“What I love most about watercolour is that the materials speak for themselves and are beautiful on their own.”
Meet Doris Chang, the creative brains and hands behind Little Sister Co.
Doris is one of the many Adelaide-based artists absolutely killing it at the moment, and after attending her workshops recently, I had the chance to speak with her about all things illustration and lettering for the Creative Spirits Interview Series.
After studying a Degree in Visual Communications at the University of South Australia (specialising in Illustration), Doris – like many artists and designers – spent a great deal of time working out what to do with her skills.
“It took a long time spent thinking, doubting, job-hunting, and working on various things of questionable quality after completing my studies before I had any real clarity about the type of illustrative work that I really wanted to pursue,” she says.
“Eventually I realised that I wanted the majority of my work to be self-initiated. After going through my sketchbooks and journals for product ideas, I printed my first run of greeting cards, took up a pop-up shop residency at Brick+Mortar creative retail hub and started making lists of potential stockists to contact.
“Starting to conduct myself predominantly as a business rather than a freelancer was the best decision I ever made; in a nutshell, it best suits the way I like to work.”
And so, Little Sister Co. began.
After seeing it up close and personal, Doris’ processes are downright intriguing. She uses Koh-I-Noor watercolours and ink like nobody I’ve ever seen before.
“For me, the illustration process isn’t about painstakingly rendering an image to perfection, but manipulating the natural characteristics of the material in front of me. I work quite fast and organically, trying to use the movement of water to render an image.
“I often describe the process as less like painting and more like pushing and pulling pigment around; a successful piece of work is usually an unlikely combination of careful planning, spontaneity and fast reflexes!”
Much like her watercolours, her lettering pieces – crafted from Indian ink and a small Japanese calligraphy brush – are incredibly organic, seeming as natural to her as breathing.
“The [lettering] content starts out scribbled, rather messily in a journal – actually if I’m being honest, most of the time it gets noted down during a bout of insomnia or in the car at a red light on whatever paper I can lay my hands on, then it gets transferred to the journal – then when I decide it’s time to create some new product, I’ll pick out some passages, refine the copy and draft the layout in pencil before starting on the final piece,” says Doris.
“The rendering techniques I use in painting and lettering my are largely self-taught; it’s been a long trial-and-error process that I’m still experimenting with on some days!”
I think it’s safe to say her trial-and-errors have worked pretty well for her, so far. And it’s one thing she accounts her success to, along with the Internet, her curiosity, and the creative community in Adelaide (we’re looking at you Brick+Mortar staff and residents).
So, what does Doris have to say to those looking to make a living from their creativity?
“Work hard, keep learning and be a good human; the rest will come,” she says.
“It’s always daunting to put so much of yourself into your products, but the more you do it, the better your chances of finding the right audience for your work – and it’s always the best feeling to find people genuinely touched and excited by something I’ve made.”