are the biggest challenges for being an illustrator in Hong Kong?
Everything seems harder in the beginning. I don’t know where I am exactly and I can’t tell how hard or bumpy it’s going to be to build networks and find people who value and appreciate my work as much as I do. Creatively speaking the challenge as illustrators is to be happy and content with the way we create and not to go in search of a style or try to imitate an established name. People sometimes like to tell me that my work resembles another artist. I try to take it as a compliment and just keep doing what feels right to me. There are thousands of other people doing a similar thing to me, but I believe that the subtle choices we all make, from using a certain shade to adding an extra line, do make everyone’s work unique.
4. What do you think about The Nate?
I love the concept of connecting with the arts and bringing nature indoors. There’s a creativity and calmness to it despite the busyness of Nathan Road. The building also tells a story. Keeping old parts of the structure shows respect and appreciation for the history of Hong Kong.
5. If you were staying at The Nate, which studio would you like to stay?
Can I be a little greedy? Given the chance (and the time) I would stay in all of them – starting with the bunk bed studio. It brings back good memories of backpacking in Europe. I met some amazing people by staying in shared hostel rooms and I’m still good friends with a few of them. Doing a similar thing in my own city would be a super interesting chance to get to know someone else’s story. After that I’ll move to a bigger private room with plenty of greenery to have my own space and give my mind a rest. You’d probably find me sitting out on the balcony with a cup of coffee and my sketchbook, taking my time to absorb the city view before putting pencil to paper.