“Together but not together.” This tagline sandwiches a hipster couple who are staring in opposite directions. A heart-shaped handbag dangles from the girl’s hand.
“You can stand next to someone and feel completely alone,” the description underneath this illustration reads.
Through a vibrant mix of text and figures in her work, titled as the tagline, Pearl Law illustrates a feeling of alienation not uncommon to many of us living in the age where smartphones are inseparable from everyday life.
Social commentary weaves throughout the collection of illustrations of this Hong Kong born illustrator who recently turned 26.
Pearl, who received her BA in illustration from the University of the West of England in Bristol, often draws her satirical observations in a light-hearted and humorous manner, aiming to delight her audience.
“Making [them] laugh or at least a little chuckle is something I strive for,” says Pearl. “And hopefully [my work is] not much of an eyesore.”
When asked about how she comes up with witty ideas for her work, she shares her creative process without reservation.
“Really, it started as a doodle, of the guy in that brown coat.Then I felt like it lacked substance so I added the girl not looking at the guy, and then I was like, ‘wow it’s like some sort of social commentary’, because their expressions are not unlike the couples you see on the streets, when they are distracted by their own smart phones, or fucking Candy Crush.”
Her eccentric style
A great admirer of Japanese culture during secondary school, Pearl received an A in GCE A-Level Japanese and created manga characters.
However, her style significantly evolved during university, where she discovered illustrators such as Bob Gill, Audrey Beardsley and J.C. Leyendecker.
“I felt very self conscious, because I realised nobody else at uni really drew in a manga style, so I gradually weaned off it,” she confessed.
“I experienced an identity illustration style crisis during my final year, because I was confused. I didn’t know what style I would like to draw with. Now I would say my style is some sort of weird hybrid.”
Like her work, Pearl is quirky and has a sarcastic sense of humour. She is regularly surrounded by comical incidents, involving things as precious as her name.
“My name is both a blessing and a curse” jokes Pearl, who wears a brass clamshell locket that holds a white pearl. “[It’s a] curse because you tend to get your name butchered at Starbucks even if you fucking spell it out.”
For some reasons, staff at the cafe could never manage to spell her name correctly. She went as far as San Francisco, and the name on her cup of latte was still misspelled as “Pell”, as if it was a gunshot. This specific episode was made into a comic strip and shared on her Facebook page.
Her source of creativeness
Pearl draws inspirations from her observations of ordinary things happening in her daily life. Her collection of doodles includes a middle-aged Chinese man at her gym.
She also likes to put a twist on familiar sayings or objects in her work. Last Christmas, the online card she published had a smiling boy with holes where his front teeth should have been. On his hand lay two teeth and at the bottom it read “all I want for Christmas is your two front teeth,” subtly altering a well-known novelty Christmas song written by Donald Yetter Gardner in 1944.
Literature is also a great source of inspiration for her. “I always like to read and reading helps your brain imagine things because you read words but you form images in your head. And if you have a way to translate those images onto paper, then isn’t that a brilliant thing?”
An avid reader, Pearl has a shelf full of books from Shakespeare classics to Marvel comics. “Graphic novels are the way to go, for sure. Great writing and great art make the perfect marriage.”
A deep passion
Every time an illustration of hers is published, Pearl feels like she is looking at a newborn puppy.“You can’t stop cooing at it, and spreading it across all social media platforms,” she smiles.
“Drawing is always something I love to do, ever since I became self-aware as a human being. It’s just a natural progression that I now do to earn a living.”
Has she ever regretted the choice? “Sometimes, when I look at my bank account, I would regret being an illustrator, but then the satisfaction of creating something trumps all monetary benefits.”
What’s next? “I haven’t done much to make [my audience] angry yet, maybe that should be my next thing, make a thing that disgusts you!”