Brian Cheung is a man of many talents. Artist, painter, designer and all round nice guy, Brian has been drawing since he could hold a pencil. A frequent illustrator in Semi-Permanent and featured artist at The Stables at Como, Brian’s beautiful typography and illustration captivate and mesmerise the imagination. We visit him in his studio to talk about; his creative process, what creativity means to him and his top tips for budding artists.
We have been a huge admirer of your work for a while. How long have you been painting for?
Thank you! I’ve been scribbling onto something one way or another since the day I could firmly grab hold of a pen.
Can you tell us a little about your journey so far as an artist and a designer? What did you study and what are you doing now?
As a kid, when I first had to answer the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I naturally jumped straight to artist. But once I realized the inevitable financial difficulties associated with such a career path, I segued into design. I had a short stint studying Interior Architecture at Monash University, before jumping ship and moving next door to Visual Communication. Through all of this I still kept on drawing and painting, and I continually tried to incorporate it into my work , so illustration became that nice fence that I could sit on. Since graduating at the end of 2012, I’ve been working as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator while trying to figure out how exactly to be a visual artist at the same time.
Your attention to detail and the intrinsic nature of your paintings is amazing. How long does a painting take to create?
Most of the time I find it difficult to focus solely on a single piece, so I’ll get into that awful habit of starting something then moving onto the next piece before the first piece is anywhere near completion. I may or may not have some paintings lying around that have been waiting years to be finished…
That being said, I’m able to pull out a more efficient persona when it comes to working with a client. My current series of insect paintings are also great in that they have a definite beginning and end, so once I repeat whatever butterfly or beetle is in front of me for the 400th time (give or take), then I can move onto the next. Those will usually take me a good month or two to complete, but I always wish I could pump them out faster!
What is it about painting and creativity that you love? Have you always felt the need to create?
As mentioned above, I was already waving around a pencil at a really young age. Thankfully my parents never did discourage it, so it feels completely natural for me to be constantly doodling. I find it a much better form of communication than talking or writing, and something about locking myself up for an extended period of time to just create really speaks to me.
Are there certain themes you enjoy exploring in your design/work?
I find myself drawn to nature, as a rather broad theme. I enjoy the order and symmetry of botanical and scientific illustrations, and in a way I see them as a form of preservation. Seeing those outrageous Flemish floral still life paintings at the Rijksmuseum was a huge moment for me. I loved that not only were they stunningly accurate, but the artists would include decaying flowers and insects eating up the arrangements. In a similar way, I suppose I try not to paint pretty for the sake of pretty, but I like to incorporate a healthy mixture of life and decay, to remind us all that nothing lasts forever!
We are always encouraging people to pursue their dreams and follow after their passion. Your artist residency in Iceland sounds amazing! Is it a step towards a bigger dream of being an illustrator?
There’s still a good five months to go, but I can’t stop thinking about this residency! I feel like I’m at that stage where I need to forcefully uproot myself and live/work somewhere else for a while. All of the experiences and turbulence that comes with that ought to do interesting things to my work… I don’t have any specific goals for Iceland but I’m looking forward to spending some solid unadulterated time improving my work, catching some aurora, as well as meeting many other artists that I otherwise would never get the chance to meet.
And what three tips would you say to budding designers or artists out there?
First of all, I hardly feel qualified to be giving out advice, but here goes nothing…
- Share and collaborate! Some people might feel shy about their work, but a lot of good can come of showing it to the world and picking up some solid advice/tips along the way.
- Make friends with your local barista, or like me, become one yourself.
- Be prepared to have bad days! It’s a tough career to pick, and trying to do what you love as a paid profession comes with a heap of pros and cons. Everyone is bound to have some rough days in the office, but there’s no use dwelling on it. Learn from it!
If you liked what you read and saw here, definitely check out more of Brian’s work at his website for even more incredible eye candy!
Brian Cheung Illustration
Illustrator, visual artist and graphic designer based in Melbourne, Australia.
Brian completed a Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication) at Monash University in 2012.
Feel free to contact him for commissions, collaborations, jobs or just for a chat.