Julie Lai’s ‘Chrysalis’ Illustrations Celebrate the Artist’s Personal Healing Journey

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Julie Lai studied illustration at Falmouth University before returning home after graduation. Today, she works as a freelance illustrator, drawing inspiration from urban and natural landscapes and adding emotion to each piece. Flowing lines and textures are a common feature of her work, which she describes as honest and expressive. “The marks I make are influenced by the brushwork found in Chinese calligraphy and painting,” she told Creative Boom. “I also often find myself creating more organic shapes rather than clean, straight shapes because they feel comfortable and soft.”

A recent self-initiated project is Chrysalis, a series of seven illustrations that reflect current turbulent times. “They are based on images of meditations and experiences in nature with a magical touch,” says Julie. “I wanted to capture the feeling of slowly opening one’s heart through the healing process in a figurative and magical way, emerging as something beautiful like a butterfly.”

Each coin also depicts the chronic pain that Julie suffered from various life-changing events. “I believe it was a result of the trauma and stress of what happened in 2019 and 2020. After trying countless different things such as physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture, I finally realized that it was about healing both the body and the mind. I realized that I had been trapped in a cycle of hyperconsciousness and constant feelings of insecurity,” she tells us.

“This healing journey allowed me to deepen my meditation practice and self-awareness. Therefore, I wanted the illustrations to honor those crucial stages where I understood what my body was trying to tell me through pain. The project environments are lush, nurturing places where I envision my healing, connected to nature. What started as a quest to find a cure has become so much more than I ever imagined.

Drawing has often been a healing tool throughout Julie’s life. She remembers art as an escape from school to explore new ideas. But it wasn’t until high school that she discovered illustration and could envision a future career doing something she loved.

“My art teacher at the time encouraged me to pursue it. After my art foundation, I realized that I would be better suited to illustration than graphic design. Regarding my childhood and my education, I took Western and Chinese painting classes, but I often found these classes restrictive and limiting. I hadn’t realized there were such vast and liberating ways to create art. before going to university in the UK,” she says.

You can discover more of Julie Lai’s work at laijulie.com or show your support on Instagram. For those of you who potentially want to purchase an art print from Julie, you can also browse her Etsy store.

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