Tsai Tung Li is a Taiwanese illustrator currently living in Brighton. We met while she was showcasing her work at the Brighton Illustration Fair 2018, after completing her Master’s studies last year. Tsai’s experiences of different cultures inspire her illustration, hand-drawn maps and personal projects. Her work has been commissioned by companies such as Hanlin Publishing and Mandarin Daily News. Furthermore, she has been featured in an extensive selection of exhibitions and events from her residencies at ONCA and Riverside Lewes to her solo exhibition in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Tell me about how you approach your artwork.
I am fascinated with conveying messages, through images and with stories close to our own lives. In this way, I find it easy to create a conversation with people of all ages. Seeing things with more of a childlike sensibility gives space for more imagination. It is amazing that the same story or image can evoke different resonance among readers.
How would you describe your personal illustration style?
I think my drawing is quite childish. It is more like a children’s book illustration. I don’t limit myself to one creative mode; in my work, I use hand drawing, mixed media and collage. My favourite materials are pencil and watercolour which enable me to be quite free with my drawings and continually experiment with different colours and textures.
Where do you find inspiration?
Having been influenced by my architecture and design background, I think of buildings and landscapes as an integral part of human culture. My work contains many depictions of buildings and urban spaces, exploring how they affect us and our stories. Much of my inspiration also comes from the natural world, from people watching and stories from my own life.
What was your experience of displaying your work in a solo exhibition in Kaohsiung, Taiwan?
It was great. Using the topic of having a meal with friends and family, I created several images with captions to share simple stories that happen in our daily lives. The best thing about a solo exhibition is that it brings motivation to create more work while also permitting the flexibility of making any changes. I can always push myself more while also always having the chance to step back.
Tell me about your recent day residency at ONCA barge.
It was a very special experience and it was actually my first art residency. Our studio was located on a boat. The project was called POC (People of Colour) and we were asked to create work related to Lost Species Day. I had never seen a residency programme like that before’ it was a great chance to meet people from very different backgrounds and in a different practice to mine. We were excited about the final show because it was a totally new experience for us to co-exhibit with video, painting and children’s book illustration. It was a challenge but it was cool!
What are your future plans regarding your artwork?
I will continue creating works with images and text. I think storytelling has become a way for me to communicate, bringing up issues to discuss and also recording my personal experiences.
Do you have a dream project you would like to embark on?
I always believe there are lots of ways to do art which could make our life better and bring welfare to people. I used to have a hard time understanding the identity of myself and I was terrible ar sharing inner emotions. Thus, I hope there are chances to work professionally and apply psychology, philosophy and culture to my work.
Words: Louisa Hunt