Hong Kong artist Vivian Ho creates vivid and sharp illustrations of Hong Kong's everyday scenes. Her drawings mostly include a combination of city scenes and nature, with the aim of presenting a kind of reconnection between them.
This talented artist collaborated with Lomography for the Lomo'Instant Automat Vivian Ho Edition, featuring the design which was first created for Hong Kong Sinfonietta's Tiny Galaxy Concert. Now she brings this expansive scene to a small instant camera. Learn more about Vivian, what inspires her and how she designed her edition of the Lomo'Instant Automat here.
Hello Vivian! Welcome to Lomography magazine. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got into illustration?
Hello! My name is Vivian. I already liked drawing when I was a child, but I didn't study fine arts or get in touch with drawing when I grew up. Later, I finally picked up my drawing when I started my college studies at Wesleyan University in the U.S, where I double-majored in Studio Arts (oil painting) and Economics.
At first, I didn't plan to be an artist. But when I graduated, I thought that if I would have to work for the rest of my life anyway, I might spend a few years doing what I like before starting a full-time job, so I started to paint for my job and keep doing it until now. Luckily, I don’t have to find a job and I can keep drawing what I want. However, sometimes I may feel lonely when I’m working on my artwork. This lonely feeling later faded away when all artists gathered together in a studio.
You mentioned that you liked drawing when you were small. What made you start dabbling in fine arts again? Was there a specific moment early on that really fuelled your obsession?
Actually, I don't know. When I was a child, my mother would buy me some children's drawing books, and she would also invite some art teachers to teach me drawing. When I got to secondary school, I often drew on the blackboard, on the homework in the book, and the desk, and naturally I stepped into the path of drawing.
How would you describe your passion for being an artist?
To be honest, I would like to be an artist rather than an illustrator. At first, I planned to show paintings in the gallery. Although I continue painting, my dominant artworks are mostly illustrations. Call me an artist or painter, both are fine, whatever.
When I graduated and returned to Hong Kong, I showed my paintings in galleries, bookstores, and hotels. Then my senior asked me if I was interested in drawing a poster for the Hong Kong International Film Festival. I sent my artwork, and unexpectedly, they gave me the green light! Accidentally I finished my first job and my artwork was posted everywhere. Hence, I keep drawing and working with various organizations.
Generally speaking, Hong Kong people mostly focus on economic development and give a cold shoulder to local artists. What's it like being an artist in Hong Kong?
The difference between me and other artists is that I am not very artistic. In Hong Kong, there may be only a few hundred people who are willing to buy art and collect art. Artists treat these hundreds of people as a market to create art for them. I think the system of art in Hong Kong is like a pyramid. You will see some well-known artists often appear in exhibitions but some niche and emerging artists are not in front of the public.
For me, if I wanted to take the path of artistic creation, I would not be able to survive. So I choose to be flexible. I paint oil paintings myself, and I self-learn illustration. To earn income I will work with brands while creating.
In Hong Kong, how much an artist earns depends on the market to determine its value. In Hong Kong, there are still many people who do not understand the meaning of painting and the value behind the art. Even if people go to galleries, they are not willing to spend money to buy an artwork. Of course, the emergence of NFTs attracts more people to buy artwork and the situation is much better than before.
What’s your family's response when you tell them you have decided to become an artist?
They definitely say no. They don’t understand why I have a university degree majoring in economics but I have to do artistic creation instead. We had been arguing for a long time. As I am a competitive person, I believe I will survive no matter what. So I go ahead and draw. I tended to do what I liked when I was in my adolescence. After that, they saw I could earn a living by working on my artwork and they just allowed me to do it.
Most of your artworks have Hong Kong as their setting. What are your creative inspirations?
I don't intend to draw local things, I just paint the things around me in my daily life. I used to draw interesting events about my friends, but now I like to draw realistic styles. Sometimes I see a view of Hong Kong and I wonder how to make it into a movie scene and realistically draw these scenes. I don't focus on a character, place, or theme. I just paint what I feel and imagine about what I am seeing.
I prefer drawing the possibilities in this world, many wild ideas can be visualized via art. I don’t like to paint certain characters and themes, but I like to draw my feelings and imagination at will.
Many of your works feature images of nature. What makes these elements so special to you?
I think nature and the city are too separated. Generally, the elements of nature are put into the city to give people a bizarre feeling. This feeling itself is very ridiculous. I want to reconnect with nature and the city. Nature can provide a feeling of comfort and tranquility. However, nature is often excluded from our living space. I want to reverse this seemingly habitual but ridiculous normality.
Aside from drawing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Painting takes up very little time in my life, and the rest of the time is spent chatting and eating with my friends in the studio.
Tell us more about how you designed the artwork for this limited edition Lomo'Instant Automat. How did you conceptualize it?
This design was first created for Hong Kong Sinfonietta and the theme is the tiny galaxy. The design itself has a kind of grandiose feeling. It’s suitable to put this design on the Lomo'Instant Automat. I think it corresponds to the essence of this camera which captures wonderful wide images as well as creating the fantasy galaxy of instant photography in your hands.
How was your shoot using the Lomo'Instant Automat?
It was fun! I love recording daily memories by using Lomo'Instant Automat due to its nice appearance and light weight. It’s easy to use but I always forget to turn it off. I took pictures around the studio, taking pictures of cats, people in the studio, and goldfish in the fish tank. Now, these photos are glued to my closet for a collection.
Finally, what would you like to say to those who have been following and supporting you?
This camera has the sunset painted on it. I hope you can seize your youth and shoot beautiful images as much as you can! Hurry up and take more photos!
Do you have any exciting work coming up that you’d like to tell us about?
There will be a solo exhibition in Tsim Sha Tsui this December! I also have more co-operations with other brands one after another! Stay tuned!