Shuuhuahua on Obsession, Curiosity, and a Love for Films

Shu Yee, better known as @shuuhuahua on Instagram, is a Petaling Jaya-based illustrator and graphic designer. Her bright colored works and expressive characters are driven by her hunger to explore the unknown. Her self-initiated works take center stage with her punchy illustrative style and expressive flair. She has worked with notable clients including atmos KL, TIME Internet Malaysia, GQ Taiwan, and Nike Malaysia.

Like many of us, Shu’s first brush with the creative world occurred at a young age—more specifically at kindergarten. It was a fateful visit to a drawing class, which she ironically did not end up attending. “The teacher asked me to trace the shape of my palm onto the drawing paper with a crayon, after which she added some lines and dots, changing the shape of my palm into a bird,” Shu recalled. “That blew my four-year-old mind.”

Shu takes inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. She further elaborated, “Personal experiences, feelings, and everything I've seen in my life have influenced my visual identity. I love film. Cinematic moments, characters and superb storytelling have always inspired me.” This love for film is clearly exhibited in a variety of her self-initiated projects, but it is especially evident in the Riso Chirashi collection. 

Beyond a creative venture, Riso Chirashi, a still growing, self-initiated film illustration project also serves as a post-film report for Shu. “[It’s] where I [try] to get to the essence of the film while also experimenting with the risograph technique. Chirashi is the term for a B5-sized Japanese movie poster, a smaller collectible, and I think a poster’s significance lies in its ability to attract and connect the audience to a film before it even begins and at its end,” she explained. So far, Riso Chirashi includes risograph posters by Shu of Park Chanwook’s The Handmaiden (2016), Korean series Moving (2023), Hiroshi Teshigara’s The Face of Another (1966), and more.

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Riso Chirashi sits amongst an array of Shu’s self-initiated projects. When asked about the motivation behind these self-initiated projects, she responded, “Obsession, curiosity, and a desire to express and connect. Self-initiated projects are for experimenting and allowing; this is where I nurture and let strange ideas grow!” Shu already has several zines published under her belt. We’re Not Coming Back, published in 2020, revolves around ordinary life, translated from memory, or a typical working-class Malaysian family. Described as “a visual representation of an unrecorded childhood memory, and the everyday routine of a conventional TeoChew Chinese home,” the zine’s format takes inspiration from retail catalogs and promotional flyers of the 90s. The first title to be produced using the risograph technique, SUNSHOWER CITY: ONLY TOURIST, digs into the significance of one’s hometown. Set in Sunshower City, Penang, the zine attempts to tackle everyday life from the eyes of a tourist.  “Other than our nostalgic filters, what does "hometown" mean?” Shu asks. The project is a personal favorite of Shu’s.

Shu has also often worked with and for some incredible sports/streetwear affiliated brands including Nike Malaysia and atmos KL. This comes with its own unique set of hurdles. “Working with sports/streetwear-affiliated brands like Nike and atmos often have a strong focus on culture and trendsetting, it's challenging when you are trying to resist “the trend” while attempting to connect with such a large audience,” Shu noted. Shu’s most notable projects also include her illustrations for Malaysian telecommunications provider, TIME Internet Malaysia. In 2023, collaborating with For The People agency and graffiti artworker, Cloakwork, Shu’s illustrations helped complete and establish TIME’s cheeky personality. The project was shortlisted and awarded a Wood Pencil at the D&AD Awards 2023. Shu was subsequently included in the D&AD Annual illustrator ranking.

As an independent illustrator, like many of her peers, Shu networks through various art book fairs, events, exhibitions and other available online platforms. Recently, she was part of InHeritance, a group exhibition in conjunction with International Women’s Day 2024 organized collaboratively by  EMAX Society, Women’s Aid Organization, APW Bangsar, and Shan Shan Lim Studios. Going forward Shu hopes to continue exploring the risograph printmaking technique even further.

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About the Author

Kireina Masri

Kireina Masri has had her nose stuck in a book since she could remember. Majoring in Illustration, she now writes, in both English and Indonesian, of all things visual—pouring her love of the arts into the written word. She aspires to be her neighborhood's quirky cat lady in her later years.