Lost love. Valium. Gross over-consumption of ice cream. When Portland art director Mengyu (aka Jenny) Chen started drawing comics last year, she wanted to address the often funny, sometimes sad experience of being an adult.
Chen, who grew up in Taiwan and came to Oregon to get her MFA in Illustration, spent her childhood years immersed in visual culture. “I was a reclusive and dreamy kid,” she writes. “I was into graffiti art, comic books, and surrealism.” As an adult, she became interested in book design and letterpressing–she’s designed a number of beautiful books and paper crafts since graduation.
She began her comic strip, The Encephalic Cinema, as a personal project last year. The comics distill the quietly hilarious experience of adulthood into three- and four-frame chapters. In Dating, a guy simply sticks his face into a fish tank. In Dessert, someone eats an entire pint of Milky Way ice cream, then burps galaxies. The strips went viral after they were posted on the Chinese user-review website Douban, and Chen started putting more time into the project, making postcards for friends and sending them overseas.
“I was planning to make a hand-bound book of the whole series,” Chen tells Co.Design, “but didn’t want to do it the traditional way.” She started experimenting with hand-operated pop-up books, translating the 2-D comics into kinetic drawings. She hopes to turn 10 of the Encephalic Cinema stories into the first volume. She calls the project “a pop-up book for adults, and a belated gift for the childhood me.”