Dreams, Designs, and the Digital Age

a Talk With Artist Alice Zhang 

By Sabrina Aguzzi

Through a combination of bold motifs and modern multimedia, Montreal-based designer and illustrator Alice Zhang creates some of the most unique visual art projects in the city. From designing sunny window displays in the Mile-End, to visual logo branding, and even creating GIFs for Katy Perry’s Prismatic Tour, she poignantly captures and reflects facets of the digital era in a major Canadian cosmopolitan.

Souk LightersFlanelle: Let’s start at the beginning. When did your interest in art first develop?

Alice: Honestly, I don’t even remember a time that I wasn’t drawing –it’s something I’ve always done. When I was about 8 years old, my parents enrolled me in art classes, and then I went to art school, so it’s always been a huge part of my life.

At which point did you decide to pursue visual art and design professionally?

Early on, in high school. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. It was the one thing I truly loved [and] I definitely wanted to build a career from what I love.

Do you remember your first major project?

When I designed the GIFs for Katy Perry’s tour. Not only had I never worked with such a big client before, but I never worked with GIFs. I knew someone working for the company that was doing some of her projections, so it was a very last minute thing. I only had a few days to compile the GIFs and hand them in. They were created for the song “Teenage Dream.” I never actually saw the final product, but it was a really memorable experience.

How would you define your aesthetic?

A little bit trashy. Honest. Honest would be my one keyword. I sort of draw what I want, depending on my mood and where I am in my life. That’s my subject matter, generally. I try to be funny.

What inspires you the most?

Just every day life. I find inspiration in really random things, like food. Food is fun and it repeatedly appears in my work.

As an artist working with multimedia, across diverse platforms, we have to ask: what is your favourite medium to work with?

I like to switch back and forth, between drawing on the computer, using Adobe Illustrator, or doing graphic design with InDesign, and then going back to drawing with ink, in a sketchbook. I also really love plaster casting, which is what I mostly worked on in school (though not so much anymore). I sort of like to jump around –I get bored really easily. Occasionally, I even go back to painting.

You’ve accomplished an array of art projects, predominantly Montreal-based. Is there a particularly memorable collaboration that has contributed to the way in which you continue to create?

S: The first window display I did for boutique Citizen Vintage, about two years ago […] that was a big move for me. Since then I’ve designed a couple of other windows for them and we collaborated on the Map of the Mile-End. I really do love the vibe in Montreal and the girls at Citizen are great. They grant me creative freedom. I get to make what I want, working hands-on to build things like giant milk cartons and pizza slices.

Are there any current or upcoming projects that Flannel readers should know about?

I’m actually doing another window display for Citizen Vintage in June. My work is very summery, so I’m excited about it.

Having already encountered success at a young age, what would be your dream project or your ideal commission?

I don’t know if I have a dream commission, but I would love to open a store. Not like a gallery, but I’d want to sell my own designs, clothing, iphone cases, things like that, while showcasing other local talent, as well. That’s something I believe in. It’s hard to do what you love and make money, so I’d love the opportunity to support other artists and creative people –that would be part of my dream.


Kanye-TealMap of Mile-EndFind more on her website here: www.alicezhang.ca

Her Instagram @alicezhang03