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Illustrator | Cho Pei-hsin

  • Date:2023-02-24
Illustrator | Cho Pei-hsin

‧ Chinese Name: 卓霈欣

‧ Place of Birth: Taoyuan (Northern Taiwan)

Did You Know?

Illustrator Cho Pei-hsin has lived in Europe for many years and has a long history of experience with foreign cultures. She has found that when faced with cultural and linguistic differences, people rely more on images when conveying information to others, which inspired her to think further about creative work: by creating works related to nature, it may be possible to overcome the barriers of cross-cultural communication.

Cho Pei-hsin first showed an interest in painting as a child, at which time she joined a children's art class at a local studio, marking the start of her studies of painting and drawing. Years later, she entered the Department of Animation of Taipei National University of the Arts, then went on to study Visual Communication and Illustration at the Royal College of Art in the UK after graduation, earning a Master’s degree. Her initial reason for studying animation was simply out of a desire to try it out. After she gained a more in-depth understanding of the art, she found that she prefers European animation, with its hand-painted textures and more subtle narratives, over the simple, smooth lines of American animation. Inspired by the amount of persistence and pondering involved in the making of each image, Cho also decided to expand her studies into the field of illustration.

The psychology courses she took in college inspired the thematic direction of her creation. Her creative themes are related to exploring the heart and the expression of pure emotion. In her illustrations, the stacking of brushstrokes serves as a physical representation of her observation of emotions. Although her works always have some melancholic elements, she hopes that viewers can also feel a sense of intimacy and personal emotion through her images.

In 2021, Cho won the International Bologna Children's Book Fair-Fundación SM Award for Illustration for "Crown Shyness (樹冠羞避)." This piece was inspired by her experiences in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, she was living in Berlin, Germany, and through the window of her room, she observed the exuberant vitality of nature in spring and summer. Without human activities, the wanton growth of vines and trees gave the whole city a new look. The "new normal," wherein people had to maintain a safe social distance while plants flourished outside the window reminded her of the phenomenon of "crown shyness," serving as her inspiration to create this short work.

She reflected on people's incompatibility with maintaining social distancing during the pandemic through the natural phenomenon of plants keeping a distance from one another in the canopy to adapt to their environment. Perhaps by switching perspective like this, the so-called "new normal" could be seen as being a more natural situation. The virus forced the originally fast-moving world to slow down, but it did not disrupt Cho's pace. Instead, she felt that everything was suddenly running parallel to her. Therefore, she was able to maintain a calm distance and view the spread of the pandemic from a different perspective.

She says, "This work is mainly about expressing emotions, sorting out and summarizing the mood changes during the lockdown, from stagnation to the realization of being able to breathe." The desaturated tones and gentle brushstrokes in the painting touch the depths of the viewer's soul. The quiet vitality of plants and light and shadow grows, entangles, and withers along with the cartoons one by one, and finally, a large tree canopy stretches out in front of the eyes, dissipating the dull mood in an instant.

Most of Cho Pei-hsin's creative inspirations come from daily life, such as tables, chairs, toast, or cats. Her college graduation production piece, "ego," used the metabolism of hair as a metaphor for how the loss of growth is real, but leaves no traces. Cho excels at using metaphors to stack and construct ideas into pictures.

With a background in animation, Cho Pei-hsin is able to flexibly employ different creative techniques when creating comics and illustrations. Take the short-listed short film she drew for the Ondaatje Award of the Royal Society of Literature as an example. For narration, this animation uses the comics form. In her comic works, similar approaches apply, such as deconstructing dynamic images into frame-by-frame series, allowing readers to reconnect with their eyes. She mixes and matches the three different forms—animation, comics, and illustration—to create her unique narrative method.

In 2022, Cho Pei-hsin published her first picture book, adapted from Oscar Wilde’s "El Pescador y su Alma" (The Fisherman and his Soul), about a fisherman who falls in love with a soulless mermaid. Wilde explores the tension between body/desire and soul/mind through an aesthetic worldview. Cho hopes to draw from Oscar Wilde's works to make her own works more extensive and imaginative and to tell stories with rich layers and creativity that can stand the test of time.