Interview with Lilian Darmono

Currently working in London, multi talented Art Director/Illustrator/Designer and Conceptor Lilian Darmono already has a broad range of happy clients under her belt. Her work screams talent, her designs and animations are warm and engaging, as you can see for yourself.

What have you been up to lately?
Right at this moment, I’m in ‘exile’, in Jakarta, Indonesia, to be with my family, and so I can concentrate on doing my short film (based on the digital painting ‘Dusk’).

At the same time, I’m remote-directing a logo animation project with my partner Mungo Horey. (We go under the name ‘SELF’). Mungo’s in Melbourne, I’m in Jakarta, and the entire production team is in London! It’s not ideal, but after many revisions, that’s what the final schedule dictates, and we’ve booked this trip away from London for a year now.

So we did as much pre-prod stuff as we could before leaving: rough animatic, design plus key discussions with the team and clients. But production wasn’t scheduled to begin until last week, and we left London in mid-December. Crazy!

ABC3 concepts (with Mungo Horey)

You are currently based in London, but reading your bio on your site we read you are off to north and south america as well. Is this part of a grand master plan to conquer all the worlds of design, or just for the hell of it?
Hahaha, no, such thing!! The main reason is my curiosity at how things work in different parts of the world. Fellow authors on Motionographer have been sharing such varied production stories. That’s made me want to ‘see it for myself’ so to speak. The American production model is very different to those in Australia or the UK.

I’m also a travel addict, and our industry is one of the few in which your skills is transferable across geographical boundaries. I’ve wanted to travel around the world since I left uni, and now, 7 years later, I get to do it. And what’s better than earning your cash while on the move by doing what you love to do? (Plus I have no hospitality skills whatsoever–I’ve spilled too many drinks as it is, and am always mixing up my orders).

But it seems now I won’t really get to work much in the Americas. I would still like to, but Visa is one hindrance, another is I am getting a fair bit of remote work from American studios as it is.  Styleframes (which is mostly what they hire me for) are very fast-turnaround gigs. 5 days tops, mostly 3 days. Whereas to travel and work in a city/region, ideally you’d need at least a month-long gig per location. Gives you time to soak up the city, not too long, not too short.

How have you found London so far?
Another reason why I won’t get to work much in the Americas–work’s been good in London. I arrived at a really bad time, actually: in September 2008. By late November, recession’s kicked in, and shops close for Christmas/New Years anyway. The quiet period lasted well into the start of 2009, but thankfully, around springtime things seemed to pick up. Then sometime around mid 2009, we hooked up with a new representation company called Light Parade. We met the lady who runs it, Charlotte Loynes. We decided to give it a shot, and eventually started to work on this one long project that I’m not allowed to reveal yet, and finding the experience very rewarding. We’re very new to this, and the learning curve has been quite steep, but we love every bit of it.

On the travel side of it, I hated London at first, what with the oppressive gray skies, compared to the openness of Australian landscape. I got really homesick for Melbourne once, but eventually I started to see the beauty of London–the layered history visible in the buildings and the city layout. Plus how cheap it is to get to the rest of Europe and North Africa from there! Food is still a downer in London, and I love eating out–but the upside is you get to save your hard-earned pounds by eating at home most of the time.

Client: Mastercard

"Dusk" detail, Personal project

Client: Trident

You have a quite broad and impressive range of clients and work under your belt so far, from MTV, Mastercard, 5Gum and Kmart. How did you find these opportunities?
Mostly through cold-calling/emailing. I try to aim for studios that have similar approach in work/aesthetic as what I like doing. That seems to work quite well.  One job would lead to another, and one contact would lead to many. That doesn’t mean I don’t experience a fair number of rejections, but being a freelancer means it’s all a matter of time before the right ball rolls into your court since you’re always on the lookout for opportunities. really helped me find who and where these studios are. Also, being part of Motionographer means I get to meet all these wonderful, amazing, talented bunch of authors, and we share information and knowledge to help one another. But friends can only help you so far; it’s up to you to make sure your folio stays fresh & up-to-date and to keep in touch with the industry contacts you’ve already met, and making new ones.

What would your dream project look like?
One where I can push the boundary of translating tactile, textural and ornate illustrations into motion!
To be specific, I’m really into two things at the moment: cute, colourful, so-sweet-it-makes-your-teeth-hurt characters/enviroment/situations, the kind that fills you with hope and positivity when you look at them, and the flipside : organic and natural forms which fills you with awe and dread at the same time.

Cute stuff comes to me very naturally, maybe because I’m an Asian girl (haha), but having been born and raised in Indonesia, you can’t help but have this urge to express (visually) the overwhelming, sometimes destructive power of nature. Here, we get thunderstorms that shake the ground. Lush, creepy, complex vegetation, crazy diversity of fauna and flora. In addition to that, having been in Australia since 1999, getting exposed to the landscape-driven narratives in things such as ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ and Russell Drysdale’s paintings, actually reinforces this belief in the sinister aspect of the natural world. I love the creepiness of the eucalyptus forest and Australian bush. Somehow, although visually they’re the opposite of the tropical green of Indonesia, they possess the same unassuming power to ‘take over’ the man-made world, so to speak.

Renault pitch

Do you have a favourite artist, or artists?
Ever since I saw the retrospective of Max Ernst in Louisiana museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, I practically worship him. He’s got such vision and technical prowess, each decade in his life is filled with different medium, aesthetic, and idea. I think he’s the big daddy of Surrealism, not Dali.

I also love the work of Shaun Tan, he captures the essence of Australia and being an Australian in a way that I seem to really relate to. I took ‘The Arrival’ with me to my Australian citizenship ceremony a few years back.

Another amazing artist I love is the now-deceased Juan Muñoz. His installations fascinate me for hours and give me goosebumps. Its hard to put into words. I also love Tiffany Bozic, for her nature-inspired paintings. She’s got such skill and imagination, her work is rather breathtaking.

What are you reading/watching/listening to/browsing at the moment?
I’ve just finished Richard Parry’s ‘In The Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos‘. It gave me a better understanding of the difficult circumstances that was partly the cause of my taking up the Australian citizenship. So now I’m switching to something light: Charles Dickens’ collection of Ghost Stories.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?
As a ‘debut’ creative statement of my co-directing efforts with Mungo, there’ll be the short film I’m doing based on ‘Dusk’.

We hope to become better at this directing business, since we’re both so new at it, and to be worthy of standing in the rank of Animation Directors alongside our amazing friends such as FX & Mat, Celine & Yann, The Mixtape Club, James Wignall (at Studio aka), Simon Robson and many many more…
Ideally someday when I have the means and the strategy, I would like to channel my creative efforts towards something that have more lasting/beneficial outcome than just aesthetic pleasure or selling things to people via advertising. Maybe through helping documentary groups, maybe through setting up a school where kids can learn the craft free of charge if they’re poor, I don’t know. I just know I don’t want to die not having done anything useful for other people who could really use a helping hand.
Where do you find inspiration?
My travels, old illustrated children’s books, vintage op-shops, and the usual places: design magazines & books, sites like yours, Motionographer, Lost at E Minor, Nice Fucking Graphics, Drawn, and so on…



  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by liliandarmono: Shameless Self-Promotion:

    uberVU - social comments, February 2nd, 2010 at 8:01 pm
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    Lillian Darmono Interview | Surface Detail, March 19th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
  3. [...] new site and some more great work from Lilian Darmono and Mungo [...]

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