Brooklyn-based “Taiwanese-Hong Konger-American” illustrator Christina Chung has had her work appear in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, and Eater, as well as novel and album covers.
Despite her busy schedule, TAP-NY had the chance to interview Christina to learn about her upbringing, her work, and her inspirations.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Christina Chung and I’m a Taiwanese-Hong Konger-American illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. I’m originally from Seattle, called Singapore home for seven years, and then moved to New York City to attend the Pratt Institute.
How did you get into drawing and illustrating?
I’ve loved to draw for as long as I can remember, and have always been a creative person. Illustration specifically came into my life a lot later. During my last two years in high school I was set on going on to pursue a career in writing. I happened upon Jimmy Liao, a Taiwanese illustrator, and fell in love with his work, which introduced me to the concept of illustration and commercial art as a career. I haven’t looked back since.
What’s your relationship with Taiwan? Any favorite memories?
My relationship with Taiwan is lifelong and for most of my life has been a relationship of yearning from afar. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and yet the longest stretch of time I’ve ever stayed there has been about six weeks.
Being born to a Taiwanese mother and Hong Konger father, I spent most summers visiting their families on the other side of the world. My mother is from a small village in Yunlin, Taiwan, in the countryside in the southern part of the island. As someone who has lived in big cities her entire life, summers in Yunlin hold a special place in my heart. Although I’ve never actually lived in Taiwan, memories of strolling along rice paddies and eating fresh lychee and guava from my grandparents’ yard are rooted deep within my childhood.
How does your upbringing and heritage influence your work?
My upbringing and heritage influence my work because they factor enormously into my identity. My work both consciously and unconsciously is an expression of my self. In one way or another the influence my upbringing and heritage have in my work come through into my illustrations, be it a certain color scheme, a pattern or being inspired by a Chinese folk tale.
Do you have a piece that you feel most closely connected to?
One of my favorite pieces that I feel closely connected to is ‘Chapter 1’, a portrait of Nüwa, the center of one my favorite folktales my parents would read to me as a kid.
Is there someone you look up to as a role model?
One of my role models and inspirations is the illustrator Yuko Shimizu, not just because of her obvious talent and brilliance, but because of the determination and drive that allows her to have the success that she does today.
Photographs by Kevin Wong for TAP-NY