Spring has sprung, and we’re happy to introduce you guys to our latest menu artist, Kelly Hu. Kelly’s organic, nature-focused paintings caught our eye last year, and we couldn’t be happier with what she’s created for our 2018 spring menu and bill cards! Keep reading to find out more about her work and her art journey 🙂
Hi Kelly, tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started on your art journey.
My name is Kelly, and I’m an artist living here in Toronto. I came from a city called Spring City in Yu-Nan Province, China and I moved here when I was little. Now I’m working in the creative industry in fine art, illustration and 3-D animation film. Me and art had a funny start: when I was small, I did not know how to draw or paint, and I couldn’t colour inside the lines, so my parents thought that something was wrong with me and sent me to an after school drawing class where I had a really good teacher. She opened the doors for me in terms of art and ever since then, I found a way to express myself through drawing pictures. I have a very traditional Chinese family, but they have always been supportive of me going into art, which I’m always grateful for.
At OCAD I studied illustration. That was my focus, and along the way I have met many artists and instructors who have guided me and helped me to become a better artist. Later, I went to Seneca for computer animation. Now I’m working full time as a lighter and compositor in the 3-D animation industry, and on the side I teach and do freelance illustration work.
How did you come to develop your vibrant surrealist art style?
I think it’s an accumulation of interests that I have had since I was young. I really enjoy being surrounded by nature, and I spent a lot of time outdoors with animals when I was little, so I think that really inspired me to focus on organic things in my art. When it comes to colour… I like every colour. When I receive a crayon pack with more than 24 colours, I get very excited.
With training in traditional drawing and painting, I appreciate a lot of the representational artwork from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Dutch periods just to name a few… I also enjoy modern art, like surrealism, modernism and post modernism, so I kind of just mixed them together and now it comes naturally as I draw.
What are your top 3 favourite art tools?
My sketchbook, which I normally keep with me all the time. I just doodle things I think about, or if I overhear someone say something really interesting I will make a note of it in my sketchbook. My other tools would be 2B pencils, and I really enjoy the Micro Sakura 2.1 pens. And acrylic paint!
Some of your previous work reminded us of oil paintings, did you ever work in that medium?
Yes I did study oil with my instructors. What I like about oil is that you get time to really blend and work with it. Unfortunately, at that time I was using it in my bedroom where the air ventilation wasn’t great, and I also suffer from allergies. If I had a more open space, that’s what I would love to do more of. Now with acrylic, I have the tendency to work towards that same kind of nice soft blending, which is what I loved about oils. When I paint, I think “What could this do, if it was oil?”
What was your process in approaching this spring menu cover?
When I was approached with this project, I was very happy that it was open ended and that I had the freedom to develop what I envisioned. I did a lot of research about spring: the weather; how the world changes as the seasons change; what people do in spring; what spring represents to different cultures. That’s usually how I approach any illustration – by finding out all the interesting facts about that subject matter. So then I came to understand spring as being about renewal, transitioning, and blossoming. During this menu design process, I wanted to show something that’s waking up from the winter, and also use the buildings that you really liked in one of my previous pieces. So I thought of having a city that sleeps in the winter and wakes up as spring arrives. The vines growing up from the ground symbolizes the transition from winter to spring.
Tell us about a favourite creative project that you’ve worked on recently.
Oh that’s hard. This one was pretty interesting and fun to work with. I’ve also done a variety of different projects in the past couple of years including this 3-D animation feature film that I’m working on at Tangent Animation. Other projects have included illustrating for a series of comics, a large-scale mural for the Yee Hong Senior Home, and some gallery shows here in Toronto. The most memorable experience would be the gallery shows because they took a lot of hard work, collaboration with other artists, dedication and a strong work ethic.
What do you like to do in your down-time?
It’s good to take a break sometimes, because sometimes I run into artist’s block. To refresh my eyes and my thoughts, I like to hang around the Royal Ontario Museum. It’s my favourite place to go and my favourite floor there is the animal floor. I will literally sit on the ground in between the two bird rooms, where there are all these very nicely constructed birds flying over you. I also like to go to Ripley’s Aquarium – I was super excited when they opened up in Toronto. When they first opened, I went there every other week to stare at the fish.
I also hang out a lot in BMVs and other book stores, and I have my guitar, which is a new hobby that I picked up. Sometimes, I just like to stay home and binge watch a lot of documentaries about different things: the history of music, animals, Greek mythology, how artists prepare their paints, etc.
If you can travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Italy! For the art and history. I would go there and I would also go to Scotland, just to see the castles, the hills and the mountains.
And finally, where do you see yourself in the next 5 – 10 years?
I would still be exploring 3-D animation because there’s just so much more to learn. I would also like to collaborate on a few more feature films. Ultimately, I want to have my own studio where I can do a lot of painting, and where I can also teach.
Here’s our 2018 spring menu cover: