When it comes to creative work in Hong Kong, some people give up easily, while others soldier on despite the challenges. And then there are people like Shadow Chan, a Hong Kong-based illustrator who remains steadfast in her pursuit of new ideas and inspirations.
As a freelancer, Shadow focuses on illustration design, animation, art direction, and more. After working as an in-house designer for three years, she decided to move to Taiwan to experience a different way of life and gain more inspiration for her work. She is now a full-time student in Taiwan.
Shadow started her illustration Instagram account during her university days, with a “carefree” attitude of “just draw what you like.” But after becoming a full-time worker, she became more serious and dedicated to her craft. “For the past three years, I’ve been working during the day and drawing and freelancing during my free time and weekends,” she shares. It was a busy and tiring period for her.
Shadow’s use of color and character design is truly unique and has a strong style. Her work has a futuristic feel to it, with interesting use of color. She explains that she is very greedy when it comes to colors and loves all of them. She tries to make each of her works rich in color, sometimes using unrealistic colors. However, she admits that it’s not easy to make all the colors harmonious and that the creative process takes time.
Art and Illustration as a Reflection of the Creator
When asked about her style, Shadow laughs and says, “I don’t really have an answer (I often joke that it’s chaotic!). If I had to describe my character style, it would be Japanese-inspired. But when I add backgrounds and compositions, it’s hard for me to determine which style I belong to. I just draw what I like.”
Shadow adds that sometimes the characters she draws, their hairstyles, clothing, and overall appearance reflect her own interests and personality. She has heard that creators often resemble their works, and after observing herself and her art, she agrees with this notion.
Courage That Knows No Gender Limitations Through Her Art
Art and illustration can be a mirror of the creator’s inner self, and for Hong Kong-based illustrator Shadow Chan, her work is a true reflection of her deepest feelings. While her characters may appear feminine, she notes that they aren’t necessarily all female. Nowadays, many men dress in a way that reflects their inner selves, whether it be feminine or androgynous, and Shadow believes that this is something to be celebrated. She hopes that her work can inspire viewers to have the courage to be themselves.
For many artists, creating art is a way to express their innermost emotions. Shadow is no exception, and she believes that understanding oneself is a crucial part of the creative process. “Knowing oneself is a lifelong lesson,” she says. “I pay attention to my feelings, and over time, I’ve become very aware of who I am as a person. These feelings are the nourishment for my work, and they’re incredibly important.”
Why Having Grand Ambitions Isn’t Always Necessary
Some may think that achieving success in one’s passion requires long-term goals and extensive planning. However, Shadow’s journey began with a simple desire to create. When she started her illustration Instagram account, she had no grand plans or goals. She just wanted to draw what she loved and share it with others.
Three years later, her account has over 7,000 followers, and she has gained support from fans in Hong Kong and Taiwan. She has had many wonderful experiences during these three years, from turning her illustrations into real-world products like postcards, stickers, and cardholders, to participating in cultural exhibitions where she can connect with other creators and meet her fans.
For Shadow, creating art is about being true to oneself and expressing one’s deepest emotions. Her work is a reflection of her inner self, and she hopes that it can inspire others to have the courage to be themselves as well.
The Challenge of Discipline for Creators on Social Media
In the seemingly liberating realm of Instagram, there lies a hidden trap that can easily sway creators. The algorithmic calculations have the power to influence and potentially lead you astray or foster a sense of impatience. The pursuit of higher reach and engagement may tempt creators to conform to popular tastes, risking the loss of their own unique essence. This is a challenge that Shadow Chan faced while managing her illustration page on Instagram.
Shadow shares her thoughts, “The Instagram algorithm has been constantly changing the creative landscape in recent years. I’ve come across many incredible artworks that unfortunately go unnoticed due to algorithmic issues. It’s truly disheartening! Sometimes, I find myself frustrated with Instagram. During the process of creating art, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Will this piece resonate with a larger audience on Instagram?’ When that thought arises, I remind myself, ‘Just create what you love! Don’t overthink or obsess about it!'”
Feeding Your Creativity: The Importance of Embracing Rich Emotions
As a woman, Shadow believes that having a rich emotional range is not necessarily a disadvantage. “It’s important to cherish our emotions, especially those that deeply move us, whether they are fleeting moments in everyday life or profound feelings within our hearts. These emotions are unique and genuine. We mustn’t take them for granted; instead, we should treasure them!” This journey of self-discovery helps us understand ourselves better and ultimately become better individuals.
In the ever-evolving landscape of Instagram, creators like Shadow Chan face the challenge of maintaining authenticity amidst the algorithmic complexities. By staying true to their artistic vision and valuing their emotions, they carve their own path and inspire others to embrace their unique perspectives.
The Impact of Life’s Pace on the Creative Process
Many people assume that creatives have an endless supply of ideas and creations. However, for designers who work long hours with a hectic pace of life, the need to constantly produce output can be exhausting. After work, the brain needs rest, and compared to student life, there is less time for reflection and contemplation. As a result, the mind struggles to generate new perspectives. This was one of the primary reasons why Shadow decided to study in Taiwan.
Fortunately, she had the support of family and friends, which became her strong support system. From studying to entering the workforce and facing the “reality” of creative work, Shadow’s passion for creation has never waned. She adds that it’s not just about illustration; it just happens to be something she excels at.
Shadow shares, “There were many reasons why I decided to study in Taiwan, but primarily I felt exhausted. After graduation, I worked continuously and had to constantly output. If I continued with this mode of operation, I would burn out soon. Even though I read books and watch movies regularly, I still felt that my life lacked input and was repetitive. I knew I needed to change my life, and since I had always wanted to leave Hong Kong and experience life in other countries, I chose to study in Taiwan. I wanted to absorb Taiwan’s cultural atmosphere and have more input.”
Currently studying in Taiwan, Shadow continues to create while participating in local cultural and creative exhibitions and exchanging ideas with other Taiwanese institutions and creators. She shares that Taiwan’s cultural and creative industry has a strong presence, and the government places great importance on supporting its development, creating an environment that is more conducive to creativity than Hong Kong.
Be Bold Can be…
When Shadow decided to give up her full-time job and study in Taiwan for further development, the editor saw it as a brave decision. However, Shadow responded, “I never really thought of myself as a brave person, and it’s hard to say that I am. I’m just pursuing what I love. As long as I’m living the life I want, even if it’s ordinary, it can still make me shine!” The editor thinks that it’s fortunate to be able to maintain one’s original intention of doing what they love after entering the workforce for several years. Being aware of one’s inner changes and making different decisions and changes for oneself, trying to return to the original intention, even if there is no certainty about the future but still trying, is also considered very brave!
She must have felt anxious and nervous, but she faced it with anticipation and a willingness to try. When facing difficulties, she would tell herself, “For me, a brave person doesn’t necessarily have to do something big or impressive. Accepting oneself and pursuing what one loves are both very commendable!” The editor hopes to share this message with readers, the same supportive voice that has always encouraged Shadow. When feeling scared, be brave like her.