Featured Artist/Illustrator

ChiChiLand

September 2019

Chi Michalski of ChiChiLand is a creator of soft happy worlds with patterns and illustrations. She shares with us the path to developing her personal style, and how she sees new mediums in design and illustration in the future.

How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

My birth name is Çiğdem (pronounced Chi-dem). My parents used to call me Chi-Chi when I was a kid. I found it very amusing back then. ChiChiLand represents a playful universe inspired by nature and my subconscious mind.

Apparently in some languages “chichi” means “breast”, so I sometimes get some raised eyebrows and giggles, especially from Latin America. You know what, I don’t mind. There could be worse things to be associated with!

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I create soft happy worlds filled with colours, patterns, characters and creatures.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

I have a number of really cool projects I am currently slowly developing. One is a collaboration with a local, Seattle-based photographer; another is a Virtual Reality experience we’re building with my husband and creative partner, Quba.

It is really tough to keep them under wraps and to not share them with the world, but it is still way too early for previews and announcements.

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I think the real-time graphics will be the next big step for both digital design and art.

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How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

Before working as an illustrator/artist, I was a motion designer. Back then my personal style always had to take a back seat to the clients’ brand identity and campaign look. Years of working as a commercial designer nearly suffocated my artist side. I wasn’t happy, so something had to change.

Quba suggested that I start a daily drawing project. I would make an illustration with a random theme every day, but work on it for no more than an hour. That’s how ChiChiLand Everyday project was born. I kept at it for two years, and you can clearly see the evolution of my style throughout this period. Looking back now, the project really helped me feel grounded, gave me a creative structure and a path to finding my true style.

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

I think the real-time graphics will be the next big step for both digital design and art. We will see more artists exploring XR as an expressive medium, not only in the service of video games, but through immersive virtual worlds and art experiences.

Until now I would often collaborate with CG artists whenever I needed my work adapted into 3D. Recently I started modelling characters myself, and I hope it will help me achieve a greater level of technical fluency in these new mediums.

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

As a freelancer I can never see that far into the future when it comes to client work, but as always, I will be pursuing meaningful collaborations. I'd like to create more work based on characters and organic worlds.

I also love seeing my works in the wild; as physical or digital products, apps, apparel, packaging etc.

I shall not rest until the entire world is populated with my cute creatures and happy designs.

Website: chichiland.com

Instagram: @chichiland

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