Explore the black and white streets of Hey Mady, where you never know which way the story will turn

Storytelling is at the heart of the Philippines-based illustrator's work. Find out more about her complex architectural series of drawings below.

19 February 2021

On first glance, the illustrator Mady’s work may seem chaotic, but when you inspect the black and white linear mess further, you can see that everything – from every last cat, sign post and potted plant – is in order. Based in the Philippines, in a laidback area an hour or two outside Manila, the designer and illustrator Mady resides. Having graduated with a degree in Communications, it wasn’t until her final year when she realised she wanted to pursue the arts. She settled on design, and even though she had no background or formal training in the medium, she never saw it as a problem.

“I realised that I was never really alone in the journey,” Mady tells us, “I learned an immense amount of knowledge about the field from the people I’ve been with, from books that I’ve read and from the overall experience of being in the industry.” Though it was challenging to begin with, Mady is a firm believer that this shouldn’t hold us back from doing what we want. That was six years ago, and ever since, the creative has been working across several aspects of the creative industry including publishing, advertising and branding while working freelance on the side.

One of these side projects is the illustration account Hey Mady, an outlet of creative expression which started back in 2017. Here, she lets her illustrative side let loose, imagining stark scenes of modern day urban living bolstered by architectural lines which act as a grid-like foundation to every piece. The illustrations are informed by Mady’s love of storytelling and interest in Japanese culture, explaining the Japanese signs and occasional nod to Mount Fuji. She says of her illustration work: “It is my outlet and my way of processing what I felt at the time.”

Illustration has become a way for Mady to make sense of past experiences and acknowledging them at the same time. This feeling has given her “a sense of freedom and solitude” but at the same time, Mady admits she has a love-hate relationship with the medium to this day. Having drawn since she was a young child, Mady never found real confidence in the work to the extent that she still doesn’t think she’s that good at it. “It comes and it goes,” she says of this feeling of self-doubt that I’m sure many of us can relate to, whether it’s in illustration or otherwise. And though she’s accepted this contradicting relationship, there is one thing that she is sure of: “I find comfort in it”.


Hey Mady (Copyright © Hey Mady, 2020)

Modestly, Mady doesn’t see her style “as something every unique”. She adds, “I am quite sure that there are hundreds of artists out there who have a similar style and approach to mine but what I personally like about my work is that I stay true to it.” By believing wholly and authentically in her work, she hopes to transcend the viewer into the immersive landscapes. But fundamentally, she creates the work for herself, without compromise. And once that's established, the viewer’s reactions seem to naturally fall into place.

Storytelling lies at the heart of Mady’s illustrations. Interestingly, she finds endless amounts of inspiration in the densely colourful and picturesque scenes of Hayao Miyazaki films, even though this famously intricate style of image making pointedly contrasts with Mady’s on the surface. “I am in awe at the way he tells the story,” adds Mady, “how he is able to humanise the characters and make the most ordinary moments into something that we can relate to on a personal and even nostalgic level.” In turn, Mady feels like she owes “a very huge part” of who she is as an artist to Ghibli and its films. This love of storytelling, coupled with an acute interest in people, allows her narrative illustrations to flow out of her digital nib.

Mady likes to hint to the stories that are yet to be told, ones that take a little digging to uncover. And whether that’s searching in an overcrowded illustration for the next piece of the puzzle, or a story full of open-ended questions and alternative endings, these stories can be found in the various characters and homes of Mady’s work. Before she even thinks about putting pen to paper, the story is Mady’s first port of call. For the illustrator, the story helps to connect the meaning of the image with the viewer, affecting how people relate to it, and then, the technical details come into play. The actual drawing process depends on how Mady likes to work around a certain scene. Sometimes, she’ll construct the online of a composition before adding the detail, or vice versa.

At the end of the day however, once she’s finished her works of art, Mady’s illustrations are a pleasure to delve into. Whichever path it takes you, it won’t be a boring one. And Mady is excited to see where the illustrations will carry her in the future. Perhaps it will develop into a whole new brand or become a collaboration with other artists she admires. “To tell you the truth,” she finally goes on to say of what’s next, “I don’t know because if I go back to ask my past self the same question, I wouldn’t imagine that I would be doing what I do now.”

GalleryHey Mady (Copyright © Hey Mady, 2020)

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Hey Mady (Copyright © Hey Mady, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

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.


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