For the Hong Kong-based illustrator Glary Wu, strangers are an unlimited source of inspiration. Their outfits, movements and interactions are of unending interest to Glary and with just one observation, her imagination can run wild with creative compositions and individual storylines. “There are too many elements about strangers that can inspire,” she tells us on the matter, and with this in mind, we can appreciate the illustrator’s beautifully detailed works for their original narratives built on a number of fleeting moments.
You may be surprised to know that these kinds of illustrations are in fact a new thing for Glary. Having graduated only last year, Glary spent much of her studies dabbling with oil paint. It’s only in the last year that she’s started working as a freelance illustrator and, of course, her training in the notoriously challenging medium of oils has been a useful foundation for Glary’s practice thus far. “After graduation,” she says, “I used illustration as a quicker and more direct form of recording the interesting things or thoughts I encountered day-to-day.”
Capturing such moments with a sense of immediacy, she found a mix of media helped her communicate this energy. And now, her illustrations often feature a mix of painterly washes, layers of shaded lines, brush strokes and other drawing tools. She walks around the streets to draw inspiration, picturing flourishing scenes in her mind as she goes, adding an alternative twist here and there. Then, she captures this scene through illustration, translating the atmosphere of the image onto paper and adding pinches of experimentation in the form of material, texture or weight.
Her surroundings provide an endless array of situations to draw, even the same trivial scenarios change constantly depending on the people, feeling and authenticity of the moment. “I love exploring with multiple mediums too because they bring exciting accidents, making each piece of work that much more unique. So it’s also a discovery process for me; instead of using the same techniques, I think drawing needs to be different and playful and that makes me enjoy doing so,” she adds on her joyful practice.
A friendly interaction set against the backdrop of countless blossoming purple flowers, a couple reading in a patch of long grass surrounded by seven circling white dogs, a moonlit elephant ride with gigantic stars in the distance. These are just a few of the magical illustrations that Glary depicts in her charming works.
Recently, she’s also collaborated with many a musician. The music allows her to draw and think in different ways. For one project, in particular, the musicians played classical music with a number of chapters while Glary visualised a story behind each. The music and the visuals work in tandem to tell the story, a new mode of narrative for the illustrator which proved fruitful.
She’s also working on a zine titled Flowers Speak. She says on the project: “I believe sometimes words limit how we express emotions, and meanings can easily be twisted by words. Whereas flowers embody true beauty that we need to hold dear.” For Glary, flowers can speak in volumes without making a sound, their symbolism and expressiveness can reveal many an insight and in this way, flowers are an important element in Glary’s work. “I think my art does not pack a strong emotional punch,” says the illustrator, “but it’s about the little things that bring joy in life like a little hug during tense social environments, and I hope this zine can do that.”
She equates the simple yet highly effective zine to a small candle added on top of a huge birthday cake. It may be small and seemingly insignificant, but it’s just like the cherry on top, in a creative sense. She hopes to continue working in this way in the future, perhaps playing more with representation, whether that’s in the printing method of the physical shape of the zine. Either way, we know what we can expect of Glary: an astute zoom in on the minute details of life blown up in evocative moments, illustratively expressed on paper. Crafting a unique painterly space, Glary draws connections between people and their surroundings in an artistic way which touches the viewer both in a sensory and emotional manner.
“The people in the drawings are not the main characters to me,” she finally goes on to say, “every person in the drawing has their own little internal world and perspective. It’s not very rational, but the mood and emotions also affect their world, which always seems playful because it’s like creating a lot of different mental spaces.”
GalleryGlary Wu (Copyright © Glary Wu 2020)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.