“I feel like there’s a natural relationship that exists between illustration and graphic design” explains New York-based illustration graduate Steph Lau. For Steph, it feels natural to explore the overlapping boundaries between the two disciplines, creating work that utilises her technical drawing skills and design sensibilities. “Pursuing illustration felt like a natural course of action since I’ve always loved to draw” she tells It’s Nice That. Alternatively, “graphic design provides a nice switch of gear when I feel overwhelmed with the absolute freedom of pen to paper; it’s like drawing with a set of existing tools.”
Ethereal with a hint of the mystical, Steph’s most recent work comes in the form of the risograph printed zine Hot Air. “For the longest time, people would ask me if I sell zines after seeing my work” explains the illustrator. “So I finally decided to buckle down and make it a goal to publish my first zine.” Along with album artwork, poster design, not to mention designing her own clothing, Steph’s wide-ranging body of work consistently pairs a vibrant blend of colour with otherworldly illustrations.
“The zine is an exploration of the humour of my mother tongue, Cantonese” explains Steph. “There’s a concept in Chinese medicine called “hot air” which roughly translates to having an imbalance of energy in your body.” Consequently, Steph’s zine takes inspiration from this Cantonese term and lists a number of phrases the illustrator/designer “finds interesting or difficult to translate.” Working on the zine became a way for Steph to explicitly express her interest in beauty in fashion; a personal insight into that part of Steph’s personality that many creatives don’t get to reveal through commercial work.
In one dynamic spread, Steph draws out the saying 出入平安 meaning “peace wherever you go”. The phrase is usually used during the lunar new year celebrations, adorned on banners or other new year memorabilia as a symbol of good luck. In turn, Steph envisages a pair of high heels as good luck charms. The pretty whacky yet high fashion designs suitably come with keyring and key, dangling off the inside of the heel, while another design features dragon-like spikes and curves resembling flames. “The process came naturally after I devised the concept,” adds Steph. “Each spread has a respective keyword, so I started with a main image derived from the phrase, then continued to design around the main image.”
Printed by Txtbooks in Brooklyn, Hot Air marks a moment of creative accomplishment for Steph; “there’s something very satisfying about physically handling a collection of work you’re proud of. Currently concentrating on her freelance work, Steph is also preparing for her Visa application to stay in the US with the hopes of working more closely with clothes and ideas of beauty in the future. She ends our interview with, “I love to see my work applied to different mediums. I’m captivated by Isamaya Ffrench’s work, like what she’s doing with Dazed Beauty. But right now, I’m taking opportunities as they come and just going with the flow. I also want to make a mural!”
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