Atlanta-based graphic designer and illustrator Broly Su brings both his skills together in work inspired by retro toys, hip-hop culture and graffiti. We met him to hear more about his creative journey, from growing up in Changsha to being commissioned by McDonald's and Tesla.
Sleek, stylish and funny, Broly Su's award-winning illustrations have been featured by the likes of Adult Swim, NBA and Sprite, to name a few. And it's easy to see why. Thanks to his distinctive aesthetic, which draws on a diverse range of influences and passions, Broly's artwork is always a joy to behold,
Like lots of artists, Broly got started at a young age. His parents were trying to figure out what he enjoyed doing to nurture his hobbies and creative side, and ultimately, it was drawing that stuck. This resulted in Broly attending a training class in China three times a week to hone his craft. "I found out I really loved creating art and continued to do so," he tells Creative Boom.
Regarding college, Broly followed the 'safe' route open to artists, namely, studying graphic design as his major. However, he soon realised that he kept trying to add illustrations to his work. "Therefore, I went on to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design, hoping to master and focus on my craft, specifically more towards illustration," he adds. "Luckily, I developed my unique style and started getting commissions from there."
This decision led to Broly moving to Atlanta in 2020, which proved to be a healthy step. "I ended up really liking the city and the deep-rooted hip-hop culture here as I've been a hip-hop fan since 2009," he explains. "With my internship here at the ABV Creative Agency & Art Gallery, I also connected with many like-minded local artists and decided to stay here to continue making artwork and exploring the community."
As Broly suggests, hip-hop has been a long-term inspiration. However, he's also influenced by sneakers, tattoos and street basketball. Upon starting as an illustrator, Broly admits that his style wasn't as refined as it is now, but continual practice has helped it to mature and become more sophisticated.
"I believe it was mainly my mindset; trying to create a better piece than my last piece pushes me to work harder and develop more detailed ideas," Broly says. "Over time, my work style gradually improves with dedication and continuous practice."
Besides constant practice and his diverse interests, Broly argues that studying graphic design feeds into his illustration approach. "I feel like the graphic design knowledge kicks in when it comes to the composition and layout of my work," he says. "I use the grid system when designing an illustration, and I can also work with typography, package design, web design, and 360 brand design, making me a more versatile creative."
This versatility has made Broly very in demand as an artist, with some of his favourite projects coming from massive clients. Ever heard of two little companies called McDonald's and Tesla? The pair asked Broly to paint a mural that showed off his work on a large scale.
"Both McDonald's and Tesla reached out to me and expressed interest in collaborating to create murals, and each gave me all the creative freedom to make my style of work," he says. "The McDonald's mural is also for the celebration of APAHM in the States, a month that celebrates the Asian community in the US specifically. I felt honoured, and it was such a pleasure to create impact work that stands for my racial community."
The experience whetted Broly's appetite for more mural work in the year ahead. "I'd also like to continue to make time for my personal work as I believe it is important to separate personal work from commercial projects," he concludes. "Ideally, I would like something where I can express my visions through my work.
"I'm also currently wrapping up a project with the Philadelphia 76ers and Sprite, and hopefully, I'll be able to post some of the work I created on social media soon!"
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