Lisk Feng looks back on her work at the beginning of her career as being “colourful and cheerful”, but this year she feels she’s begun to explore “the other side of my usual style”. This has seen Lisk experiment with colour palettes and develop more conceptual ideas for her editorial illustrations. The New York-based illustrator has also been working on other kinds of jobs alongside her editorial work, including the first of several upcoming children’s books due out next year, which has offered a different direction for her work.
Lisk’s day-to-day illustration work sees her create images for the likes of The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many others. “My work for different clients basically means I communicate with various art directors. When I get some articles, they are really challenging to draw an excellent piece, but those ones can also have unique illustrations to go with them,” explains Lisk. “I will list things I love to draw or my current interests or a new approach that I could do for the final image in my mind, so that I can try new things every time I do works for others. Recently, there’s also been a significant change in my attitude for doing editorials. Now I feel the power of doing drawings for myself in the first place, instead of squeezing the idea of the article into my pictures.”
The whimsy in Lisk’s work is still there with detailed scenes and rich hues surrounding her often featureless characters. These swathes of colour combine with fine linework transport us happily to far away places. In regards to her more conceptual pieces, Lisk avoids overloading the viewer with ambiguous imagery, instead opting for familiar icons and figures to make the illustration both accessible and multi-layered.
Though each of Lisk’s images end up being finished digitally – it’s the initial sketches that the illustrator worries most about. “Sketching is the hardest part, I usually offer three to four ideas to an art director to decide whether they are right or not. After the settled, I always enjoy the process of doing the final image,” says Lisk. While her portfolio is bursting with new work, the illustrator is working towards achieving more of a balance in the future. “Being freelance you have take care of yourself, including scheduling your time, life and getting invoices paid,” she says. “I still have my struggles, sometimes I will say yes to too many jobs, and I’ve lost my sleep and the quality slips. This is my goal for next year – to make things right for my health.”