October 2023

The Transitionist

Deanne CheukDeanne CheukDeanne CheukDeanne CheukDeanne CheukDeanne CheukText: Sunday Ganim Images: Deanne Cheuk

Deanne Cheuk has built a career based on beautiful illustrative designs that have crossed most mediums imaginable: from print to product and everywhere in between. Beginning in Perth with her now infamous Neomu Publications and now renowned across the world for her hand-felt style, Deanne took some time out from preparing her upcoming show at Monster Children Gallery to talk to Sunday Ganim about her processes, the influence of New York and her recent love of all things chalk.

Sunday Ganim: Your hand seems to be present in a lot of your work, did you spend a lot of time drawing and painting when you were young?

Deanne Cheuk: Not really, Art was my favorite subject at school because it wasnt anything academic, but I never thought I was great at it. My childhood was alongside the Swan River in Perth so we were always outdoors.

SG: Were you always interested in graphics?

DC: I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing until we were choosing university subjects in Year 12 and my art teacher suggested it, I didn’t know what it was and she told it me it was like toothpaste packaging design and I remembered thinking that sounded like something cool to do.

SG: When you moved to New York to work on Tokion, you also worked with David Carson, how did that come about and how did working with him effect your work?

DC: I moved to New York because I loved it here but I didn’t have Tokion or any other work lined up at all. I started working with David Carson soon after I got here. The biggest effect that had on my work was giving me confidence in my own abilities. I had been working steadily already before I got to NY but I had no idea if I was making anything good as nothing had really gotten any attention until after I moved to NY.

SG: Your work is incredibly layered and detailed, do you start with a preconceived idea of how things will turn out, or do you just feel your way along the process?

DC: I feel my way along for sure, I never know what the final illustration will look like, I just keep playing around and having fun with it until I am satisfied. I always believe it will turn into something and that it will work out!

SG: You also incorporate a lot of different methods or styles; water-colours, painting, computer generated graphics and collage do you have a favorite material to work with at the moment?

DC: At the moment my favorite material is charcoal because it’s so messy and unpredictable but also very workable at the same time.

SG: Your body of work expands from graphics, fashion and illustration to art.  Does your art and graphic design work exist in separate places in your head – are just different forms of your creative process, or do you see them as separate things entirely?

DC: I do see my art and graphics as separate things but I am also aware that one inevitably influences the other and that my graphic work makes my time spent on my artwork possible. The graphics work I do is purely to support myself, it’s a job, the art I work on is for pleasure and it’s a creative outlet for me. I call myself a Transitionist and believe I am part of a movement of working graphic designers who are also working artists.

SG: What excites you most about making art?

DC: Creating something from nothing.

SG: Living in New York are you constantly inspired by the city, or where do you get your inspiration from?

DC: Definitely inspired by the city, by the people, friends, happenings here, I wouldnt want to be anywhere else.

SG: What is the average day like for you these days?

DC: I am up by 6.45am, I only check my emails in the morning at that time. I am in my office and working by 9am until 6pm on graphics projects. From 9pm onwards I work on unpaid projects and artwork and then I do it all again the next day.

SG: I remember years ago being shown a copy of your publication, Neomu at a friend’s house, then always looking forward to seeing the next publication. Are there plans for another Neomu sometime or a similar follow up project?

DC: I loved working on Neomu but it was a total labour of love, the proceeds all went to charities but I paid for the whole thing myself and it wasnt cheap to make. I published eight issues and have always wanted to make it to 10. I do believe I’ll do another couple of issues but I don’t know when that will happen.

SG: Or, what’s on the horizon for you?

DC: Sydney in a couple of weeks for a show at the Monster Children Gallery, and then back to New York for more work and to plan shows for next year.

Deanne Cheuk’s exhibition Mango Cherry Coco Rainbow opens at Monster Children on October 7 and runs until October 30.

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