Ask The Author - Sophia Hotung

Ask The Author - Sophia Hotung

Sophia is a Eurasian writer and illustrator from Hong Kong. The Hong Konger Anthology features 70 prints inspired by the New Yorker magazine covers and a compendium of poetry she has written.

As a group of avid readers in the LRP team we are very happy to have recently expanded our book offering online and in the showroom. We knew you would be interested in finding out more about some of the wonderful authors and illustrators who have created the ones we've selected. All books have a Hong Kong theme whether it be written or illustrated by someone who lives here or is about the city, the stories and the history of the place so many of us call home. We have created a series of Ask The Author blog posts where we ask the same three questions (with an added bonus one at the end!) to find out more about their connection to the city, what their book is all about, what inspires them and their favourite things to see and do in the 852.

1. About you

I'm Sophia Hotung,  a Eurasian writer and illustrator from Hong Kong. In 2021, as a joke, I started "Hong Kongifying" New Yorker magazine covers while bed-ridden with a slew of gnarly autoimmune diseases. I had worked in tech and communications and never planned on being an artist, but The Hong Konger project snowballed into prints, exhibitions, and eventually a book: The Hong Konger Anthology.

The Hong Konger Anthology features 70 of my initial illustrated Hong Konger covers alongside a compendium of zany, thoughtful, and satirical poems that subvert and adapt elements of well-known western and Chinese poetry just as the Hong Konger prints subvert and adapt the New Yorker covers. In all, it's a celebration of Hong Kong, while also a meditation on disabled, female, and mixed race experiences.

Ask The Author Sophia Hotung

2. Your inspiration

One morning in October 2020 I realised I could not get out of bed. I had been in and out of hospitals since 2017 with relapsing autoimmune conditions, but believed I just needed to pull myself together and not let my illnesses define me. My body didn't like that though, so that morning, it just stopped cooperating. I spent months hardly moving from my mattress, bum-shuffling to the kitchen and bathroom, and taking medication that seemed to harm more than help. At Christmas, however, my mum gifted me an iPad. I was never great at drawing but I downloaded the app Procreate and started doodling. It made me feel happy after a very dark period, so I decided to properly learn to draw by Hong Kongifying New Yorker covers. I thought subverting New Yorkers would be more engaging than following some exercise book. I also did not want my drawing style to become a rip-off of one artist, so the New Yorker's different cover artists provided a fun variety of styles to choose from. In March 2021, posted a work-in-progress of Room With a View on Instagram as a joke, but my friends actually liked it and asked if I would make more. The fun I had making Hong Kongers and the encouragement I got from my friends gave the concept momentum and, in the end, allowed me to launch a new career that accommodates my disabilities.

The Hong Konger Anthology book specifically came about because every Hong Konger I made had a backstory that, if known, provided more insight into each artwork. For example, Lion Rock Station and Bao Bei's Feast are actually about disability, but you'd never know from just looking at them. I chose poetry to tell these backstories because it can be concise and still densely packed with meaning. Poetry also allowed me to be silly on some pages and serious on others without conjuring jarring tonal inconsistencies. Just as I was inspired by the New Yorker for the artwork, I was also inspired by classic poetry by Li Bai John Keats, and even Billy Joel, so some of the poems reflect their works too.

Ask The Author Sophia Hotung

3. Favourite thing to do/see in HK

My Popo (mum's mum) was my original guide to Hong Kong. Throughout my childhood, she was the person who first brought me to the Big Buddha, Cheung Chau, congee shops, mahjong games, the flamingos at the Botanical Gardens, the horses at Beas River, even Disneyland... We were very close my whole life and my favourite thing to do now is revisit where we used to go and get nostalgic. You may notice that I dedicated The Hong Konger Anthology to her. Our adventures inspired a lot of the artworks and poems. She was my strongest connection to local Hong Kong culture, and I think by preserving her legacy, I inadvertently preserve my own Chinese heritage.

Ask The Author Sophia Hotung

4. Favourite Hong Konger

Aesthetically, my favourite is Splash Harbour. I like the relief of the brushstrokes, the concept of a beach day at Central Ferry Pier, and the saturated colour palette. However, symbolically, my favourite is White Flowers. It reminds me of my Popo, it's a little cheeky with the cartoonish nudity, and it's one of my first original Hong Kongers not based on a New Yorker cover.

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