Rose Wong on how the practice of drawing “slows me down”
Mainly an editorial illustrator, Rose dedicates part of her practice to personal work always printed with Risograph, adding an entirely different feel to her regular output.
- Lucy Bourton
- 9 March 2020
For American-Chinese illustrator Rose Wong, the act of drawing offers a different outlet to how she is in daily life: “I am a very boisterous person by nature,” Rose tells us from Brooklyn, where she’s lived since graduating from Pratt, “drawing slows me down and makes me observe things that I would normally miss.”
In turn, Rose’s work is extremely delicate in its approach but stylistically there are two different ways that this is applied in her practice. Commercially Rose works digitally, working mainly in vectors for a whole host of clients such as The Washington Post, The New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek. But on the flip side of this practice is a number of Risograph printed publications that despite utilising the same style somehow evoke an alternate feeling.
Rose’s introduction to Risograph began after graduating school when a group of friends began a publishing collective, TXTbooks. Rose, who at the time had no experience with the technique adopted by many an illustrator, began first by helping the collective out with binding zines for upcoming fairs, but soon her partner – Thomas Colligan, one of TXTbooks’ founders – taught her how to start making her own prints and zines. In comparison to the work she was usually making, Riso offered a new touch and made-up for “a sense of loss for the hand-drawn feel” she missed within her commercial work. “My work is very minimalistic and line-driven, so the limitations of colour and the Riso print texture give my illustrations a tactile quality and breathes that life into it again.”
Creating zines also offers Rose the opportunity to add narrative to her work, rather than creating editorial spots. Her first publication, Homebody, began with still life drawings from her sketchbook, followed by GO! GO! GO! her first comic on the theme of life and death: “When we are born into this world we basically hit the ground running,” the illustrator describes of its premise. “In this piece, I wanted to portray the ups and downs of life, whether it be internal or external.”
Her third release, and a particular favourite of ours The Garden, follows a more surreal plot, “about a person introspecting their way through their garden,” she explains. “Throughout the zine, the character is inhabiting the space and the plants interact back. There are scenes throughout that show plants growing, indicating that time is moving, and that the characters thoughts are being processed as they walk, dance, tend and bathe in their garden.” Within The Garden readers really see Rose's illustrative hand come to life too as she leaves no where to hide with a minimal colour palette and minimal approach to space.
Other publications of Rose’s continue among these personal themes, such as OKAY OKAY which explores communications in relationships. Particularly wanting “to capture the mood of longing and intimacy of getting to know someone and then continuing to work on the relationship through compromises and misunderstanding,” the zine displays the passing of time, as well as conversations and intimate moments, through ongoing symbols and panels.
The common personal theme throughout these releases by Rose feel natural to the illustrator too – it’s personal work after all. These ideas start out in the illustrator’s sketchbook, always drawing in pen “because working with no undo button makes me more intentional,” she tells us. “My personal work is a reflection of my internal monologues and thoughts about life, and all its complexities. As an editorial illustrator by day, it’s nice to be able to take a step back and make work that is just for me.”
Looking forward, plucking narratives out of her own story and imagination will continue down the line into Rose’s work, with one of her ultimate goals being “to make a long form comic of stories from my parent’s life growing up in China and their immigration to America,” she tells us. Coming out soon though will be a zine on a traveler and their destinations and like her other work in this realm to date, “will be full of patterns and intricate drawings”.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.