What’s in my Moleskine: Felicia Chiao

What’s in my Moleskine: Felicia Chiao

A peek into industrial designer Felicia Chiao's sketchbook
Felicia Chiao
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From the moment we noticed industrial designer Felicia Chiao sketching her latest masterpiece between meetings, we (and our Instagram fans) were hypnotized by her bold colors, intricate patterns, and subtle textures. In this installment of What’s in my Moleskine, we invite you to dive into the dreamlike world Felicia has built in her sketchbooks—we guarantee you'll be hypnotized, too.

As a little kid, I always loved drawing, but I didn’t actually get serious about art until high school. At first, I was just doodling on my homework and in my notebooks in my spare time, but by my senior year I thought it would be cool to set a deadline, and complete a sketchbook front to back in one year. It was a good outlet for my stressed and angsty teenage self. The first one took a while—definitely more than a year—but after completing it, I was hooked.

In a way, these notebooks act as a diary for me—I remember where I was mentally and emotionally for each drawing. Over time, my work has become a lot less about how angry I was that day, and more about colors, patterns, and shapes.

I like to draw simple lines and shapes, and for each composition, I typically just wing it. I’m sure there’s a meaning to whatever I’m drawing, but when I’m working on it, I’m actually not thinking too hard about it. It’s all stream of consciousness. I draw to de-stress and because it’s fun.

I ended up creating this bald, baby-like thing to represent a person or a feeling I was having. A lot of people have told me they can relate to my work, and I think it’s because of that character. It has no real defining features other than looking vaguely human, so a lot of people can put themselves in its shoes. I often get asked if it’s a boy or a girl or this or that, but it really doesn’t matter what it is.

As for the others, the only character that has a specific role is the little angry-looking black blob I draw from time to time. Originally, it showed up inside other character’s bodies as a stomach. I had a lot of stress-related stomach issues, and whenever I was feeling particularly bad, I’d draw it into a piece. I’m not great at telling people I don’t feel well, or that something is wrong, so my sketchbook is a good outlet. Recently I’ve just been hiding it around in parts of drawings for no particular reason.

People also ask me about my fish—they seem to be one of my more popular elements. I don’t actually have a particular fondness for fish, I just really love drawing patterns and their scales are the perfect platform.

I started posting each drawing to Tumblr just so I could see the development of my style. Now, it has more than 26,000 followers, which is crazy. Even though it’s super flattering to get such a huge response, I still have no interest pursuing illustration professionally. I draw because it’s fun.

Over the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned that sometimes, you just have to stop talking and start doing. Actually forcing myself to set goals and do the work even when I didn’t feel motivated has been intensely rewarding. Not every drawing I make has to be good, and not every sketchbook is going to be finished within a year—I actually missed my 1/1/17 finish deadline. But my current sketchbook is some of the best work I’ve ever made, and I’m very proud of it—even though I’m only halfway finished.

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Felicia Chiao
Felicia is an industrial designer, illustrator, and toy maker who is now exploring the world of food design. She is currently on a mission to finish a sketchbook a year and to eat ice cream as often as possible.
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