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City Weekend

Poster boy for lost Hong Kong movie art wants to draw Marvel superheroes

Graphic designer Lam Ka-hang uses his iPad to draw old-school movie posters and preserve the ‘humanity’ of a forgotten art form

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 4:02pm

Graphic design graduate Lam Ka-hang loves old-school hand-drawn film posters, something he believes is a lost art in this digital era when pictures can easily be enhanced with software.

The 22-year-old Hong Kong Design Institute graduate started drawing film posters for fun when he graduated last year as he thinks the traditional art “has a stronger touch of humanity”.

His works are showcased on his personal Facebook page – No Paper Studio – which is followed by more than 7,000 people.

But Lam is not entirely old-school. His style is a fusion of past and modern techniques – the full-time graphic designer draws on an iPad, which saves him money from having to buy brushes, oil colours and a canvas.

“I have loved drawing since I was a child,” Lam says. “I want to be an artist but people kept telling me I couldn’t make money by just drawing what I liked. So, I decided to work as a graphic designer during the day, and draw what I really like at night and in my free time.”

I want to be an artist but people kept telling me I couldn’t make money by just drawing what I liked
Lam Ka-hang, graphic designer

Lam says he has his mother to thank for nurturing his artistic talent. His mother, who is a full-time nurse, signed Lam up for after-school drawing classes when he was a primary school pupil. His obsession with drawing developed naturally from there.

Lam thinks his introverted personality has also contributed to his love for drawing. “I was quite a shy child,” he says. “I didn’t like any sports and preferred to stay at home and draw … I usually would just draw the cartoon characters that I saw on television after school.”

Lam first came across hand-drawn film posters two years ago at an exhibition that featured the works of Yuen Tai-yung, who is in his 70s, and known as the “godfather of Hong Kong film posters”.

Yuen is famed for creating more than 200 iconic Hong Kong film posters, including portraits of kung fu legend Bruce Lee and comedian Stephen Chow Sing-chi between the 1970s and the early 1990s, the golden era of the local film industry.

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Lam says he finds the old posters generally more vivid, compared to the computerised ones.

“The posters we see on the MTR and in shopping malls kind of look the same to me – they all have similar styles of photography with an emphasis on the use of Photoshop,” he says.

“I think they all lack a sense of humanity.”

The posters we see on the MTR and in shopping malls kind of look the same to me
Lam Ka-hang

But Lam only acted on the idea of preserving the traditional form of film art six months ago because he was busy preparing for his final-year examinations.

As a fan of Marvel Comics, Lam’s favourite personal work is an unofficial poster he drew for the film Wonder Woman. He says he did not expect his work to be so popular that it received 1,000 supportive messages overnight when he posted it online.

He usually spends hours working on a poster. The hardest part of his reference-based drawing, he says, is to capture the unique vibe of a film character and the spirit of traditional Chinese typography.

Even though Lam draws on his iPad, he believes that none of the traditional elements are compromised. Drawing digitally allows him to promote the art and produce more retro-style posters without having to spend extra money on equipment.

In the near future, he says he hopes to set up an exhibition that features all of his hand-drawn works, and, more importantly, work as a film poster artist for Marvel Studios whenever it releases a superhero film in Hong Kong.

“Ultimately, I just want more young people to appreciate old Hong Kong-style film posters and the beauty of hand drawing.”