HK Magazine Archive

How Hong Kong Artists Draw the City

Francesco Lietti, Connie Yuen, Gary Yeung and Guillame Cornet breathe new meaning into the SAR.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 10:13am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:01pm

What does Hong Kong look like to you? Is it the iconic skyline, the dark alleyways or the amazing street food?

We talk to four artists portray the city in their own individual ways.

How did you start painting Hong Kong? Francesco Lietti: I used to paint back home when I was in Italy, but I stopped when I came to Hong Kong. When I decided to stay here, I started to paint more and more. My focus and inspiration changed and I found amazing elements in the city.

What’s Hong Kong in your eyes? It’s an incredibly colorful, vibrant, exciting and inspiring place—I love Hong Kong. I try to capture the energy and the vibe of this amazing city. I want to portray the density, the layering, the intricacy of the urban fabric. I want the viewers to feel my paintings truly speak of Hong Kong.

What’s unique about how you see the city?  I guess the style of my painting could be considered pretty interesting as I like to mix different techniques. The base is acrylic, to which I add collaged pieces, paper cuts, glue and so on to add texture. Adding pieces of magazines and newspapers from those locations also help to reinforce these connections. I think the text bits add an element of fun to the compositions and give me the opportunity to embed messages or thoughts I have on my mind.

Francesco presents his paintings on Mar 19-20 at Sai Kung Art And About. Check out or his Instagram @francescolietti for more.

How did you start illustrating the city? When I first got back here after university in the UK, I started wandering in different districts and I realized that there’s so much more than just shopping malls. There are places full of history that was not taught in schools in Hong Kong.

What part of Hong Kong do you want to show? I portray Hong Kong through maps and picture books, and I always try to draw people—because most of the time, it’s not just the place that is pretty. It’s the people living and breathing in the space, molding the physical world, that makes it interesting.

What story do you want to tell through your art? Hong Kong is unique in many ways: The trees we have, the appearance of the shops, our culture… they are all unique to Hong Kong, and I really hope that more people will appreciate our surroundings. I guess I subconsciously try to conserve culture through sketching or illustration, as I’m secretly worried that it will all be gone someday.

Check out Connie’s illustrations at or

What made you start sketching Hong Kong? I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Over the years the city has been changing really quickly, with many old buildings demolished. I have so many emotions and memories for the city, and so I wanted to record them­—tangible or not­—through my sketching.

What do you want to show through your art? Sometimes when I walk by tourist spots like Tsim Sha Tsui, I see postcards that show a very touristy image of Hong Kong, like junk boats—it’s not real. That’s why I want to show the real side of Hong Kong with my sketching: Old or new buildings, social issues, streets and alleyways—something that’s unique to Hong Kong.

Check out Gary’s sketches at

Tell us about “Elephants in Hong Kong.” The “Elephants in Hong Kong” series was created as I was researching the architectural aspects of Hong Kong. I drew one building at a time, combining real references with my own created interpretations of skyscrapers and residential buildings.

What’s Hong Kong in your eyes? I haven’t actually been to Hong Kong yet so these paintings are based on photographic research and discussions that I have had. But in my eyes it’s a city that seems to have everything. There is fascinating architecture in such densely populated areas, yet it’s so green and surrounded by water.

What do the elephants represent? The elephants represent my inner child, the joy of life and freedom. They are so big and powerful that they make the world look small. When you are drawing in the miniature scale I draw in, the larger size of the elephants means that I can still include great features.

How do you see Hong Kong in your art? Looking from afar, from photos and descriptions, I have only focused my attention on the architecture and transport used in Hong Kong. But looking into the neon signage, street food vendors, street escalators, thousands of AC units, hanging bird cages… I have only started to portray Hong Kong. There is so much more I would like to develop—such as the culture, smells and noises.

Meet Cornet at the “Elephants in Hong Kong” opening on March 18, 7pm. Exhibition runs through April 20 at Odd One Out, G/F, 14 St Francis St., Wan Chai.