Artist spotlight: Yi Huo
One of our most prolific artists, Yi Huo, hails from Chicago. In our interview below, she gives us a glimpse of what a day in her creative process is like and what she uses as sources of inspiration.
Thea: How did you get your start as a professional artist?
Yi: When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on my own and entertained myself with doodling on papers. Art helps me so much to express myself and to connect with people. I have developed my interest in drawing illustration. I always wanted to have my own illustration book someday and I wanted a professional training to help me achieving my goal. My parents didn’t support me at first but as I always insisted, they finally agreed that I could go studying visual communication design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. SAIC provided me an opportunity to improve myself and to connect with the artistic community. I have worked on a variety of visual design projects and some illustration works. Right now I’m still trying to figure out a way to make my own art as a full-time profession.
Thea: What is a typical day of work for you?
Yi: I usually get up pretty early in the morning and do some workout to keep myself energetic. Then I’ll start working. Right now I’m taking a gap year and spending a lot of time doing my art. I’ll set long-term plans and short-term plans for myself and make sure I have certain working hours and hours to improve my art everyday.
Thea: What is inspiring to you? What do you do when you feel "blocked" creatively - how do you get unstuck?
Yi: Many of my works come from nature. Whenever I go out, I am pretty aware of my surroundings and take pictures all the time. I also love to find inspirations on Pinterest. When I feel blocked I’ll take a look at my Pinterest board or my photo documentations. Sometimes I go to the library and flip through books and get inspired.
Thea: Do you have other creative projects besides the wonderful work you do for Polychrome?
Yi: As a graphic designer, I have done some digital and print designs, such as branding and package designs. I also really enjoy doing digital and watercolor illustrations. I have tried creating some animated illustrations based on my traveling experiences recently.
Thea: How do these creative outlets influence your work as a print pattern designer?
Yi: I think it really helps me with print pattern designing. Since I have been doing graphic design and illustration, I have developed my color and design sense and different ways of image creating. For example, I enjoy using watercolor, which is a medium that can create a flowing feel and fascinating textures. I also enjoy digital painting; because of its versatility it can produce so many possibilities.
Thea: What individuals, artists, mentors, etc do you consider to be instrumental in your development as a professional artist?
Yi: One of the most instrumental mentors that help me in design field is a teacher from SAIC. He never gives specific instructions but always provides me ways of thinking. He clears a lot of my confusion and leads me to the real design world. I learnt how to combine my instinct and logical thinking and how to solve problems using visual images from him. For illustration, I follow many great illustrators online like Victo Ngai, whose works have been posted on The New Yorker and several other magazines. I have learnt a lot from their working process.
Thea: You are living in Chicago, what a great art town! Can you describe how that affects your work?
Yi: Living in Chicago is definitely a big benefit for an artist. There are so many art exhibitions and lectures of visiting artists in downtown. I’m a member of the Art Institute of Chicago that I can check out the latest exhibitions often. Sometimes a certain artwork or a few words from other artists suddenly strike me and give me inspirations. Many of my friends are independent artists that make their own work. We have works exchanged, learn from each other, and improve ourselves together. Also, because many of my pattern works incorporate natural elements, there is a big botanic garden and many greening areas in suburb that I can just walk around and get inspired.
Thea: Can you give us some inside scoop as to what fashion trends you have been noticing in your own neighborhood?
Yi: I think around the art community, people dress more stylistic, either very normcore or super colorful, while Chicagoans dress in a way that is more practical. Most people pursue the balance between comfortable and fashionable. The cold weather in winter also has a big influence on it. I would say skinny jeans, classic fitted trench coats and Beanies and are always popular in cold weather. For summer people usually dress more colorful. Girls like wearing off the shoulder tops and cotton/denim shorts.
Thea: If you had to pick 3 print trends to watch for in 2018, what would they be?
Colorful pop art print like Romero Britto’s or Takashi Murakami’s.
I love traditional Chinese/Japanese cloth/kimono print with modern touch.
Thea: What are your favorite things to do/ places to go in the city to unwind and decompress?
Yi: I love figure skating. There is a big ice rink near my house that I can go to often. I really enjoy the freedom on ice. It really helps me to reduce stress and keeps my body healthy so that I can keep working. I also love to go to different concerts in Chicago Symphony Orchestra and see some Broadway shows.
Thea: If you could not be an artist for some reason, what other profession would you have chosen?
Yi: Maybe a writer. I love creating world views and stories, writing about emotions to strike a chord with people. Being an artist is a way to achieve this goal, so does a writer.
Thea: Thank you so much, Yi, for spending some time with us and giving us a chance to hear about all the creative things you have been up to!
.... and take a look through some of the terrific prints Yi has in our collection , left to right :