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Not too long ago,we shared some of the work that went into planning and illustrating Pigsy’s BBQ. Of course, restaurants and storefronts aren’t the only settings in Chinatown—and designing a bedroom can be just as challenging. Lucy’s room is where our story begins, and so it bears the burden of setting the tone and atmosphere for the rest of the book. When we started laying out her room, we were pressed to create a larger sense of location and culture from a single interior scene.

How, for example, could we convey that our story takes place in an urban neighborhood without resorting to showing the city outside? What are the details that will help us relay this information? More specifically, which sort of floorboards and window blinds suggest the inner city over the suburbs? And since the scene calls for a mirror, would Lucy be more likely to have a free-standing mirror or one that hangs over the door? 

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Lucy’s room not only reflects the larger Chinatown, it also tells us a lot about Lucy herself. When we developed Lucy as a character we knew she was younger, less cynical, and a good bit girlier than her best friend Amy—but we also made her plucky and naturally curious as well. To suggest all this to our readers, we made sure her room was furnished with elements from her childhood that she’s already started to outgrow—giving her an environment of naivete ready to be transcended. To this end, we imagined her room furnished with second-hand pieces that were sturdy, but not always of the highest quality: an old but not antique iron-frame bed, rejected but well-loved stuffed toys from Happy Gift House where her mom works, and a proud third place ribbon on the cork board (first was a little ambitious for Lucy).

Although reference photos are handy, lots of inspiration comes from our own personal experiences as well. The lamp on Lucy’s desk, for example, bears a striking resemblance to the one on Brad’s drawing table. And it might not be too surprising to hear that one of Wesley’s childhood pets was an absurdly fat and adventurous hamster who lived in a cage not unlike the one Lucy has in her room.

As you can see from the artwork, some of the finer details are still being worked out—but all the ones we’ve already included help us understand a little more not only about Lucy, but her family system as well. Take a closer look at the outdated stereo on her desk. “Property of Damon Chan”—what does that say about her relationship to her brother? And what about the photo of her and her family? They’re dressed up in their Sunday best, but it looks like they’re just at Pigsy’s, where they eat all the time. What does that mean?

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These are the sorts of questions we asked ourselves in designing Lucy’s bedroom, and they’re the sorts of questions we hope our readers will ask (even subconsciously) when we take them there.

And then of course, there’s the poster above her bed. It looks to be the only piece of decoration Lucy’s chosen for herself. It’s the only element in the room not passed down second-hand, not “borrowed” from her brother, and not given to her by her parents. Its design is modern and trendy, not at all from her childhood or yesteryear. So who is Royale? Is she a pop star? A comic book character? Is it a movie poster?

For now, let’s just say she’s the first of many elements involved in the grand task of world-building. And by that we mean we’re up to the task of not only designing a room or even a whole neighborhood—but the entire pop culture of the universe our characters inhabit.

Brad enjoys dabbling in designing outfits—and has even created fictional clothing and food brands, as well as celebrities for the Chinatown universe. In a sense, it’s as if the Sun Bros aesthetic is the mainstream cultural trend and style of this world. In future articles, we’ll reveal more about some of the pop culture in our universe, including some background on Royale … and her more prominent role in future Sun Bros projects.

Royale

In the meantime, check out more Chinatown artwork at our Facebook Image Gallery, and follow us on Twitter for up-to-date progress on our book, coming out at the end of the year!