World Illustration Awards 2018: category winner interview with Shih-Hsien Hsu

Shih-Hsien Hsu is the New Talent Books category winner for his project ‘Nordic Happiness’, a zine created by the artist in response to the people, life and landscapes of Scandinavia. Printed using a risographic technique, with a souvenir horseshoe on the cover.

About the Project

Last Christmas I travelled to Sweden, Finland and Denmark to escape from the stress of college. What awaited me there were beautiful encounters with people, life and landscape. After coming back to London, I decided to illustrate this unforgettable journey, which I named Nordic Happiness.


I set one crucial principle for the project: representing the Nordic atmosphere faithfully.


Firstly, I took lots of pictures as my database during the trip so that I could easily look up the references when I was back in London. Secondly, in each country I always spent one or two full afternoons staying at a local cafe to observe the interplay between people and place there. Thirdly, I got a miniature horseshoe as a gift from the Northern Lights tour in Rovaniemi. In Finland, people melt a horseshoe-shaped piece of lead which is regarded as a symbol of luck and fortune.


I had been eager to try riso print for a long time, so for this project I decided to choose riso to explore a new effect. Other materials I used included graphite, watercolour and digital software like photoshop and InDesign.


Initially I illustrated all the images in black watercolor, then scanned to the computer to process the layers for riso printing. Finally, the works were printed in four spot colour inks; yellow, red, blue and black.


It took much more time than I imagined. Being restricted by four inks, I needed to consider the overlapping, the colour depths and the position very carefully in order to create the effects I wanted to show. I also faced some technical problems while printing such as the unknown marks on the work, the wet ink and paper weight.


New places give you inspiration. They help you to create works that you could not imagine before.


While making ‘Nordic Happiness’, I was also preparing works for a Work in Progress Show at college, and originals for the final selection of ILLUSTRARTE 2018 competition. It was really stressful at that moment; however, it was worth it in the end.


It took me nearly one month to complete this 22 printed page zine, from thinking of the compositions to the binding.


If I had the chance to do more, I would take more time to show as much ‘Nordic Happiness’ as possible using my observation and image making.


I still have a long road to go; however, finding your own pace and style is vital for all the illustrators that you can construct visual narratives speaking your voice. And try not to compare your practice and works with others although…it’s hard. You are the master of yourself, knowing what suit you the most.


“Listen to your instinct. It won’t lie to you.” This is the manifesto of my tutor at RCA.

About Shih-Hsien

Shih-Hsien is a Taiwanese illustrator based in London currently studying visual communication at The Royal College of Art. Believing illustrations as a common language communicating ideas all over the world, he endeavors to portray the narratives speaking his sincere thoughts and emotions. After graduating from RCA this summer, Shih-Hsien looks forward to setting out another brand new professional career and will always keep his original intentions in mind.

See the work of all the shortlisted and winning projects for the World Illustration Awards 2018 here.

30th May 2018

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