This year, you might have noticed a new world emerging in our festival designs! We’ve been lucky enough to have the talented Lily Nie of Paperlily Studio create our festival illustration this year – find it all over our posters, print program, bookmarks and more. For our latest blog post, we sat down with Lily to find out a little more about the person behind the illustration. If you’re located in Naarm/Melbourne, be sure to get your hands on a copy of our print program!

Hi Lily, please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m an Asian-Australian illustrator and designer based in Naarm/Melbourne where I run my practice Paperlily Studio. Drawing as a kid was one of my earliest memories. I love that feeling when you’re in the flow state and time kind of stops. The feeling of being completely present, and in tune with the work is my favourite feeling when I’m working. For me drawing allows me to escape the world and explore my subconscious, tapping into my deepest thoug­­hts and longings. With that said, I am naturally drawn towards dreamy aesthetics and surrealism.

The #EWF22 illustration is such a masterpiece, it really feels like you’re being transported into another world – can you tell us a little bit about how it came to be? What was the process like?

Thank you! I have always been drawn to the idea of portals, dream worlds and surrealism, so I’m so happy that I could explore this further for the artwork. The EWF team originally came to me with quite an open brief, with a few words and visual references as a springboard for ideas. From the brief, the words surreal and greenery really appealed to me, and I started exploring ideas with those words in mind.

I presented the team with four concepts, which we narrowed down to one and refined it through a process of back and forward discussions with the EWF team. I then did a bunch of colour studies, which were narrowed down.  Once we had the composition and colour palette settled, it was just drawing out the final artwork and putting all the elements together.

Can you tell us a little bit about your practice? How did you start off, how do you work, what inspires you, etc?

I start all projects with a big brainstorm of ideas on a large piece of paper. I find tiny notebooks too limiting in the beginning. I need a lot of space to just jot down any idea that comes to mind and I usually do a lot of thumbnail sketches. I find the start of a project most difficult and a bit intimidating, so for me pencil on paper is still my go to. It allows me to be fluid, quick and carefree when I’m just starting to tease out a project.

From there, I usually pick out one sketch that compositionally works the best, and start to refine it digitally. In my process there’s usually a paper sketch, digital sketch and colour test before I start the final piece. I like having a clear process when it comes to design. I think that’s my architecture training coming through. So when I get to the final drawing, I usually know how it’s going to look, and it’s just taking the time to draw it all properly.

For inspiration, I always turn towards nature. The amazing forms, colour combos and textures that you can find in plants and rocks are endless. I also like to just let my mind wander. I find I will draw something really interesting if I don’t think too much, but kind of let my subconscious takeover. Sometimes it results in surprising discoveries about myself that my conscious mind wasn’t even aware of.

What other projects are you working on?

I am working on setting up my online shop so keep your eyes peeled for cute prints and other handmade products!

What are you reading right now? Last movie you watched? Something you are looking forward to?

I am currently reading Cold Enough for Snow by Australian writer Jessica Au.
Last movie I watched was The Worst Person in the World
I am always looking forward to more outdoor adventures! I really want to make time for more weekend road trips and hikes this year.


The Emerging Writers’ Festival runs from Wednesday 15 – Saturday 25 June 2022. Check out the full program here.