August 25, 2016

Ahead of our UO Glasgow 15th birthday, we caught up Ursula Cheng, who gave our store a brightly coloured makeover. We talk identity, selfie culture and working within communities.

How did you get into illustration?

Through an interest in music and its packaging. I realised the person creating this was likely an illustrator, and it seemed like you could have various jobs within that line of work which really interested me.

I’ve always been creative. I was moving between ceramics and sculpture at the beginning of my studies. With illustration I liked how it could be functional and decorative. I studied illustration within my Visual Communication undergraduate degree at Edinburgh college of art. I was excited by the possibilities in which it could be applied from music artwork to apparel and print.

Where do you find inspiration for your art?

Organic or unusual shapes are the basis of a lot of my motifs as well looking at figurative forms. Inspiration can come from so many different areas. I like to travel and learn about different cultures having grown up with a contrasting background myself it informs my visual language.

Does your design process differ depending on the medium you are working in?

I tend to use the same materials unless there is a restriction in the space that I’m working in. The design can so often be influenced by the surrounding environment or site. I was invited to make a piece of work for the Hidden Door festival earlier this summer and I liked the idea of working with plastics from a functional point. It lent itself well to the concept I was working on. The design gained another aspect due to the reflections created and the light reactive paints It was great to see once installed and working with technicians to light it up.

How has being involved with community art helped you develop as an artist?

I find it so inspiring the different approaches children have to image making. It’s honest and can tell us so much about how we observe the world around us. I think that working with communities, I grew more confident in the clarity of my work and promoting individual expression to motivate people. We don’t make the time to play as much when we grow older and that can be such a useful tool in creative experimentation. I am reminded of that when working with various groups and levels of abilities in community art.

Describe your drawing style in three words.

Automatic, friendly and hyperactive

How much does music play a part in the creation of your work?

I have performed visuals and produced live drawings for DJ sets and live performances for bands. That is hella fun, working alongside lighting techs on the shows. It’s exciting to come up with new loops, animations to fit with the music . Those kinda gigs have made me more reactive and I must work quickly on the spot so it’s been a good skill to gain. Sometimes a project can come up and you can have a very short deadline, so doing exercises in drawings like this can be hugely beneficial.

You’ve done a lot of collaborative work. What draws you to certain projects and partners?

Personal motivation mainly. I have a lot of collaborations that will come up, kinda organic creative friendships I guess and using my free time to do what I love with people I like. I have worked more with small independent businesses or non-profit organisations, they can often provide more freedom typically. There is more trust in the process and an openness in communication with what is desired from both sides as part of the collaboration. I’m always looking to meet new people and have new ideas for projects brought to me. It’s important for me to find new challenges and sense some achievement having worked through them.

What do you prefer to listen to when you’re working?

Mainly podcasts, comedy shows, design and social documentaries on the radio. I’m also listening to mixes from friends or playlists put together by pals.

How did you come up with the display idea for UO Edinburgh?

It was driven by a few ideas the spot was perfect to continue with some recent work presenting drawings across screens that would bounce lots of reflections for the passing princes street viewers. I wanted to arrange themes on identity and monstrous self obsession. I was interested to create an intense indulgence of imagined surreal social realms in a a digital communication screen age . Selfie culture is quite funny for me ,for any new places you visit there will be a host of folks using devices to capture themselves in that experience . I knew i wanted to involve that into a stimulating illustration that simulated the noise of multiply distractions therein . Just prior to the commencing of the work I had been travelling through Europe so wanted to capture that energy that comes from moving through new places and meeting new personalities that can widen your outlook and the unexpected adventures I caught myself in. I kept a sketchbook and quite of the ideas and drawings from the diaries made their way into the UO display idea.

Where can we expect to see your work in the near future?

Currently I am showcasing recent work as part of a group art show, Wave after Wave with artists Grapher Jim, Radoslaw Liwen and Colin MacNeil as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival ,Cnova venue/India Buildings on Victoria St, which will run until the end of August.

Next month I start work on a collaboration with Glasgow based singer, songwriter, drummer Tanat. I’ve been a fan for years and have wanted to create a video piece using the performative aspect of my projected live drawings and animations to create something immersive on film. We caught up at a festival and Luckily also came up in a conversation. She is also an illustrator and was totally up for it, so I’ve just jumped on trying to make this happen. I think her rhyme and vocals are so inspiring. I have lots of ideas and sketches for this. I’ve also been keen to learn more on editing and using film as part of this project. and myself are collaborating on a mural which I’m excited for, we’re gonna share some sketches just gotta find the right site to ‘LET’s GO ‘on, somewhere between Edinburgh and Glasgow.