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Bo from Hong Kong, BA in Illustration

A profile photo of international creative arts student Bo Sun Lam

Bo Sun Lam from Hong Kong is in the final year of her BA (Hons) degree in Illustration at the University of Portsmouth. Find out what it’s like to be an international art student in the UK – and scroll down to see some of her artwork!

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

'For me, Hong Kong is not an ideal place to study art as most of their courses are focused on business, and I felt that people do not give enough attention or effort to developing art.

'On the other hand, the UK’s literature, writing and art are popular worldwide; they lead the world in creativity and innovation. And I can see schools in the UK aim to build a good foundation for students. It provides space for students to think and explore their subject.

Want to study art or design in the UK?

'Moreover, I have been attracted by the UK’s culture, architecture and lifestyle since I was a kid. Most of my family had studied abroad in the UK when they were young. It made me understand the importance of speaking good English. And I think England is the best place to learn proper English.'

What did you find most inspiring about your degree and institution?

'My course (Illustration) is a course that requires a lot of study and research before you start drawing something. It makes me understand that drawing is not just about drawing something you like, or illustrating something in an artistic way. Illustration should be something
meaningful that inspires your audience too.

'My course also guides us to be professional and build up our knowledge and skills step by step, from the first year through to the final year. Everyone in class has a different style and drawing method, but we work so well together by learning from each other and discussing our ideas together, while still keeping our own style.'

Working over a light machine, left, and on a large mural with her classmates, right (Photos ©Bo Sun Lam)

How did your perception of your subject change as a result of your studies?

'Illustration is not about emulation, it’s about innovation.'

What did you like the most about the teaching methods and styles you experienced?

'Our lecturers will show us other illustrators’ great works, then hold a workshop for us to experience it. Then we can develop it further after class.'

What does being ‘creative’ mean to you?

‘"Creative" is not about who did it first, it’s about who did it the best. And try not to be normal and common, because normal is boring!'

What advice would you give to future students applying to your course?

'Time management is important in our course. Make good use of your time, and you can produce a massive outcome in a limited amount of time.'

Is there a memory of a trip, a workshop, a course or a speech that you attended that really stands out?

'I will say all the Visual Culture lectures and tutorials held by a lecturer called Stuart Gard are amazing! He used a relaxing way to tell us what art is all about, and how an artist should be. All the small concepts that he mentioned, it inspired me for the rest of my life.'

A selection of Bo's illustrations (All images ©Bo Sun Lam)

What’s your number one memory of your time as a student in the UK? The one you’d tell your grandchildren about?

'It’s probably the first day that I came to university. I still remember there was a UK map on the whiteboard. And our lecturers wanted us to put a sticker on the map to show where we come from. Most of my course mates are from the local Portsmouth area or from London. When it came to my turn, I stood in front of the board and didn’t know what to do as my country is not on the UK map. When my teacher asked where I come from, I answered “Hong Kong”. Then, he walked to the end of the lecture room and stuck the sticker on the wall. “Hong Kong is probably somewhere here,” he said! It was a really funny memory.'

What are your ambitions for the future?

'In the short term, I am going to continue my studies and get a master’s degree at the University of Portsmouth.

'But for a long-term goal, I would like to be a teacher to teach people drawing and art skills, whether it’s in a proper school, university or studio. I have been teaching children drawing for seven years in Hong Kong. I also visited a local high school in Portsmouth to give Year 10 GCSE students lessons about art skills. And I found I really love teaching.

'As I want to explore different areas of an artistic life, I would also like to take a variety of freelance jobs in my spare time.'

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