This month’s That Girl is none other than the lovely Kitty N. Wong! We fell in love with Kitty’s quirky fashion illustrations as soon as we saw them, and we’ve been huge fans of hers ever since. Not only is Kitty a creative genius, but she’s also one of the sweetest, coolest and most talented girls in Hong Kong!
We catch up with Kitty about how she kick-started her career as a fashion illustrator, where she gets her inspiration from and how to kick a creative block…
Tell us about your background and where you’re from. Are you and your family originally from Hong Kong?
I was born in Hong Kong and grew up in a tiny suburb outside of Vancouver, Canada. My family are originally from Hong Kong and we emigrated when I was 8 years old.
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in Hung Hom with my family. For me, making my room my own was all about having a comfortable place to make art.
After I decided I wanted my own studio, my dad helped me build a giant table for my room to draw and sew on. And by build, I mean we bought IKEA table legs and screwed them onto a flimsy wood panel. We then had a family argument over how to lacquer the top… It’s still horrible and lumpy (but I love it – thanks Dad!).
I’ve also put up lots of prints and artwork by my talented friends, artists I admire and of course, my own work too.
How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
I would like to say it’s sexy-glamorous-thrift-shop-grandma… I try to dress as outrageous as I can get away with, all while trying not to scare away potential suitors. I’m big into patterns and lately I’ve been really into gold and silver outfits.
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I love the Mee & Gee hidden inside the Ladies Market in Mong Kok, please don’t go there and buy all the cool metallic outfits – thank you! I also love nice glasses. Puyi Optical is the best for them but it’s pricey (but so worth it). They even add on an extra nose bit for those of us with flat Asian noses.
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
BB creams are a must have for the humid Hong Kong weather, I find Western brand foundations just slips right off. My favourite is the Missha M Signature Real Complete BB Cream. I’m also big into moisturisation – I use Crema Caracol for my face which is made out of snail gunk and Innisfree Eco Science Eye Cream. And for zits, Clinda – M, but I’ve only been able to find it in Thailand. Stock up at the Boots when you go!
For a weeknight treat, I love going to Pure Massage after a hard day of paint pushing. Feels great to walk home like a relaxed octopus in the cool dark evening after the full body medical tui-na.
Describe your perfect weekend in HK.
Anything outdoorsy – I’m down! Body boarding in Shek O or camping at Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung (although I’m always scared of that strenuous hike).
What are your favourite restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
I love Black Star in Sheung Wan for drinks, it’s chill and delicious. Tung Po in Java Road Wet Market is great for big groups and birthdays, Full Cup in Mong Kok is nice and Sweet Tooth in Hung Hom is my favourite Hong Kong style dessert place in the city.
What inspires you?
Seeing how other talented artists work is hugely inspiring – you can always pick up little habits and it’s like “Ohh! I never thought of doing it this way.” So a great art documentary always perks me up if I’m in need of some inspiration – I recently watched ‘Everything Is Embarrassing’. And in general I try to always be a sponge and just notice and absorb everything I find interesting around me.
Where do you go/what do you do to fix a creative block?
For me it’s all about getting out into the real world. Sure, there are so many inspiring things on Instagram and design blogs these days, but leaving the house makes a world of difference. Going for walks and heading to one of the cool bookstores in the city; Kubrick, Eslite, the new HarbourCity Page One. And also checking out the gallery openings around town.
How long have you been illustrating for and how did you get into it?
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid but I’ve been doing it professionally since 2012. I started by just making my own work and telling people I was an illustrator.
I met the very fabulous Paola from Tangram (also a That Girl!) at an event, she took a chance and asked me to create an invitation for one of her events. That was one of my first real assignments and it’s been building from there.
What are some of your favourite pieces that you’ve done?
Definitely the Lane Crawford project! I was able to illustrate big fashion icons like Karl Lagerfeld and the illustration got blown up life size to be used in store display.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an illustrator/creative in Hong Kong?
Dealing with clients who want you to do something with a really small budget or on super tight deadlines, its hard to really research a project and go deep into it with Hong Kong’s crazy fast pace.
Who are your Top 5 artists/illustrators?
Grayson Perry, David Shrigley, Maira Kalman, Wilson Shieh, Tracey Emin, Elizabeth Peyton, Hernan Bas. Sorry, that was more than five! I could write a book with all the names of artists that I like! I’ve been described by friends as an “illustration nerd”.
What mediums do you enjoy working in? Is there anything you haven’t tried that you’d like to?
Gouache all day, everyday! It’s like an opaque version of watercolours, I love the powdery finish it gives. It reminds of of a woman’s made-up powdered face. I’ve always wanted to try oils but I’ve been intimidated by the complicated set-up.
Any exciting plans for the future? Where do you dream you’ll be in 5 years time?
YES! I’m heading to New York City for the summer to take an intensive illustration residency programme at The School of Visual Arts! And I’m also hoping to do some networking and exploring there.
What do you like to do in your free time apart from sketching and illustrating?
Seeing friends and I also love some alone time reading and watching movies and TV. There’s nothing better than vegging out and watching back to back episodes of The Good Wife and Scandal until you feel faint.
Where’s next on your travel hit list?
NYC, baby! I would also love to visit Vietnam, it would make a great travel illustration, all that yummy colourful food and colonial architecture.
What advice would you give for other aspiring illustrators?
Just keep making personal work that excites you and share it online – and don’t be afraid to negotiate on budgets; if you need more, ask for more. Show up to places, say hi, be nice and do good work. You can do it!