CREDITS – All images sourced from Sunny Gu

In the realm of creativity, where art breathes life into the mundane, allow us to introduce Sunny Gu—a visionary fashion and beauty illustrator whose brushstrokes move with the essence of elegance.

A graduate with honours from Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, Sunny has crafted a kaleidoscopic career, leaving her indelible mark on renowned clients from Conde Nast to Disney. Hailing from China and now residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunny’s journey is proof of her unwavering passion for cultural exploration. Her canvas, adorned with hues of watercolour, captures not just beauty but the kindness she feels, meticulously preserving moments in vibrant detail. Beyond the impressive client list, Sunny’s art is an odyssey in search of beauty, value, truth, and self—a journey painted in the radiant colours of joy that she feels while painting.

In a candid interview with The Peacock Magazine, she talks about her journey into the world of art, and some of her favourite artists and reveals what her ultimate life goal is.




Q) What were your growing-up years like?

I grew up in a traditional Chinese family. I was really shy as a kid. I have always been comfortable in my little bubble, reading and painting, playing with Barbie dolls. Thinking back to my childhood days, I was either playing with crayons or sitting on the side of the playground quietly watching other kids play. I immigrated to the U.S. with my parents when I was 13. Being in a foreign state with a new language forced me out of my little shell. I began to challenge myself to communicate with strangers and make friends. After a few years, my personality became more social and outgoing. Now, I really enjoy getting to know other people and hearing their stories.

Q) What is your earliest memory of art?

When I was two, I started to doodle pandas using crayons. I was so obsessed with giant pandas, maybe it’s because they are the national animal of China. I had a lot of panda toys when I was a kid and made piles of panda drawings.

Q) When and how did you develop an interest in fashion illustrations?

I majored in Illustration at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles for my BFA. Our curriculum contained all the foundation drawing and painting lessons, along with traditional editorial illustration and basic digital software knowledge. During my senior year, I was browsing books in the library, searching for inspiration. I came across some fashion illustration books. I was in awe of the beauty and style of those illustrations, and knew right away that’s the type of art I wished to create!



Q) Can you tell us about the first artwork you made? What was the inspiration?

The pandas that I doodled when I was two. It was probably inspired by one of my panda stuffed animals.

Q) Can you walk us through the process of creating a piece?

Whenever I have an idea or inspiration or when I get a project proposal from a client, I draw a rough pencil sketch. I may fix things around on the rough sketch or simply write down a few reminders. Depending on whether it’s a personal art or a commissioned project, I may need to show and get approval for the sketch before moving on to the next step. I spend some time gathering the reference photos I need. For finals, I work with watercolour on watercolour paper, and add mixed media for special textures I want to achieve. Then I scan and finalise it digitally.

Q) Do you have a mentor? Who and what was your relationship with him/her like?

I had a great team of professors back in college—each taught me different skills. I follow and keep in touch with them on social media nowadays.

Q) Where/in whom do you find your inspiration?

I’m inspired by colours, textiles and beauty in nature.

Q) Who are your biggest influences?

As an artist, my biggest influences are artists and designers of past and present; and beauty that I discovered in nature and daily life. As a person, my biggest influence is my family.

Q) What sets your mood when you sit down to create?

A good music playlist to set the atmosphere for my painting.

Q) What is your studio like? Do you compulsively work there? If not, where else do you work and why those places?

Recently I just decorated my new studio with my artwork and plants. It’s wonderful to work in a space filled with things I love the most. I have a cabinet that I hide under my desk that is filled with papers and some art supplies. I keep brushes on my table, palettes and paints in my trusty Ikea utility cart. Sometimes I work on-site for live illustrations. Other than that, I work solely in my studio.



Q) Which colours do you often find yourself reaching out to in your colour palette? Any particular reason why?

My favourite colour changes depending on my current mood and surroundings. I created works with a lot of red and metallic hues when I was living in Los Angeles—where we are always influenced by the latest fashion trends and red carpet looks. I painted so many snowy scenes when I was living in Chicago—where we have six months of winter every year. I favour lush greens and have painted so much tropical and animal-inspired work after I moved to North Carolina—where we have a lot of forests and nature trails.

Q) Do you use any tech tools? Which ones, prominently?

After I finish the painting using traditional mediums like watercolour and acrylics, I scan and finalise them digitally in Photoshop. I use digital software to clean up and fix any mistakes, adjust some colours and add any details when needed. I still love to keep the integrity of the original painting.

Q) You’ve been commissioned to create artworks for so many clients. Who has been your biggest client so far? And your most favourite commissioned piece?

It’s so hard to name the “biggest client”. I learn something new each time, and there are always ups and downs, excitement and challenges for each project. My favourites are changing—which I think is a good thing. My current favourite commissioned project is not live yet so I don’t think I can type out the brand name, but after publishing this magazine, it will be live. It’s a series of illustrations for a lingerie brand’s lookbook magazine. I’m so proud of the series because I have always wanted to create something for a lingerie brand. I love the designer’s creations and personality, and I was given the most artistic freedom and trust.



Q) Without being unbiased, which creation of yours are your personal favourites?

Maybe it’s because of how time-consuming each of my paintings is, or how much I was focused on each piece, but I love the piece the most while creating it. After the labour of love, I’m a little fatigued from staring at the piece for hours. So, my personal favourite is always the next one or the one I’m painting at the moment.

Q) What were some of the happening highlights in your life as an artist?

I adore the ‘first’ moments: like creating my first series of packaging for Japanese cosmetic brand Fancl, or finding my first illustrated book RuPaul’s Paper Dolls Book in my local Barnes and Noble book store, or opening the holiday cookie box I illustrated for Sainsbury’s Holiday Special Musical Carousel Tin with All Butter Shortbread, or even recording floral fashion art at Disney Studios for Disney X Zales Jewelers collaboration.

Q) Which creation of yours would be the most challenging one, according to you?

I cannot recall it, because it’s always a problem-solving process for each piece—especially during the brainstorming sketching stage. After the challenges have been overcome, everything’s manageable.

Q) Who are your favourite artists? Why?

I love Van Gogh’s work ethic and striking dreamy colours. I adore Gustav Klimt’s decorated figures and patterns and admire Edgar Degas’ ability to capture the fleeting moments.

Q) Which has been your most favourite exhibit so far?

When I was living in Los Angeles, I regularly went to gallery openings with my art school classmates. Those were my favourite memories during my college years. My favourite exhibit is our graduation art show. I know I’m biased, but nothing compares to it on a personal level. It was heartwarming to see everyone’s years of hard work come together. It also signified a big farewell, that each of us will step into the real world and find our own path.

Q) What is your favourite art event of the year?

Does painting at live events count? I absolutely adore every minute of painting on-site creating custom portraits for my client’s guests and seeing how my artwork brings a smile to their faces.

Q) Who is Sunny when not an artist?

A family lover and mother. I love taking my toddler to kids’ museums, nature trails, and to the parks with my husband. The world is a better place when I see the wonder in his eyes.

Q) What passion do you harbour apart from art?

I love flowers—caring for my plants is my meditation.

Q) What are your future plans?

Work-wise, I’d love to collaborate on more exciting commissioned projects and keep doing what I love the most: creating beautiful art. Find beauty and meaning in everyday life, prioritise family quality time and explore more places together.

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