I do not know Coey @siulungbao personally. As a matter of fact, she is as far from my social circle as it gets. She works as an FWD insurance agent full time, and I am a social media content creator on top of being the founder of this site. I came across her name in a Facebook post earlier this year and I’ve seen her drawing hanging proud in one of my neighbourhood restaurants.
What truly deemed my interest in her came after the interview. We both have very similar values and perspective when it comes to the idea of chasing your dream. Whilst the global arena is filled with curiosity about this city we both call home, there are fundamental uniqueness in our upbringing that bonds our generation together.
We struggle and we strive, we give up but we’re not afraid to pick things back up again. Indeed, we are quite realistic when we take initiatives and make decisions. However, we all have a siulungbao inside of us. We all want to do what we love, under the circumstances that we know we can survive and live the life we ponder upon.
i) Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I have always liked to draw and do crafts since I was young. I remember learning how to make handicrafts in kindergarten. While all my classmates followed the teacher’s instruction and handed in the exact same work, I was the only one who made something different. My teacher was astonished and told my mother during parents day that I was artistically gifted and told her to foster my passion for arts.
I often participated in art competitions in primary and secondary school (including drawing, calligraphy, photography, etc). I also majored in Visual Arts during high school. I was not very good academically, so I thought I had a better chance of getting better grades by choosing this subject, which I was confident in. However, I ended up missing the mark and received a lower score than I anticipated for the public exam. I was very disappointed at the time. However, after countless interviews, I still managed to successfully enroll in Polytechnic University’s Communication Design course. That was my first choice, so I thought I was very lucky.
During my 4 years in university, I came to realize I was not suited to become a designer. One of the reasons may have been how the Hong Kong community viewed designers. I did not enjoy commercializing my works either. To be honest, I was not very invested in my 4 years of design study, I did not achieve good grades and I wasn’t too happy. I didn’t like what I was doing.
I have an outgoing personality and often attempted new things. For example, I had a lot of part-time work experiences throughout high school and university. I also participated in a lot of extracurricular activities. That’s why I don’t enjoy stale work. I deeply believe that young people should strive, try, and chase their dreams. They should not let uninspiring day jobs take their dreams away.
When I graduated, I ended up entering the insurance industry. There were a lot of reasons, but I deeply believe I am helping others through my job. Not to mention, it is also a great career that allowed me to allocate my time and continue my dreams. I have been working here for 4 years already.
I think everything requires persistence. “Repeatedly do simple things, and do it passionately, repeatedly.” That is what will lead to success!
ii) On a personal level, who is Coey and who is siulungbao?
siulungbao is who I am on the inside. We can say everyone has a siulungbao within them. siulungbao is a raw, untamed, freckled fella with a small tummy. He represents the flawed, but it is him who brings out the beauty in this world. We all care about how others view us, so we end up showing only our best side. But a person needs not to be perfect, it is most cherished when a person can be their own, honest self.
iii) You have mentioned that you have once given up on drawing. Why?
siulungbao was initially an Instagram shop during my university years. I sold my DIY products such as phone cases, accessories, and other things on it. At the time, I was passionate about making things and drawing and I wished to use my passion to earn money. But I came across a lot of problems, such as time, cost, and in-proportionate profit. Customers had their expectations and I had my own expectations. This snowballed into a lot of stress. It made something that was supposedly beautiful into something completely commercialized. I was working for results and was blinded from the true value – which is my love for art.
After that, I always wanted to pick up drawing again but I didn’t have the power to. Until a chance came by last year and I finally started again. I started my “Gourmet Notepad” and it made me persist. It became a habit and it has been a very happy experience. This is why all passions must be well fostered and protected. Now I only draw what I like to draw and no longer put results as my priority. When the creation process is filled with joy, audiences will feel it too.
iv) Why choose food as your topic?
Food is like magic, it mesmerizes people and makes people happy. Even on sad days, food that looks good lifts mood. I hope people feel the same when they see it too.
v) Why have you decided to use art as the method to record your experiences?
I hope people feel as though they have visited the place after they have seen my drawings, as though they can feel the atmosphere at the time. For example, a lot of people who saw my work on Universal Studio’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will remember their own experience there with their loved ones. This is why my drawings aren’t just a record of food, it entails experience and memory.
vi) What special connections with people have you created through your art?
My works are like illustrations in a magazine, it is something that the audience can enjoy at ease. But it also serves a purpose. When people don’t know what to eat, they can look through my artworks, read my introduction, and perhaps have a better appetite afterward.
When I first started my “Gourmet Notepad”, I wanted to highlight local restaurants so that more people get to know about them. Hopefully, they will go to eat there and bring in a good economy for the catering industry. I have unexpectedly gained a lot from these drawings I’ve made. I met a lot of friendly restaurant owners and I’ve received comments about people wanting to date their friends to the places I have featured. Some even brought my drawing to the restaurants and ordered food with them!
vii) Can you explain to us your creative process?
First, I pick out a dish I like, or at least, something I would want to eat. I would pick a topic first and then do my research on the background, origin, unique selling points, recipe, etc. Then I would sketch out my drawing and where I want my elements to go in pencil. I consider the combination of colors and which food I want to highlight with a particular goal to make my work look more lively. Lastly, I use an ink pen to outline it with black, then color it in with markers, watercolors, and pencil crayons.
I like to draw on paper, it is more tactile. My favorite medium is the marker. I don’t enjoy drawing digitally as I am not familiar with electronics.
viii) What is it like being an artist in Hong Kong?
I think anyone can be an artist, as long as their words, actions, and works can resonate, influence, and empathise with others. When I draw Hong Kong restaurants, a lot of Hong Kong people resonated. Foreigners may also find interest in Hong Kong’s culture through them. I hope different audiences have different feelings after they see my works.
I think it is important for a piece of work to make others feel. As I have mentioned, I wish for my works to go beyond of just being pretty or not, instead, it can give people an experience or it brings out a memory.
viv) Is the drawing more fulfilling, or is the eating more fulfilling?
I cannot choose between drawing or food.
I suspect myself of having depression before. I was so upset I couldn’t do anything, I tried very hard to pull myself off the ground. I think it was drawing and food that saved me. I don’t have a particular habit of eating first, then drawing, or vice versa. As long as I wanted to eat, I did, and when I felt like drawing, I drew.
x) Can you share a piece of advice to those who are hoping to share their art on social media?
I am not a very successful artist but I can share my experience. I believe your feelings are the most important thing when it comes to creating, not the feeling of others. If you are unable to cater to your feelings, there is no way to cater to others. Persistence comes from being happy. It is more important for you to like your work than for others to like your work. This is what leads to success.
A lot of people doubt themselves when they don’t receive a lot of likes after they upload their drawings, as though their hard work has not been seen. What I want to say is do not just look at results, enjoy the process of creating. What you should focus on is not how many likes you get, but the quality of your wellbeing. Create with your heart and persist, people will see it.
Take it slow, and slowly enjoy.