When pigs fly: Chikuhodo x Mochichito

MochichitoApologies for the back to back artist collaboration posts. I was hoping to have a February recap in between but work has been sapping my spirit even more so than usual, so I ended up abandoning Curator's Corner last month.  I don't think you'll mind too much though, once you see the positively amazing porcine-themed brush from Chikuhodo, who teamed up with illustrator/graphic designer Mochichito (a.k.a. Steph Fung) to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  You might remember how smitten I was with Chikuhodo's Moon Rabbit brush, so as soon as I saw this one I knew I had to add it to the menagerie.  If I remember I'll try to update this post with comparison shots to that brush so that those of you who actually intend on using it can see how the size and shape compare.  I will say that as with the Moon Rabbit brush, the quality of the bristles of the Mochichito one appears impeccable - super soft and fluffy.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito brush

The detailing and craftsmanship are simply stunning.  The handle has a scene depicting two piglets resting on fluffy silver clouds and a gold crescent moon, while silver and pink cherry blossoms bloom behind them.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Naturally I had to take tons of close-up shots so you can appreciate the beauty, but I'm not sure if they do it justice...it's much more charming than my pictures were able to capture. 

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

As with the Moon Rabbit brush, there's a touch of iridescence on the silver portion.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Just when you think they couldn't possibly get any cuter, Mochichito ratchets up the adorable factor by giving the piggies tiny silver dimples.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

So who is the woman behind all this preciousness?  Fortunately I didn't have to do much digging, as Beautylish has a brief but informative interview with the artist posted online.  Mochichito is the brainchild of Steph Fung, a graphic designer who began focusing more on her illustrative pursuits several years ago.  Fung earned her BFA in Digital Media from Otis College of Art and Design in 2011. While she is an accomplished designer, the Mochichito project allows her to indulge her love of anything kawaii and handmade crafts. A lifetime doodler - "I loved drawing in notebooks when I should have been taking notes," she says - the Mochichito brand is a natural progression of Fung's passion for illustration.  Interestingly, Fung is primarily a digital artist, i.e. what you see is not made by hand on paper and then translated into a digital format - her illustrations are originally drawn on a screen.  Adobe Illustrator is her favorite tool, as she claims she's "never been very good at traditional mediums."  I find this fascinating since I believed it would actually be much more difficult to be creative with digital illustration techniques given their limitations, but the ingenuity displayed in Mochichito shows that if you're a true artist, the medium doesn't matter - you'll find a way to uniquely express your vision.

Fung's subject matter consists largely of animals and flowers, with some playful critters that don't actually exist in nature.  Yes, there are mermaids!  She explains: "I would probably describe my style as kawaii cute! I always try to have fun with word play or convey a fun idea or concept in my art. I love bright colors (but also pastel), animals, and cute faces (is that weird?)".  Nope, not at all!

Mochichito - Bunilla

Mochichito - flower kids

Mochichito - Mother's Day mermaid

Mochichito - frog mermaid

Mochichito - Mushrumbrella

Fung finds inspiration in a variety of places.  "I’m very much influenced by anime, stationery and lovely packaging, fashion, music, and other people’s art—there is so much to see at your fingertips these days."  Indeed, Fung is mindful of what her fellow artists are up to, and seems to enjoy participating in 100 day Instagram challenges with them.  My favorite are these cheeky illustrations she completed for #100daysoflittledudes, which also show her aforementioned love of word play. 

100-little-dudes-34

100-little-dudes

The Mochichito store offers an array of stickers, pins, and more recently, acrylic toys based on the illustrations Fung created for the "100 days of tiny terrariums" Instagram challenge.  I hope to see stationery or even stuffed animals some day!

Mochichito stickers

Mochichito pins

Mochichito - terrarium toy

Mochichito - terrarium toy

Speaking of which, I think another reason Mochichito's work resonates with me so much is the fact that she has a stuffed teddy named Little Bear that accompanies her on her travels.

Mochichito - Little Bear

As for the Beautylish collab, previously Mochichito was responsible for designing the store's Lucky Bags, which are essentially Japanese fukubukuro - a custom for the new year where bags are filled with mystery contents offered at a much lower price than if you purchased them individually.  For example, a $75 Beautylish Lucky Bag typically has full size items worth $150 or or more.  In 2018 Fung took inspiration from the Japanese legend of the Seven Lucky Gods who are said to grant good luck (shown top to bottom, left to right in the illustration below):  Bishamonten, Daikokoten, Hotei, Benzaiten, Ebisu, Jurojin, and Fukurokuju.

Mochichito - seven lucky gods

Mochichito - seven lucky gods

Mochichito - seven lucky gods for Beautylish 2018 lucky bag

This year, Beautylish tapped Fung again to come up with an illustration for a Chikuhodo brush to celebrate the lunar new year.  Fung shares the creative process behind the adorable end result:  "Since the design was for the Lunar New Year, I knew I wanted to include a moon. 2019 is the Year of the Pig, so I thought making a large, gleaming moon as the pigs' playground would be so cute. Incorporating some floral elements into the design would add some soft, delicate touches to frame the scene.  The story behind the design is really up to the viewer! I wanted to keep it kind of open-ended. You could think of the pigs as two lovers, a mama or papa pig and their piglet, or just two frolicking friends." 

Chikuhodo x Mochichito - original brush illustration

It was Fung's first time designing a brush handle, and I think she translated the design to suit the handle beautifully. "It was definitely different from anything I’ve worked on in the past. I had to keep in mind the shape and curvature of the brush and make sure all of the important parts of the artwork would be seen from the front of the brush, but also how I might continue the artwork around the sides and back of the brush, while also keeping in mind how it would photograph."  I agree that you have to think differently about how an illustration would work in 3D versus on a flat surface, and Fung executed it perfectly.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Overall, obviously I'm in love with this brush and all of Mochichito's work.  Art with a more serious style or message is great, but sometimes your eyes and brain just need cute things.  And it could be because I've just discovered it and have been watching it nonstop, but Mochichito's characters remind me so much of those from Adventure Time, a truly whimsical kids' cartoon that I can't seem to get enough of lately. There's just something so comforting about cuteness!  As for Chikuhodo, the designs on their brush handles tend to be more elegant and sophisticated, so going the kawaii route was a refreshing change of pace.

What do you think of this brush and Mochichito? 


Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

There's a reason you haven't seen much of Pai Pai at the Museum as of late:  unfortunately, the company wasn't doing enough business in the U.S. so they ceased their short-lived shipping here.  But the good news is that a fellow collector sussed out another Mexico-based store that carries the line and will send it to the States.  After missing out on several really cool collaborations I was finally able to resume adding Pai Pai to the Museum's collection.  Without further ado, I introduce their latest release, a collaboration with Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

I had hoped to get the exclusive scoop on the collection and emailed the artist for an interview.  Much to my disappointment she did not respond.  (And you wonder why I'm continually discouraged - this is the second artist in a row to turn me down).  Nevertheless I was able to cobble together some information on Leovy's work.  For the Pai Pai collection, it appears she created four different paintings to be used on four lipstick cases.  To my knowledge they are untitled. 

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Nuez

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Beso de Angel

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Opalo

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Copal

Here are the colors in case you're not a crazy collector and actually want to use them!

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Nuez and Beso de Angel

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Copal and Opalo

Ana Leovy is a young Mexico City-based artist whose vibrant, woman-centric paintings have garnered the attention from everyone from the likes of Man Repeller to Elle Mexico.  Originally trained as a graphic designer, Leovy reignited her love of painting after earning her Master degree in illustration at a university in Barcelona.  Upon completion of her degree she moved back to Mexico to pursue painting full-time.  She states in an interview, "Although I love graphic design, being an artist gives me so much more creative freedom. People come to me now because they like my style and they trust what I will create for them, whereas from my experience working with design clients, they were a bit harder to please – and I was stressed all the time. Art doesn’t feel like a job at all, it brings me lots of joy and peace, especially when seeing the reaction of people who have bought my work, it’s the best feeling ever!"

Ana-leovy-flowers

Thematically, Leovy's work consists mostly of the female form.  Their bodies are often asymmetrical, out of proportion and show a range of colors, reflecting Leovy's commitment to depicting diversity in body shapes, sizes and skin tones.  "We all come in different shapes and colors, I think that is so interesting and awesome. We should learn to embrace our uniqueness. I like playing with distorted bodies in order to avoid falling into any specific beauty category. I think it’s important to encourage diversity; my work isn’t about creating beautiful people, but trying to send a message of self-love and empowerment. Perfection is not necessarily beautiful; to me different is more exciting.  We already have perfection in photography...I want everyone to be able to relate to my work regardless of their skin color or body shape." While this may seem disingenuous coming from someone as gorgeous as Leovy - I tend to roll my eyes at beautiful, thin women (especially models and actresses) who preach "loving your body" - I believe she is sincere.  The proof is in her work; you will not find skinny, conventionally beautiful model types in any of Leovy's paintings.  This is a refreshing change from other illustrators, especially the more fashion-based ones.  Leovy's women are modern and yes, well-dressed (the artist loves fashion, citing Mara Hoffman and Elie Saab among her favorite designers), but without the reinforcement of beauty and fashion stereotypes.  This makes her work seem much less intimidating and achieves her goal of being relatable to the average woman.

Ana Leovy

Ana Leovy

Another reason Leovy's work seems more welcoming than other depictions of women we see so frequently in beauty collabs is the overwhelming spirit of camaraderie and sisterhood.  “All my life women around me have been nothing but inspiration. I love being able to confide in them," she says.  I particularly love this scene of women having a picnic in a lush garden, clearly enjoying each other's company (along with some wine and Vogue magazines!)

Ana Leovy
 

Ana Leovy

I also enjoy the feminist bend in Leovy's work, which shows an awareness of the inequality faced by women.  She states:  “Sadly we are still a very chauvinist community where you get blamed for being out too late or the way you dress...It has never been my intention to become too political, however I think now more than ever it is important to stand up and support what you believe in. It is amazing to see so many movements all around the world demanding what should be natural; equality, love and acceptance. So after seeing all this it is impossible not to feel vulnerable, getting involved in such topics are a small way of showing support.” 

Ana Leovy

Ana Leovy

Depicting women by themselves, enjoying their time alone is another way Leovy expresses a more feminist angle.  "[Mexico] is a country where most women are raised to be married and have children, nothing else. Even though this has been a year of very feminist-oriented social media, I believe we’re still lacking the day-to-day actions that go in hand with these movements, to really practice what we preach,” she says.  Showing women without a male partner, and even happy without a male presence, emphasizes the notion of women's independence as well as a rejection of the societal expectations of marriage and procreation.  It's rare that you see women living "happily ever after" totally on their own; single women are generally still viewed as defective, or at the very least, lonely spinsters.  That's why I love seeing Leovy's paintings of women in a room by themselves, reading, watching TV in their sweats or simply having a moment with their thoughts, as these pieces fight back against the stigma single women endure.  (And even if you're partnered, it's important to have some time alone on occasion to maintain your sense of self.)

Ana Leovy

Ana Leovy

Now that we've covered the main themes in Leovy's oeuvre, I want to talk a little about her style, particularly her use of color.  The landscape and textiles of her native Mexico as well as the tropical environment of the Caribbean, where she lived for several years, shaped her preference for vibrant colors.  The unexpected combinations reflect Leovy's "no rules" approach.  "When it comes to color in my work I believe the more the merrier, it's the part of the creation process I enjoy the most, I follow no rule or guideline whatsoever and I love it...Choosing the color palette is my favorite part, I love letting myself flow and see what comes out. I think the colors I choose are sort of a personal journal of my mood swings."

Ana Leovy

While Leovy's style is uniquely her own, I can't help but notice a striking resemblance to Matisse.  Another article points out the similarity between Leovy and Matisse in terms of color, but I'd also argue that the use of a somewhat flattened perspective, background patterns, and overall composition are reminiscent of Matisse's interiors.  Some examples, alternating between the two artists and starting with Matisse:

Henri Matisse, Anemones and Woman, Harmony in Blue
 
Ana Leovy
 
Matisse, Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937
(image from henrimatisse.org)
 
Ana Leovy
 
 
Henri Matisse, La Musique, 1939
(image from henrimatisse.org)
 
Ana Leovy
 
Henri Matisse, Interior with Etruscan Vase, 1940
(image from clevelandart.org)
 
Ana Leovy
 
Even the way the vases of flowers are rendered look like Matisse, as seen in his Yellow Odalisque (1937).
 
Henri Matisse, Yellow Odalisque, 1937
(image from spectator.co.uk)
 
Ana Leovy


In terms of format, Leovy enjoys both large and small scale. “Every format has its good and bad side, big canvases might feel intimidating at first but once you get started they are so much fun, love a big white space to intervene. However, tiny pieces are the cutest and I also enjoy doing them. So I guess I love them all, I like being able to change formats and not being stuck with only one, I think I would find that boring,” she says.  For the Pai Pai collection, I thought for sure the works she created would be large, but they actually look tiny.

Ana Leovy for Pai Pai
(images from @analeovy_art)

So that brings us full circle to the Pai Pai collection.  Overall I really enjoy Leovy's work, as it's a change of pace from the fashion illustrations we've seen in various other collabs, and obviously I love the feminist vibe.  I also like how Pai Pai switches it up for each collection by choosing artists with wildly varied styles. Leovy's paintings are totally different from, say, the work of Jorge Serrano and illustrations of Pinut Brein.  Pai Pai always keeps me guessing and it's another aspect I love about the brand - they never stick to one type of artist.  I just wish I could have gotten some information about how the partnership with Pai Pai came about, what Leovy's approach to makeup is (if any - she looks rather au naturel!) and whether anything in particular inspired her paintings used for the collection. 
 
What do you think of this collection and Leovy's work?  Which image is your favorite?