For many people, the mere mention of Hong Kong conjures images of harboursides, modern skyscrapers, a smorgasbord of culinary delights and a true retail mecca. But if you look closer, the vintage stores and dated architecture of the city are very much interconnected to this port city’s identity and history. As Hong Kong develops, many of these older stores are disappearing. Fortunately, illustrator Flyingpig is determined to preserve the memories and stories of these disappearing shops.
Despite studying animation in college, Flyingpig is an avid illustrator. After graduating, she worked in film post-production before transitioning towards digital illustration. Amongst balancing her work life and illustrating in her spare time, she found herself questioning her current career path. Sundays became the only day when she could unwind and take the time to sketch. As her sketches accumulated and continuously received positive feedback online, Flyingpig began to understand that drawing didn’t mean working alone. “I realized that my work could send a message,” she says. “I never considered that I could make a living off illustrating alone.” She soon quit her job and plunged head first into illustration.
On canvas, the colorful portrayals of vintage stores are beautifully and purposefully executed. But, beyond the canvas, Flyingpig finds her interactions with these store owners to be infinitely more meaningful and important. She enjoys learning the history and stories behind these stores, building a connecting between herself and the community. “There was a time when I went to draw the shopfronts in Sheung Wan. As I sat by the roadside, the shopkeeper offered me a leather suitcase to rest my drawing pad on. He began to tell me about the little things that he had around his shop. It made me realise that amongst these spaces, there were so many stories that were just waiting to told.”
Looking at Flyingpig’s debut illustration book, Lao Dian Feng Qing Hua (which translates into vintage shop illustrations), her love of watercolors is ever present. Not only is this a casual, effortless medium, but she can allow her personality to flow through each brushstroke. These watercolor illustrations carry a laidback and mellow vibe, combined with the warmth of quaint Hong Kong shops. “City folks are always in a rush, people are growing further apart and don’t have a sense of community. Meanwhile, these beautiful details of life remain overlooked and are slowly disappearing. What I hope for when people view my work, is that it’ll make them want to support these small local shops rather franchised retail stores.”
As the city advances and develops, these old shops are silently fading into the background. Despite having a mellow, paced approach to creation since childhood, Flyingpig is now painting with haste and vigor in order to capture these disappearing scenes. Aside from drawing on paper, she has begun to release 360 degree videos. By using AR technology to enhance her drawings, she can immerse viewers into the very thick Hong Kong’s bustling shophouses. Throughout the interview, Flyingpig stressed that “every drawing must have a story” and she remains dedicated to bringing these stories to life through her art.