The Sai Ying Pun graphic designer, whose company Beware The Lunatic is based at theDesk, says he wouldn’t have tasted success without his gran, his mum and his late sister
They say that behind every great man there’s an even greater woman. But in the case of graphic designer and artist Lun Wong, whose company Beware The Lunatic is based at theDesk co-working and events space in Sai Wan, there are three. Born and raised in Thornton Heath, Croydon, in the UK but living in Sai Ying Pun over the past few years, Wong says that without three generations of women in his family supporting and inspiring his art and his work, he wouldn’t have the successful business and artistic career that he enjoys today.
Wong’s grandmother, Patricia Jones, an artist herself, was his first supporter. He says the pair would spend Saturdays taking inspiration from books and cartoons. From here, Wong would create doodles and flipbooks, inspiring his young self to become passionate about art and one day start his own business in the creative field. Yes, the 32-year-old admits he once, as a young kid, wanted to work for Disney but as he spent more time exploring his artistic skills with his grandmother, he realised he wanted to make, in the future, ‘more uniquely finished pieces’.
Wong’s mother, Sue Wong, was no less encouraging when her son was crafting his art and ‘constantly scribbling’ as early as four years old. He says his mum gave him the courage to try out different artistic ideas as he grew up and she certainly gave him the determination to one day own and run a successful business.
His step-mother, Paula Wong, is equally proud of how far Lun has come. When he first met her at the age of 10, he drew an A1-sized superman for her. “She took it back to Hong Kong with her, and still has it.” Spending their weekdays together when he was a child, he says that even today, “she still wants me to do whatever will make me happy.”
“My grandmother inspired me, my mother and step-mother encouraged me, and my sister was everything to me. I owe my career to them and I hope they’d be happy and proud of what I create and what I’ve achieved.”
But Wong’s ‘biggest supporter’ was – and will always be – his late sister, Fun Wong. She sadly died, aged 39, from cancer in 2015. But, she was ‘truly inspirational’ to Wong. It was from actually watching her draw for him and rummaging through her sketchbooks that he discovered the world of art from the beginning, in fact. Though she went on to become a solicitor, Wong says she inspired and encouraged him to pursue ‘a dream they shared’. Every piece of work he’s done in his life, which includes small cartoons right up to massive murals, is ‘either for her or because of her neverending love and support’. Wong says his sister continues to have a massive influence on his work, some of which can be found on walls and in restaurants around Hong Kong.
“I owe it all to the women in my life,” says Wong, when referring to his success as founder and head of Beware the Lunatic, a creative studio that usually focuses on using comic book-inspired art and has been behind a raft of big projects in restaurants, hotels and other businesses in Hong Kong since it was launched. “My grandmother inspired me, my mother and step-mother encouraged me, and my sister was everything to me,” he says. “They would always ask to see my work and take the time to sit and discuss it with me. I am so lucky to have had these women in my life. I owe my career to them and I hope they’d be happy and proud of what I create and what I’ve achieved.”
Wong has, indeed, achieved a lot in Hong Kong. When he came to Hong Kong from the UK 10 years ago, he was just here, having left his university years and art training behind him, for a holiday. His grandfather, though, who lived here, told him to stay and look for work and, thankfully, he did. In Sai Ying Pun, to be exact. He immediately started out as a graphic designer and illustrator, with his prime focus in hospitality. Initially, he says, he was ‘intimidated to push his boundaries’ but, over recent years, and certainly in the case of starting Beware The Lunatic, he’s taken everything that has inspired him and used it to help him ‘step up’.
Wong says he knows he always had the talent when it comes to visual art – taking after his sister – but ‘never had the confidence’. “But then I realised,” he says, “you just have to do it and let the mistakes make you better. There’s growth in discomfort. You may panic because you may be working in a new territory but then you start to realise that you shouldn’t give up on your passion. Once you’re doing it – particularly as a business – you really see where your flaws are and how you can improve.”
Beware The Lunatic – a name chosen as it doesn’t just contain his own first name but also emphasises his creativity – was launched a year ago as both a business and passion project. And Wong says he chose to base it at theDesk because he gets to work around an array of other businesses in the co-working model. “Before I moved into theDesk,” he says, “I was working ridiculous hours. I was waking up at 2pm and finishing off my work at 6am or 7am every day. As much as I was getting stuff done, it’s a very lonely time to work. Plus, being at home, you just get very claustrophobic, so it’s really good having this space at theDesk. I feel like it’s my safe zone. I can come in and focus on just my work.”
As ‘The Lunatic’, Wong has dived into inventing expressive paintings, murals, graffiti and illustrations in Hong Kong, London and Australia. He created a massive seven-foot-by-seven-foot cartoon lion, entitled ‘The Guardian’, on Cé La Vi’s Sky Deck rooftop, atop Lan Kwai Fong’s California Tower, in March for Hong Kong Arts Month. His works are also on the walls at restaurants in Hong Kong such as inside nearly all of the eateries at 8 Lyndhurst Terrace in Central, as well as The Butcher’s Club Burgers in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Wan Chai and Quarry Bay. It’s not your mainstream interior work at these spots. Wong’s art stands out from commercial pieces. He, in essence, brings his eccentric cartoony creations into the mainstream.
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In regards to his work at The Butchers Club Burgers, Wong says that he ‘tried to be different as opposed to all the other burger places in Hong Kong’. He says: “My work here is a bit more casual as opposed to clean and straight. The team at The Butchers Club Burgers always like to push the boundaries, which allowed me to push mine.” Wong says the favourite piece he’s done can be found at the restaurant, Qi – Nine Dragons in Tsim Sha Tsui. Here he created a series of animated dragons across the walls. Plus, Wong says he leaves his trademark across the city in the form of stickers bearing his logo. Find them at a street corner or on a wall near you.
Wong feels that, just like him, Hong Kong has delved deeper into street art over the past few years. But he’s afraid that the paint splattered across the city is merely part of a millennial drive-by. “You see everyone doing murals and graffiti,” he says. “It’s really great. But, again, like everything in Hong Kong, I’m worried it’s going to fizzle out because it’s a very transient city. I just don’t want it to end. It’s exactly what Hong Kong needs.”
Thankfully ‘The Lunatic’, however, is not reckless, as his name suggests. The man has a plan. “I look ahead and see what service I can offer that’s different,” he says. “If everyone is doing paintings on the wall, not everyone will want that in the end. They’re going to be looking for the next thing and I think ahead about what I’m going to do then.”
Whether you’re an upcoming artist or still discovering your way in life, Wong has some advice for you: “No matter how small you start, just do it and keep working. Great things take time to build and that’s one thing people don’t get these days. They just expect everything to happen fast but good things, like a plant, take time to grow. If your passion is real and genuine and you keep at it, I always believe that it will shine through.”
Lun Wong’s grandmother, mother and sister certainly believed in him ‘shining through’. They have given him the drive to venture into various work sectors in Hong Kong, as well as to shape the design scene by curating the graphic element of other businesses. This has given him, he says, the opportunity to elevate his own artwork from free-hand drawing, graphics, illustration and murals to ‘push the HK art scene further’. It’s all thanks to the women in his life.
By Sitara SamtaniLun Wong, in brief:
Name: Lun Wong
Business: Beware The Lunatic, a creative studio specialising in illustration and graphic design
From: Thornton Heath, Croydon, UK
Business Location: Right here, at theDesk!
Also, if you would like the chance to intern at Beware The Lunatic, click here.