Instagram: @liliandarmono

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I was born and raised in a lower middle class Chinese migrant family in Jakarta. Left at 14.5, alone, in 1993, to attend high school in Singapore, on scholarship. From there, sought more scholarship and ended up in Melbourne in 1999. Fell in love with the city, and worked to get a Permanent Resident visa. Eventually got an Australian citizenship. Since then I’ve lived in Sydney and London, but now back in Melbourne, raising my beautiful 3.5 year old child, with two cats and my husband.

2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

My commercial / paid work: flat colours, friendly, very much character based, and as diverse as possible. Lots of thoughts going into making characters look gender-diverse, of different racial backgrounds, hairstyles, etc. My personal art : sinewy, curvy, lots of abstract fluid line work, lots of botanical elements and feminine figures.  

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

iPad Pro, on Adobe procreate. It lets me doodle in pitch blackness as I still bedshare with my son. It’s the software that got me into drawing on screens, directly. Before this, I did all my illustration on an Intuos 3 wacom. Before the pandemic, when I don’t have any paid work, I would opt for traditional ‘real world’ media: watercolour, ink, and acrylic. Either on paper or on wood. I love getting away from the desk-based digital work. After the pandemic, I am really short on time and physical space, so I’ve not done any non-digital illustration since March.  

4. What is your artistic process like?

If it’s for a paying client, usually it involves a rough sketch after the initial briefing ASAP. Best to get ‘talking’ visually, so both client and myself know what’s in each other’s heads. We’d aim to get composition, complexity, and aesthetic finalised before moving on to colour roughs, and finally final artwork. All done digitally, on my Cintiq 16. 

If it’s personal work to experiment/push the boundaries of my commercial aesthetic, I’d begin by drawing things the same way I’ve always done them, then tweaking one element or two bit by bit (maybe colour, proportions, or facial features), to see what happens. 

If it’s just personal work to help me relax and sleep, then I just follow my hand, with no real plan in mind on what I’m going to make. Whatever feels satisfying at the time, whether it’s beautiful plants, or beautiful desserts, or abstract lines. 

5. Who and/or what inspires your work? 

Nature, people, beautiful architecture, objects, great sci-fi.  Work ethic wise, I’m inspired by Jiro (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi documentary), who believes that you never stop improving your craft until the very day you die. It helps me rethink my career, understanding that this is the long game. It’s not about fame or awards,  but about this dedication to making art the best way you can, and the artist you are tomorrow has to be better than who you are today.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

It’s everything. I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil and that urge has never left me. Art is my comfort, my solace, my paycheck, and whenever I could, also my way of giving back to the world. I’m passionate about equal representation, especially since most of my commercial work involves portrayals of people, I use it as a way to shine a light on those who are marginalised, to break stereotypes, and change the way people think about themselves and those around them. Hopefully what I draw will contribute in some way to making the world a much kinder, compassionate place. My commercial/paid work is always about drawing the world the way I believe it should be. I realised this, through consuming great works of sci fi literature (Ann Leckie’s ‘The Radch Trilogy’ and Iain Banks’ “The Player of Games”). In those works there are description of people whose gender cannot be determined based on their physical appearance or mannerism, as well as the normalised practise of changing one’s gender several times throughout one’s lifetime. As someone who’s just past 40, the notion of gender fluidity is perhaps one of the most unfamiliar things in my life, and those books have really opened my eyes to what the world could be like when people free themselves from outdated notion of how people ought to be like. 

7. Where did you study?

I got my Bachelor’s (Hons) of Graphic Design and Master’s of Multimedia Design at Swinburne University, in Melbourne.  

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Still doing what I do now, but hopefully with five years’ worth of personal and artistic improvement under my belt. Also fitter and healthier 🙂  

9. What about in ten?

Same as above, but with ten years’ worth of artistic improvement under my belt, with amazing strength and wisdom required to parent a 13.5 year old teenager. 

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

Make someone happy, make people feel seen, comforted, less alone.  

11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

Tough one. Savoury: Tamarind and salt marinated deep fried chicken with crispy skin, jasmine rice, and stir fried  water spinach/morning glory in terasi sauce. Sweet: Matcha ice cream.

12. Favourite book?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Have read it a dozen times or so. 

13. Favourite genre of music? 

Depends on my mood, but as an old bat, I can’t stand anything newer than music created in 2008. Singer-songwriter and 40s jazz would be the safest bet, usually.

14. What are your hobbies? 

Gardening, watching horror films.  

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

Teacher or zookeeper. Who always doodles in her spare time! 🙂