From adorable dinosaurs to weeping peaches, The Forest Mori showers you with giggles, delicacy and a sense of comfort
If you keep an eye on local illustrators, such as Zlism, Isatisse and Cath Love, then you’ll notice that independent pop art is getting more popular. Based in Perth, Australia, The Forest Mori has gained a dedicated following on Instagram with her uniquely endearing artwork, such as handmade brooches, enamel pins, stickers and personalised acrylic paintings. We interviewed the Hong Kong/Australian artist Claudia Lam, the modest and amiable girl behind The Forest Mori, on her obsession with sloppy animals, colours, laziness and the inspirations behind her work.
Hi, Claudia. Thanks for sitting down with us. First thing first, why did you name your brand The Forest Mori?
There’s actually not a reason. It’s a name that I’ve been using since I was sixteen and it just stuck with me. I thought I’d just keep using it as my brand name. It was pretty catchy and it worked out. A lot of people thought it was related to my name or whatnot, but it’s actually not.
Your art consists mostly of anthropomorphic animals. Have you always been fond of animals or is it because you simply find animals visually pleasing to yourself and others?
Animals are definitely one of my favourite things in the world, especially lazy animals like sloths, pandas… Basically anything sloppy, lazy and just tired in general. I think I identify with these animals a lot because I’m also a very sloppy person (laughs). It’s my way of expressing myself using these animals. I don’t just pick random animals, I resonate with them. And being a person who likes to be in the nature, it’s always fun to create animal-related artwork.
How do you create your illustrations? Do you start with a pencil or digital sketch?
I like to use mixed media. I don’t like to just use pencil, charcoal, or paint but rather a bit of everything. I panic when I only work with one medium because I feel like I’m limited to a lot of things that I could’ve done to the artwork. Even if I’m painting with acrylics, I would add things like glitters, clay or even pipe cleaners, cotton – just different types of textures that I could put onto my artwork. It gives it a very different feeling, and a lot more of the happy and blobby style that I’m trying to go for.
Why do you choose to convey affection and cuteness in your illustrations when a lot of artists tend to depict darker and more destructive things?
I think my work used to be dark and destructive as well. There was a time I tried to make my work really delicate and fine, like realistic artwork. I didn’t identify with it a lot and I felt like it wasn’t as fun to keep doing. I kept making detailed art because I thought, for it to be good art, it had to be something people can’t do. So the process of me figuring out what good art is was quite a struggle. In the end, it’s always good to just do simple art that people can relate to, and to turn the negative into something that people can have a good laugh at.
You tend to use very soothing and bubbly colours in your artwork, do you have any specific shades in your colour palettes that you prefer to use?
It’s actually been a long time since I’ve been trying to discover my personal palette. When I first started The Forest Mori, I used to have this really strict rule where I can only use three colours in every single drawing as I wanted to keep it simple and clean. It soon became boring and it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. So I started incorporating more colours, and it just stuck with me that I use rainbow colours.
One of my greatest inspirations is Pip & Pop, she is an amazing artist from Perth. She does sculpture and installations with colourful sugar. Looking at her stuff told me that you can do whatever you want with your art. You don’t have to do a painting for it to be an art, it could sugar, it could be anything. I don’t think I have a set palette anymore, which is really good, as opposed to in the past where I was limited to only three colours everytime I drew.
What do you want people to feel or take away from your work?
I tend to put little captions or quotes on my drawings and I like it when people say they relate to my work. Those are the every day thoughts and simple feelings that often slip your mind, like when you’re being not too confident with yourself or random things like having no battery on your phone totally ruins your day. I capture those little thoughts and little moments, and turned them into art work. That’s when people really say, awh I can relate to that, while finding it humorous. I think that’s what I’m trying to do, to make people relate to it and have a good laugh at it.
What is your favourite work to date?
I did a group show with a bunch of artists in Perth and I drew a painting called Mutually for that group show. It was a painting of a girl – representing human race – being surrounded by weird blobs and creatures. It really represented what I do my art for, as in my theme of nature, the theme of animals being in harmony with humankind.
When and how did you first start getting into art, and were you always a creative child?
It all started in 2014 when I applied for a market. I never really thought about it back then, I didn’t know I was going to get into it. But they took me and I was like, I need to start making things because I have nothing to sell. So I had two-months time to figure out what I wanted to sell, what my style was, and what my brand name was. It was the best and worst market I’ve ever done. Best, it was how everything started; worst, I think everything I made in that market was really drafty and rough. People still supported me and bought my stuff, I feel sorry for the people who own my first batch of creations (laughs).
Growing up as an athlete, I didn’t really have the time to do anything but sports, and I kind of regret that I started really late in this. Because I feel like if I started earlier, a lot would have happened and I would’ve created many strange things that would be good for the whole development process. But I’m still glad it started four years ago.
You studied communications back in college, and are now getting a master’s degree in translation, both of which train you in verbal communication, but on the side you choose to communicate visually. These things seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum – do you think that has aided or complicated you in your creative journey?
I think my communications degree definitely helped me with my artistic process. It taught me how to film, which was a really good start, because sometimes I do animation and video art and that really helped. With translation, that’s the advanced version of my communications degree. I’d say it’s just another form of communication as opposed to art being a form of visual communication. It’s all related and I’m a language freak, so it’s also something I like. The problem with me is that I like everything, so I want to do everything (laughs).
What’s the difference between being an artist in Hong Kong and in Perth, Australia?
I feel like artist is a much more respected title in Australia because they have the time to appreciate your work for a start. Whereas in Hong Kong, it’s more fast-paced. People tend less to pay extra for creativity. But I do have artist friends in Hong Kong that I like to hang out with, and I think it’s good in both places, just in different ways.
What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow?
Pip & Pop for sure. Instagram is a really good platform. I made a lot of friends on there and I actually went to London to meet a couple of people. I feel like if I mention one person, it would be unfair to the others. Because they’re all so good! Basically follow everyone I’m following, they’re all very talented.
If you could be a character in a cartoon, who would that be?
Maybe someone from the Studio Ghibli movies, definitely not the main characters. But the animal-like ones, maybe Totoro. Anything sloppy.
Check out The Forest Mori’s store here
Want to discover more talented artists in Hong Kong? Try pottery making with Deer Workshop, see through the lens of street photographer Michael Kistler or see how French artist Ophelia Jacarini portrays the naked body.