There seems to lie a contradiction at the base of Kristen Liu-Wong’s illustrations. While her color palettes are bright and uplifting, revolving around neon pinks and light pastels, her themes and characters look vicious, sometimes even grotesque.
It’s this contradiction that makes her illustrations stand out, attracting 195k fans on Instagram and counting. According to Liu-Wong, her work draws inspiration from a rich variety of sources, both low-brow and high-brow. Amongst her sources of inspiration, she counts American folk art, Japanese wood block prints, Chinese pottery, and the Surrealist movement, as well as Nickelodeon cartoons.
Born in San Francisco to a Chinese American household, Liu-Wong studied illustration at Pratt Institute and is currently based in Los Angeles. “The incredible graphic quality of Japanese woodblock prints (especially Shunga) are particularly inspirational to me and I love the beautiful intricacies of Chinese vases,” she mentioned in an interview with Studio Cult. “And while we’re talking about Asian art and artists, the photography of Nobuyoshi Araki is a big current influence.”
“When I first applied to art school, I was doing pen and ink drawings of engines and I was wary of painting or even using color,” she notes. “In school, I was forced out of my comfort zone and challenged to try new things and see new work. Eventually, after a lot of experimenting, you find something that just feels right and you keep exploring it.”
Her experimentation resulted in her signature style that is both unique and startling. Take a look for yourself: