A Chinese upbringing in Malaysia is a lot of work. For Kedah-born illustrator Lihuà Wong, in addition to learning every subject in two languages and enrolling in a never-ending series of extracurricular classes, that meant calligraphy lessons. From the tender age of six all the way up through secondary school, Wong had to practice making Chinese characters with perfect brushstrokes. Despite her reluctance, what began as a laborious chore soon became a key element in her art. Her calligraphy-inspired illustrations have now attracted major fashion brands, such as Chanel, Prada, and Christian Dior.
Wong currently juggles a job teaching fashion illustration at The One Academy while building her name as an artist. She brings her minimalist figures to life with bold brushstrokes, injecting them with the flair and expressive movement of calligraphy. Incorporating calligraphy in her work was never a conscious plan. “It just happened,” she says, since the brushwork carried over to her painting. The only real change was the medium, as she experimented with the combinations of various types of paints and paper.
王莉桦目前在立万国际美术学院（The One Academy）教授时装插画，同时以自己的名字发展艺术生涯。她通过大胆的笔触将她极简主义的人物变为现实，为他们注入了书法灵动的表现力。在她的作品中，融合书法并不是一开始就拟定好的计划。“它才刚刚发生。”她说，自从书法进入她的画作，唯一的改变是媒介，因为她开始尝试各类颜料和纸张的组合。
She describes her work as mixed media, since she doesn’t use just Chinese ink, but also works with watercolor, acrylics, and even digital software. Still, Wong prefers more traditional approaches, because she likes the organic feel of doing things old school. A true artist, she declines the convenience of brush presets and printing to pursue something more delicate and crafted.
“I start with a sketch. It’s quite spontaneous. I look for a picture, a composition, then put it together. I want to find something that makes the most impact,” she says. “That’s my concept, that’s how I work. It’s easy with things like Photoshop—you just need a laptop and a tablet and you can easily work anywhere. But that’s more for commercial art. If it’s just for myself, then I choose the traditional way.”
It’s not difficult for Wong to find inspiration, as she weaves through videos of fashion shows. She’s particularly drawn to the designs by two of the biggest fashion houses in the industry, Chanel and Dior, for their timeless and delicate designs. Aside from that, she also seeks visual counsel in artists from the past.
“我的创作从画草图开始，是很随兴的。我会思考如何去建构我的图像，我希望让作品的冲击力越大越好。“她说，“这就是我的概念，我的工作方式。用 Photoshop 这样的绘图软件创作很容易，你只需要一台笔记本电脑或平板电脑就可以轻松地在任何地方工作，但这更适合商业艺术。如果只是为了我自己，那么我选择传统的方式。”
Wong first began her fashion illustration journey by approaching local brands for small projects at events involving art and media entertainment. International outreach didn’t really happen until she was studying in the UK and had to find a way to make ends meet while pursuing her passion.
“I like fashion. That’s where I started out, doing events. I like drawing people. You get to see their personality, the way they dress, their silhouette, their character. It’s fun to watch. I can’t sit and draw, say, landscapes. I’ve tried it before. I find it boring. I need a more dynamic subject. If it’s just a tree, I find it difficult to tell a story.”
What’s inspiring about Wong is her thirst for a challenge. Whenever she’s asked about her style or subject matter, her response always has a common denominator: the challenge.
“I like doing events,” she says. “I like the challenge of live sketching. I get easily distracted working at home, but for this job you have to focus for four hours and observe people. In five minutes you have to observe your subject and observe their character, silhouette, personality, and features—and get it done. That’s why I like drawing figures. It’s dynamic and is always different.”
However, when it comes to sewing, Wong isn’t interested.
“Oh no, no, no,” is her immediate response when asked whether a career in fashion design is in the cards. “I don’t sew. I like to draw what designers already have. I interpret. I love to make things nicer. When I work with designers, they ask me ‘Can you draw this in this way, with this stitching, and this button?’ Then I’ll be their hands. They tell me what sort of artwork they want, and I act as a visual translator.”
As for the future, like any artist, Wong aspires to have her works showcased to the public. “I gave myself a target. I want to make 100 works of art, then approach galleries to set up a solo exhibition. Also, I haven’t worked with Louis Vuitton yet!”
至于未来，像任何艺术家一样，王莉桦希望她的作品可以进入大众的视野。“我给自己订了一个目标。我想制作 100 件作品，然后在画廊办个展。而且，我还没有和 LV 合作过呢！”