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54 Hyde St
Adelaide, SA, 5000

Elaine Cheng, The Artist


Elaine Cheng, The Artist

Paige Kerin

In the world of Instagram, 3D Printing and CGI, we tend to forget that there was once a time before computers; when visual art was what people painted, sculpted and drew. From time to time it’s important to acknowledge the young artists who don’t create art with a computer or a camera, but their hands. Meet, Elaine Cheng.

The young, talented Adelaide artist specializes in incredibly life-like sketches, depicting the places and people that inspire her. With a brief foray into the world of animation, Elaine quickly discovered that her passion lay in sketching, which was also a great talent of hers. She began to draw the places she would go for coffee, and the people she would meet there, rather than just snapping a photo.

Elaine is not only a talented artist, she has a knack for the ‘foodie’ lifestyle as well. She definitely doesn’t want to be just another food reviewer. Rather than judging a venue merely on a single culinary experience, she looks at the story behind the place and really seeks a connection with the whole business. Her drawings speak for themselves but I thought I’d have a chat with Elaine, who as it turns out has a pretty damn rad attitude towards... well, everything.


How did you start sketching?

One day I went studying at Bar 9 with my friend and I got bored, so I ended up drawing the café and things on the tables. I found it was such a better way of capturing the essence of the place and the people, rather than just taking a picture.

And then you combined that with writing?

When I started reviewing places, I didn’t want to be another foodie. I don’t like the way they often seem so disconnected with the whole business, but still feel like they can critique it. I thought, why not try to get to know the people and their stories.


So it’s important that you combine the two…?

I recently found it inspiring to listen to people’s stories and how they got here. Being in my last year of uni, it’s really good guidance because I’m feeling a lot of pressure to go out into the industry. Listening to people and where they came from is reassuring, and inspiring.


Did you always want to study creative arts?

My parents wanted me to do business or dentistry, all of the Asian parents dreams! I ended up starting creative arts. There was a bit of a struggle but they accepted it in the end.


How do you compare your sketching to photography?

I spoke to a photographer the other day and he was saying he likes to distance himself from the scene and just look at it objectively, but art is different in the way that you become emotionally connected to the subject or the atmosphere. You really choose what you put in and what you leave out, and you choose what you emphasise in the drawing

My art isn’t photographically correct, otherwise why wouldn’t I just take a photo. When it comes to drawing I think it’s more like, the walls of the café, or the people who are in it, or the way it looks when it’s crowded, or the smell of coffee – to try and represent that in some way.


How long have you been serious about illustration?

Ever since I started high school. I started off really into anime, and wanting to go into gaming and animation. I didn’t like that it was turning into this massive industry where they want you to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. I was looking for an emotional connection to my work, which is so hard to get with what they demand of you.


What do you think of the Adelaide culture compared to other places you’ve lived?

There’s so much to do here if you look around and take the time to explore and appreciate it. I think a lot of young people tend to not to see that, and they always say Adelaide’s boring, but I think it has its own flavour and character that they should really appreciate if they look around. Adelaide’s very chilled and laid back, and you fall into the rhythm you’ll appreciate it a lot more.


What are some of your favourite places?

Bambi’s Kitchen, I go there all the time now; and Bar 9 Central at the moment.

Keen to see more? Check out Elaine’s website, or you can take a look at her drawings in the flesh at her SALA exhibition. Her show is running from the 2nd of August to the 20th of September At Magpie Springs – check out the event here


Sketches by Elaine Cheng
Other photos taken by Paige Kerin