Artist Interview: Karen Cheung – Travel with Pencils and Color
Loving to draw with creative ideas, Karen Cheung, a self-taught artist in Hong Kong shares her art value ‘Draw life to happiness. Paint lives in color’ with friends. Her drawings are related to travel theme with photography, painting or sketches. Her brand, Karen Aruba Art,setup in 2015 has recently celebrated the first anniversary with different amazing artwork and products coming.
Can you tell us how did you start your art life? Why is your brand named as‘Karen Aruba Art’?
I do love drawing since childhood but my art learning journey was not so smooth. I did not have a proper learning in any art school.It is also never easy to survive in Hong Kong, a city with one of the highest living cost in the world to support oneself to become an artist.I am just a no-body in the city who is obsessed with daily hassles for a living since university graduation.My art is purely a self-taught process.It really took many years until a turning point in my life when I returned to a beautiful place, Aruba in 2014.
ARUBA is a peaceful, harmonious but energetic island located in Caribbean Sea, well-known as one happy island. The people. The culture. The sight – everything is so inspiring. It pulsates life without intensive competition, which is totally different from a city life.
I lived in Aruba for a year when I was a small kid.I returned to this island for a simple but beautiful wedding two years ago. Both experiences inspired me that life can be so much fun and creative! You don’t have to be a skilled artist as long as you have the heart.So, I made up my mind and setup the brand Karen Aruba Art, hoping to share Aruba’s spirit and bring happiness to the people who follow my work.
As an artist, what inspires you in your artwork?
Any creative stuff! When I first published my artwork, most of them were combining photos and sketches, so the first collection‘Travel with Pencils’ was created. As we all love new experiences and ideas, I started to add colors to some drawings and developed another collection ‘Travel with Colors’. Recently, I had one more collection- ‘Travel with Pens’. No matter which collections they belong to the same theme ‘travel’. The word ‘Travel is not necessary restricted to a real journey. It can be an imaginative one, a travel in memory or a review of history.
Now, I’m pretty obsessive about art! I will work on it whenever I have a little time, even after a long day at work or wake up very early on weekend.I try to refresh myself every moment and focus on the creative work. It’s so much I want to accomplish.I enjoy to think out of the box because creativity is at the boundary crossing over reality and possibility. In fact, it is a faith of mine.
Which are your latest creative artworks and what inspired you to make them?
My two recent artworks are related to mahjong, a game originated from ancient Chinese which is played by 4 players with 144 tiles. As I said, a travel can be ‘a travel in memory’.My grandfather was a hard working person who built up a mahjong manufacturing factory in the 1970’s. My father succeeded the business and the factory became one of the largest mahjong manufacturers in Hong Kong. It was a special and uncommon industry because of the technical skills required.
Unfortunately, the economy went very bad in 2000s. Intensive competition from the Mainland China led to a shutdown of the business despite how much effort my father devoted into the business.
For me, it is always my wish someday I can do something related to mahjong theme and add new value on it to arouse people’s memory in one of the valuable Hong Kong’s traditional handcraft industry.That is the best way to show appreciation to my father and grandfather’s contribution as a part of Hong Kong history.
That’s why I draw two artworks: one is to sketch the place where my father’s mahjong factory was set up- a typical old district called Kowloon City. The other artwork is to sketch the ways to make mahjong. It will be interesting to show people the old ways of making mahjong and the tools we used to handcraft the tiles. That’s amazing!
On top of it, I’ m so happy that these artwork products will be displayed and available at a local hostel– The Mahjong Hostel very soon which has the common theme in Mahjong. The Mahjong Hostel is one of Hong Kong’s hippest hostels, centrally located in a soulful Chinese neighborhood with a lot of artistic decorations related to Mahjong. I very much look forward to such collaboration.
Tell us about your style of drawing
To summarize, there are two styles of drawing I’ m now focusing. Once is to include creative elements by pencil sketching on a photography. It’s just like mixing drawing (imagination) and photography (reality).For example, I sketched a lovely penguin and polar bear on a photo in Antarctica.The other artwork is having three naughty penguins on a boat in Amazon. My latest artwork is about Ms Panda going with Mr Zebra to an animal farm party because they are both in the same black and white costume!
My another style of drawing is ink pen sketching to show the oldy of Hong Kong -the skyline of Hong Kong, a mahjong themed artwork, anything with memorable value to reflect our life journey.
What types of artwork you sell and where can people find and buy them?
There are many different kinds of products printed from my artworks. All these products are made in USA to ensure high quality of materials.
I feel so happy that few online shopping stores are now launched with my products!Some home items like carry-all-pouches, throw pillows, tote bag, laptop sleeves, phone cases can be found in Society6,a popular platform in USA who support artists; Etsy is also a well-known platform of handmade products while Pinkoi is the largest handcraft online platform in Asia.
Last but not least, there are many more creative products available at Zazzle, for example, t-shirt, food serving tray, paper bag, luggage tag, passport holder or even skateboard, shoes, etc.It is great that these online platforms can reach different art lovers over the world.
Any upcoming art project that you would like to discuss about?
Well…there are some creative artworkson the way!I am nowcollaborating with a new local Hong Kong chocolate brand Sayvour to put creative presentation on chocolate forChristmas season. Sayvour is an artisan confectionary specializing in handmade and personalized chocolate with ingredients from Belgium.The chocolate is very tasteful. I’ m so honored to be invited by them for drawing artwork related to Hong Kong theme. I’ lookforward to seeing the beautifulchocolate gift sets for my family and friends!
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