IAF Poster Highlights #03 : Interview with Chris Chai

Christopher Chai  is a graduate with a BFA in Illustration from the School Of Visual Arts. Known across the land for his intense line work and patience. Since graduating he’s been working with local powerhouse – Kult, but now he’s gone full ronin in pursuit of perfect balance of black strokes and negative space. We traveled deep into the forests of Upper Thomson to meet Chris to discuss what keeps this mad man awake and drawing non-stop.


OIC : Hi Chai ! What have you been busy with and what inspires you as an Illustrator ? Name us some of your biggest influences !

Chris : Hello hello! Well, drawing mostly amongst other not-so-creative exploits.  That #studiolife.

Honestly? The thing that inspires me the most is the amount of work I see my peers and artists I look up to produce. It’s a quantity thing. Quality is obviously extremely important as well but what keeps me going is the constant need to keep pace with everyone else.

There’s a super long answer attached to that question but the short version is really awesome draughtsmen. Anyone from Albrect Durer to Kim Jung Ji. Also, I take a lot from physical objects like sculpture or architecture.

Majesty & Terror

OIC : You go crazy with the line work ! How Long does it usually take for you to draw something ?

Chris : I try to! Although truth be told the detailing process is a strange mix of frustration and therapy. It really depends on the size of the image and how much work the drawing requires so it ranges anywhere from about 10 hours to… infinity.

The Engine

OIC : Do you use references for some of your pattern work ? Have you created any of your own signature pattern sets ?

Chris : I use a ton of references for my pattern work! Everything from fabric / textile design to repetitive elements in religious architecture. There are patterns everywhere. I have created several of my own pattern sets but they’re constantly changing forms and rearranging themselves so… yes and no? haha !

The Struggle

OIC : What’s an unusual project you’ve worked on ?

Chris : Recently, I got commissioned to basically decorate a set of toilets using various movie posters and flyers. The client wanted it to look a slightly grungy so I made and massive batch of wheat paste and went nuts with it. It was pretty unusual as it’s not illustrative work at all although my time spent working at a gallery did help me ‘curate’ the posters and images.

OIC : Whats a typical work process for you ? Do you draw like al machine-like to get those neat lines and patterns ?

Chris : Pretty much the same as most illustrators I reckon. Quick thumbnails to rough sketches to a final sketch to actual drawing then photoshopped to clean stuff up and prepare it for reproduction. The initial stages for every drawing are pretty loose and super rough but that all goes away during the ‘final sketch’ phase. It all ends pretty mechanically.

The Forge

OIC : Whats next for Chris Chai ? What can we look forward to ?

 Chris : Hopefully some big murals! (Fingers crossed.) I’ve been extremely interested to see how detailed pen and ink styled work can be translated into large wall pieces. Also, more dizzying patterns and things that both captivate and confuse. haha !

OIC : Wow . . . you might need a big pen for that !

Check out more of Chris at :

www.chrischai.com | Instagram @cosmicchai

The Singapore Illustration Arts Fest is coming up in less a week – get your tickets quick! Leading up to the event, we will interview a lineup of awesome Illustrators who will be present at the event – Featuring the posters they have done ! So stay tuned ?