Creative Keepsakes: Louise Hill

Expat artist Louise Hill loves nothing more than creating colourful, intricate and humorous prints that reflect life in Singapore.

Photos: Louise Hill

Once you’ve seen a Louise Hill artwork, it’s hard to forget. A kaleidoscope of bright pastels, intricate patterns, vintage Asian themes, photography and illustration, they’re completely unique, and the perfect memento of time spent in Singapore. The London born artist is accustomed to expat life; she lived in Paris from age six to 10, spent a couple of years in Melbourne, and then had stints in Shanghai, Hong Kong and finally, Singapore. She now resides in a “modest” Black and White house in Medway Park with her husband Ryan and teenage twin boys, Ezra and Jude.

First brushstrokes

Louise studied art and design at two London art schools before joining her father’s design company as an apprentice. “I cut my teeth there, focusing mainly on wine label and spirits packaging design. I worked from the ground up and can still remember being nervous about calling a printer for the first time to specify points and picas (design measurements) – we didn’t work with computers in those days.”

From there, Louise spread her wings in the corporate world. “I spent a few years at Crabtree & Evelyn, then Marks & Spencer, followed by Ian Logan Design for several years, where I finally did learn to use a computer! Then I took the opportunity to go travelling for a while, when the design industry hit a bit of a downturn at the very end of the 90s.”

The Melbourne connection

Louise set off with a backpack and her now husband Ryan. “We travelled from India along the Spice Route to Australia for a year out. However, instead of returning home to the UK as planned, Ryan got a job and we ended up in staying in Melbourne for three years.” The couple set themselves up in the hip, artistic suburb of Fitzroy and Louise freelanced as a graphic designer and worked part-time as a guest lecturer at RMIT University. “I was actually quite terrified at the prospect, as I’m not comfortable in the limelight and I felt utterly out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed my time with the students.”

Shanghai surprise

When Louise fell pregnant with her twin boys, she felt a longing for home and family. “At five months pregnant we left Australia to return to our little seafront apartment in Brighton.” But after a couple of years of double duty parenting the couple had itchy feet once more. “We were drowning in twin feeds, nappies and hyperactive boys, so we eagerly accepted a job for Ryan in Shanghai,” remembers Louise. “We were craving more adventure and the promise and privilege of help from an ayi!”

As she raised her boys in Shanghai, Louise dabbled in logo design for fellow expats, but struggled with the language barrier as she dealt with local printers. “My Mandarin really only stretched as far as the market and the taxi driver. So I decided to think of another way to have my own business that would also be portable.”

Finding her niche

After a move to Hong Kong, Louise wanted to work from home to be with her boys, so she initially tried her hand at bag design, before coming up with the idea of creating prints that reflected her surroundings and Asian culture. “I designed my ‘Hong Kong Ferry’ print, sold it to a couple to friends, who told me they would love to see more! I then realised that I had a good small business model.”

Inspired by living in Shanghai, Hong Kong and now Singapore, Louise creates digital mixed media artworks that are layered, vibrant and textured. “I instinctively take inspiration from my own surroundings and daily life observations, so I started with Hong Kong themed designs followed by Singapore when I moved here. I love to add in the colours, patterns, favourite places, buildings and cultural curiosities we enjoy as foreigners living abroad.”

The perfect keepsake

A Louise Hill print has now become a must have for expats leaving Singapore and Hong Kong. “A lot of people say that they see something different each time they look at the design, something they hadn’t noticed before; they love the vibrancy and uplifting nature of my work. Many people say that they simply bring back lots of happy memories of the place that they used to call home. I have also sold to local Singaporean customers who enjoy the celebration of their culture.”

Louise’s work is available on her website www.louise-hill-design.com