Don Mak is an illustrator based in Hong Kong. His artwork features fun and colourful abstract characters and cityscapes, taking inspiration from Hong Kong’s local culture. Using a mixture of handmade and digital, he creates his illustration work from textures using traditional calligraphy brushes through a digital process.
Working freelance, he has worked with a variety of local and international clients from local music label and store, White Noise Records to Monocle magazine. His risograph printed book, “An Untitled Story” – was a recent collaboration with Hong Kong based risograph print studio, Ink’chacha on exhibition at local Hong Kong design store; Odd One Out at Zine Fest 2015.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up and what inspired you to do illustration?
I was born and brought up in Hong Kong. At 16, I left school and joined a local comic talents. I later continued my studies in arts and design. In 2009, I graduated with a BA (Hons) in Design – Visual Communication from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Since graduation, I have been working as a freelance illustrator.
What kind of illustration do you do? Can you tell us about your thought process?
I have been illustrating freelance for magazines, publishers and advertising agencies. I work based on clients’ requirements – some jobs have a strict brief that need solid research back up. While some have relatively loose requirements – for these jobs I can have more freedom to research and develop my own ideas and drawing techniques. Research is always the most important part of gaining inspirations during my creative process. Meanwhile, I also look for inspirations from my own life experiences.
What are your biggest inspirations in design trends currently?
Currently, most of my works are about local Hong Kong culture. My most recent project required me to draw old school streets in Hong Kong. So, I will simply take my camera and do field research at certain districts. I will also talk with the local residents as well as shopkeepers to gain inspiration. It is often from my first hand research that will inspire me the most.
What do you feel is the most exciting thing happening in the Hong Kong art and design scene?
I think the most exciting thing happening in the Hong Kong art and design scene should be the Umbrella Revolution that happened last year. Even though it is a political movement, it influenced the whole creative stream to go back to local. For the creative industry, it was a platform for them to express their support with their artworks. Also, when walking around the occupied areas, you would find beautiful art pieces created by local students in Hong Kong. The occupied areas were just like a huge gallery. To me, I never realised Hong Kong had so much creative talent. That stunned me!
Have you got any exciting projects coming up in 2015 that you can tell us about?
This year, I will be regularly contributing and working with the Apple Daily Hong Kong, a daily local newspaper. I will collaborate with the team to create an illustration on one local old style district per week. For me, it is a great chance for me to study more about local culture and network with others.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer looking to work in Hong Kong?
As a freelance illustrator, I’ve found there are little opportunities here in Hong Kong. It is very difficult because you have to work very hard to sustain your living, especially for the high rental costs here.
What do you love doing outside of your design work?
Recently, it has been my most busy period since graduation. I have to work 12 to 13 hours everyday. I love reading but now I can only read twenty minutes before sleeping. Fortunately, I still manage one day off at the weekend. Usually, I spend my free time with my girlfriend and we go hiking in the countryside.