She who does everything

Designer Suanna Zhong sees the world in colors and shapes


Photo used with permission of Suanna Zhong

A quick scroll through Instagram displays the fruits of Suanna Zhong’s artistic labor — mixed media paintings, collages, photography and clothing pieces fill her page and embrace viewers’ eyes with a coherent mosaic of warm tones.

Sharlene Chen, Design Editor

The rumble of the sewing machine, the squeak of the marker and the click of the camera shutter form the daily melody of senior Suanna Zhong’s life. A quick scroll through Instagram displays the fruits of Zhong’s artistic labor — mixed media paintings, collages, photography and clothing pieces fill her page and embrace viewers’ eyes with a coherent mosaic of warm tones.

Many people know her as the president of InDesign, Lynbrook’s fashion club. However, she is much more — a talented artist who is capable of mastering anything she puts her mind to, whether it be photography, painting, sketching, sewing, filming or editing. Each one of her pieces carries a heartfelt message about her stories and perspectives. 

“Pictures have always come easier to me than words, and art has helped me through personal issues as well as reaching out to others to have a conversation about topics I care about,” Zhong said.

An enthusiastic experimenter, Zhong’s favorite medium changes on a month-to-month basis, and each exploration brings with it new insight. Although she had spent the longest time with graphite on paper, she did not enjoy it, feeling boxed in and unable to express herself. 

“Everyone at my art studio is heavily encouraged to draw in one specific style and known for black and white charcoal,” Zhong said. “It was only until high school when I was able to try other mediums that weren’t taught there, like new styles of painting, photography and fashion.” 

Zhong strived to break the mold, establishing her own style with a unique use of color. Her style developed over time after consuming online media such as movies, social media and TV shows. She gathers little features of what she likes from different sources, then merges the ideas to develop her own color palette and style. 

“The internet is an abundant resource, and I think it’s just about figuring out what you like and what you don’t, then emulating accordingly from multiple sources,” Zhong said. 

Currently, she enjoys photography the most, especially when working with her friends. Her favorite piece is one of junior Lucy Barnes sitting in a field of grass, edited to a bright pink color. 

“Photography intersects with fashion so well, and it’s so accessible,” Zhong said. “It’s cool how I can appreciate the beauty in everyday things through my camera lens.” 

One of her role models is photographer Petra Collins, author of the book Coming of Age. The book sends a message through succinct images and personal essays to all women to celebrate their lives in today’s chaotic but exciting society. Drawing upon the ideas of Collins’s autobiographical book, Zhong hopes she can find how her own story intersects with a universal experience and share it to the world. 

“I really admire that she is comfortable sharing something so vulnerable and reclaiming this kind of trauma from growing up as a woman,” Zhong said. “I think many young women can relate. Of course, her photos are very beautiful, but I particularly like how powerful her story is.”

From all her works, Zhong recounts the short film “The Cake is a Lie” as both her proudest and most time-consuming project, created over a span of four months. The project was inspired by the 2000s internet meme called “The Cake is a Lie” from the video game Portal, in which the main character searches for a cake impossible to find. Zhong’s film aims to express the futile search for success, using the cake as a symbol for the artificially sweet reward associated with success. Over the summer of 2021, Zhong and her friend Katelyn Ma, along with others, drew storyboards, filmed and edited. Zhong looks back upon the film fondly and knows it will be one whose message stays with her in every walk of life. As stated in the Youtube video’s description box, “though the sweet ‘cake,’ or reward associated with success does not actually exist, there is still beauty in one’s pursuit to achieve their goals.” 

Michael Yang, a close friend of Zhong’s who assisted her with the film, also agrees that “The Cake is a Lie” is Zhong’s best work. The two of them have also filmed dance videos, such as a cover to “Skate” by Bruno Mars, together.

“Suanna’s art style is very warm, pretty and charming,” Yang said. “I really admire her work ethic and how truly passionate she is about what she does. She’s really fast with her turnaround time, and I really appreciate that. Seeing her work on the ‘Cake is a Lie’ project further showed me how on top of things and coordinated Suanna is.”

Behind the glamorous artwork, Zhong has put in hours upon hours to produce her creations. She encourages those interested in furthering their art to not feel pressure to constantly put out “good” artwork, and enjoy the process instead. 

“It’s taken me a very long time to get where I am today,” Zhong said. “Don’t get discouraged by all the talented young people out there. Placing a huge emphasis on individualism and complete originality is unnecessary. In essence, to me, art is about reconciling with yourself and finding your own personal fulfillment.”