Q&A with Joey Yu

Colourful, intriguing, insightful. Joey Yu’s illustrations capture your attention, daring you to imagine the story between the lines. I first discovered Joey Yu’s work at Kingston University’s graduate show in the summer of 2017. After three years of avidly following her Instagram account, it has been a pleasure to learn more about Joey’s work, her passions, and how she harbours emotional connections to create her illustrations.  

How did you first get in to illustration?
I've always loved drawing as a child, and the feeling never really went away. 

What do you like to draw?
Although I love to draw observationally, I love being challenged with briefs and responding to articles, books, themes that are hard to visualise. Some of the best things I've done are drawings with tight time constraints because it keeps me on my toes and makes me come up with drawing solutions I wouldn't usually do.

What inspires you?
Anything, as long as it incites extreme emotion. If I get that knee-jerk, wobbly feeling in my heart, then I become obsessed with it. For example, a certain album or a trip. I've been enjoying dark films recently, horror… anything with a black humour.

Who are your top three illustrators?
Oh it changes all the time, so there's never a fixed list, and its ‘illustrator’ in the broadest sense of the word, so anyone that makes images. I really like Saehan Parc, Tamara De Lempicka and Allison Schulnik. There are so many more though!

How would you describe your illustration style in three words?
I'm not sure, but three things I always try and play with are perspective, colour and space. I try to make that apparent my work. 

How has social media and the digital world affected your career?
It's allowed me to project my voice around the world, I'm very grateful for that. 


What does the average week look like?
I like to wake up late, stay up late. A typical week is e-mails, meetings, working on whatever commissions I have coming in. In my spare time I go to dance class with my friends, go for food, long walks around central London - that's the one thing I miss right now (during lockdown), aimless wandering around the city.

How has the Covid-19 lockdown affected your work?
I work from home, so thankfully I still have all my equipment around me, and I'm very used to staying at home. I'm doing the best I can. I miss evenings with friends, going out for dinner, being surrounded with people. But it's not too bad for me. We're getting by. 

What's the thing that interests you most about illustration?
It's one small window, in which you can tell a joke, make someone nostalgic, show someone something beautiful.  

Do you practice another art form? 
Animation! Dance! 

What benefits do you get from other art forms?
I think movement. I am so influenced by the way things move, and trying to solidify that into a still illustration. 

What was the most significant visual moment in your life?
Oh, everything makes me emotional. I'm lucky to live right by the river, and I go and look at it often. I suppose that's significantly visual, and I'm always reminded of nature and the way things pass.

What are the most important questions to you?
How can you make someone feel something strongly in five minutes? Storytelling, is what I want to do. I think about that one sequence from the film Up, or short stories. I love short stories, and their urgency. 

Instagram: @itsjoeyyu

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