27 Things are short interviews conducted with inspiring humans that explore the connection between their art and health, wellness and design, creativity and spirituality. Part Proust-questionnaire, part-personality quiz and an overall inspiring to get to know and share stories behind some of the people I love and admire.
Why 27? There are so many reasons why I love this number. Not only is it a mystical number filled with wonderful meanings and associations, it’s also the date of my birthday.
The first person I asked to do this series is a friend and former colleague, Michell Lie. Michell was the Account Director at white—space, and very quickly became a vital part of the design studio. Her enthusiasm, professionalism and selfless attitude earned the trust and respect of clients, and the admiration and love from the team. Her unyielding curiosity eventually lead her to explore her own artistic talents through ink brush painting and candle-making, and she now donates 50% of more of her profits to help the elderly in Hong Kong through Helping Hand.
1. What’s your astrological sign?
Aquarius, the water bearer
2. What is your current state?
Happy, motivated and curious
3. Who is your hero/heroine?
My long-time ex-boss and best friend now, Stephania Ling. With over 15 years of ad agency experience, she left the industry and joined World Vision for nearly a decade. Thereafter she devoted her time and spent six years in Kolkata, India serving at Mother Teresa’s shelter taking care of disabled children. At the end of this year, she is heading to Ethiopia to start another service for those in need. Stephania is selfless and does everything with joy no matter what the circumstance. She is my heroine, standing for social justice and radiating kindness.
4. What made you start and when did you decide to do what you’re doing now?
I started my art project in May 2016. On and off, I asked myself where does my full-time job lead to? I never questioned it further because it is something I actually enjoy, but deep down I am not certain where it’s all going. At the same time, I started to have less and less time for volunteer work and for giving back and doing something more spiritual.
I suddenly decided to pick up a pen and draw. I don’t have much to share on Instagram (like parties or global travel destinations or outdoor activities) so I decided to post my drawings and liven up my feed. One after another, I started to accumulate “likes” and positive comments. It was encouraging.
After six months, I had a handful of drawings and thought it would be a good idea to start selling postcards so I can collect money for the those in need. I have been a brand manager and I know how to use all the tools available in the market. Soon after that I created my brand, built a site and started to sell my artwork and connect with people.
It’s been amazing so far and I just see that it would only get better and better.
5. How would you describe your work?
My day-time job as a brand manager in a local restaurant group has helped me to become a very pragmatic and market-sensitive person. I am in touch with many different types of people including interior designers, graphic designers, landlords, building contractors and hard-working chefs. The range of people I have become acquainted with now is broader than all my experience from the past decade combined.
As for my art project, I am meeting a lot of gallery people and fellow artists which I wouldn’t have encountered before in my previous role. Now with the desire to sell my art and products, it motivates me to stay alert and be mindful of things around me so I can integrate them into my art. I have never done that before and I find it so interesting and reflective. Every moment of my life, I am ‘torn’ between being a brand manager and an artist, but all in a good way. I need to be able to switch my focus and remain flexible — it drives me crazy but I am happy! I never have a dull moment!
6. What’s your connection to creativity?
I basically grow my creativity through Instagram and Pinterest, which is not very sexy. But seriously, with such great online resources, looking at inspiring works ignites my desire to draw when I see other people’s work and techniques. I find different ways to try new things out through YouTube and Skillshare which is completely accessible to everyone. It’s so odd and basic, but these digital platforms have helped me grow so much. Maybe it is because I don’t have proper art training and I lack many skills and techniques, but my curiosity is making up for all those things I missed out in my early age.
7. How do you choose what projects to work on and who to work with?
In less than a year, I have worked on a restaurant mural, a wine label design and a premium packaging project. I also got interviewed by a retail brand, stumbled across a young art gallery and joined the Affordable Art Fair; worked on a brand identity with a lab which focuses on DNA, diseases research and study, and potentially working with a regional fashion brand for Spring/Summer 2019 collection….and I only work during weekends. It’s pretty insane.
I have not been seeking clients but they come in one-by-one, and things feel synchronous. My screening process is pretty simple — it’s all based on instinct and how I feel about them through communication such as emails and phone calls. Of course I need to grow my brand so if project gives me exposure and connection that is a key factor to whether I choose to sign on and work with them.
8. How do you measure success?
Success to me is the feeling of happiness. When I feel that I have spent my time well on a good cause, I feel happy, accomplished and proud. It’s not about how much I have earned — status, title, material possessions — all these are not the core of life but only the processes, and they differ from people to people.
9. Who is your favorite artist?
I have been asked this question a lot, and each time I tell people about Fang Zhaolin. Fang Zhaolin is a Chinese painter who uses a lot of ink strokes and color. She is the mother of Anson Chan, our former Chief Secretary. She was one of the most innovative woman artists to emerge in the last decades of the 20th century. She went through wars and brought up eight children on her own. What impresses me the most is her style — it’s very western yet it’s distinctly Chinese.
She draws things in a contemporary approach with a style she both created and defined at a very late age which I find encouraging because I am a self-taught artist and I need to experiment a lot to find my style. Although Fang Zhaolin went through a lot of hardship, her art is still very spirited and shows a lot of positivity. It’s happy and bright. I hope I can create art that has a similar magnitude of influence and impact on society.
10. What do you believe in?
I believe in Jesus and His teachings. I am not his most pious, diligent and smart follower, but I have faith in Him and I do the core things He teaches (oops, I don’t read the Bible regularly!) That is why I feel obligated to use the talents I have been given and transform it into something useful to less fortunate ones. Get up, show up, and lift people up.
11. Do you have any rituals? What are they?
Morning coffee, watching or listening to the news, and checking on my plants.
12. What is your spirit or totem animal?
Butterfly. It’s really lovely to know I am a butterfly as it symbolizes personal transformation. At this phase of my life, I am indeed going through profound change or transformation. Day after day, I see myself experiencing cycles of expansion and growth. The key take-away also is about how I can cope with these changes with grace and lightness and not fussing about result and the end of it. When we can laugh at ourselves, our failures, our faults, everything will be okay.
13. How do you keep yourself healthy?
A very positive mind and flexible body. Yoga is helping me a lot to train my mind and stamina. I learn how to focus and be persistent. It’s still a long way for me as I have done it for only a year, but I know I just started and it will be a life-long journey. And able to draw whenever I can is like letting my creativity breathe.
14. What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness is more than being physically healthy or fit, to me it’s spiritual. It’s about attitude, energy and our core values. If we have our values rightly rooted in our hearts, then our minds will follow and we would make better choices and everything becomes truly sustainable. If we love ourselves and our environment, we don’t need people to remind us to eat healthy, or be kinder to animals and so on.
15. How do you get inspired?
I get inspired everywhere I go and by everything I see. It’s part of my everyday role as a brand specialist for restaurants and life as an artist. I get to see how things are done differently by going around different neighborhoods. From time to time I travel and it doesn’t have to be far. I would take a day trip to Shenzhen to visit the artists square and their local food alley. I try to go to a new place every year to broaden my horizon and get to know what different culture and lifestyle truly entails. Often I want to experience a place through volunteer work, not just going to a resort or a retreat which could feel quite isolated. Seeking variety is what I would do.
16. How do you give back?
My art project is for raising money for the elderly in Hong Kong. I could have started my art without a purpose, but when I look at things in retrospect, I am so lucky to have started this way as it is really motivating me to sustain the work I am doing. Besides raising funds, it’s my goal to create awareness in the community and to show that it’s very important to live life with a purpose. This seed I am sowing is slowly showing results as more respond positively, and many of my friends told me they want to start something on their own now. Some even want to pick up a brush to paint! That is hugely rewarding to me, as I know this impact will multiply. It is slow, but it is happening.
17. What do you want to leave behind?
I want to leave behind hope — that life does not have to be certain way. It can be more than anyone could visualize or imagine. Hope is one thing that keeps us going in our heart. That we can try even when we don’t know what the outcome will be.
18. Which words or phrases do you use the most?
“Moving forward.” I always try to tie up loose ends and figure out what the next step, or next stop is, and act. I try not to look back a lot. I am very forward-thinking and can get dreamy from time to time, which I blame on being an Aquarius.
19. What is your motto or favourite saying?
It’s in my Instagram and Pinterest profile: Make happy those who are near & those who are far will come— Confucius. I want to be a positive force making an impact on society and those around me. Even a laugh and a simple “hello” will do. Of course I fail from time to time when I am not in the mood, or when I am stressed out, or when I am let down by the hectic pace here in Hong Kong. But I try to remain cool, calm and collected whenever I can. And I hope this will be contagious, and people around me will loosen up and just smile.
20. What does your ideal day look like?
If I get to wake up early and arrive at work feeling chill, then the rest of my day falls in place. That is ideal.
21. Are you a morning lark, a night owl or a hummingbird?
Morning is my time. I love to wake up at five-ish and see the first rays. I used to be a night owl and enjoyed the special cold, distant moments that darkness gives. But a crisp morning is a completely different energy that helps me, if I want to stay positive and uplifting. I enjoy what the sun brings us and that immense feeling of hope.
22. What is your next adventure?
I am contemplating on becoming a full-time artist. I feel this is not too far down the road. The desire to draw is getting stronger. Nowadays, devoting my entire weekend feels barely enough. This passion inside me is fiery, and I will figure out a way to use it to light up and give warmth to those around me. Some people mentioned my art has a healing effect and feels therapeutic, and I need to explore this further as it will perhaps direct me towards another meaningful path.
23. What foods (& drinks) do you like to enjoy the most?
Breakfast is my favorite food. I am in love with eggs and coffee. I still recall this place called Eggspectaion when I was travelled to Montreal and it’s like heaven to me.
24. What is your favorite symbol?
The rock-on hand emoji is one that I really like to use! It gives me a chance to encourage my mates to get together and do things we love. Rock on.
25. What is your biggest indulgence?
Sleeping over 8 hours straight and going to bed early. That feeling is like a phone with 2% battery being recharged to 98%. My brain works differently after sleep. Everything looks more crisp and the filter is like making everything brighter and happier.
26. What is your greatest fear?
Losing things and people I ‘have’. Like my mother, my family, my ability to draw, my passion in things and life. I suffered from depression before and I still remember how it feels like — when you don’t feel for anything at all — that is the end.
27. Finish this sentence: Today is…. Peace, love and joy.