The singing doctor
Article from the Sun daily by S. Indra Sathiabalan (posted on 20 Mar 2019)
KLANG girl Meroshana Thaiyalan, 26, hails from a small close-knit family. As she puts it: “Family is number one to me and nothing comes above it.”
Her father is a businessman and her mum is a retired teacher, while her younger sister is currently in university.
This talented young lady is not only an award-winning singer (she won the SKOWT-VIMA Best New Act for her song Hearts Of Steel), but is also a medical doctor and an Indian classical music teacher.
Meroshana has loved singing since she was a child, putting on impromptu concerts for family and guests. When she was 15 years old, she participated in Yu Hua Idol, a school-level singing competition, and emerged as first runner-up.
With her newfound confidence, she started posting cover songs on social media, took part in singing shows like MTV Twisties Superstars, and started dabbling in songwriting.
She recently got hitched and she credits her husband – whom she met in college five years ago – for being someone who loves her unconditionally and who understands her career demands.
She describes him as “someone who’s always excited to co-manage my shows and an endless source of encouragement.”
Did you have formal training in singing?
“My formal training was the countless hours of singing in the shower.”
Tell us about your Indian classical music background.
“I started learning veenai (traditional Indian stringed instrument) under Shri Lalithalaya, with my coach Prakash Nambiar about 12 years ago.
“He was the best teacher anyone could ask for, and the veenai is such a beautiful instrument, that I knew I would have a lifelong bond with it.
“I graduated with a distinction in both my junior and teaching exams, performed in many cultural shows with Shri Lalithalaya, and joined in teaching veenai with Master Prakash, before I moved to Malacca for my housemanship.
“[When I return to] Kajang, I plan to continue teaching veenai again.
Did you want to be a doctor who sings, or a singer who treats people?
“I am a doctor who wants to, one day, treat people with my singing and my music. I never want to separate both.
“I am a doctor, and a singer, and in both ways I’m able to treat those who are in need of it. Music heals, and I can’t wait to implement that into patient care and medicine someday soon.”
Music and medicine demand 100% commitment. How do you balance things out?
“I won’t lie, sometimes it does get tough to balance the best of both worlds. Being a doctor can be really demanding both physically and mentally, and sometimes it can be tiring to focus on two things at once.
“But at the end of the day, I’m reminded of how much I love both music and medicine, and subconsciously it all falls into place. I wish I could give better advice on balancing careers, but I’m human and still learning too.”
How did you feel when you were bestowed the VIMA award for Best Newcomer?
“I was ecstatic! Never in a million years did I think I would make it up there, among all the big names!
“I’ve always struggled with my self confidence and insecurities, and winning the VIMA award really gave me the boost I’ve always needed in the music industry.
“I’m so happy my first single, Heart of Steel managed to get the recognition it did, because I truly wanted it to reach to more people, as I wrote it with the intention to spread self love and awareness.”
As a young person, what advice would you give another person on career choices?
“Choose what you love. Choose what you see yourself doing 100 years from today. Choose a career that makes you happy, and work from there.
“From then on, never stop working and striving, and build yourself an empire! The sky’s the limit and it’s not wrong to dream as many dreams as you want.
“People will always have things to say, they will always try to choose for you. There will be countless people trying to knock you off your pedestal, but never stop fighting for what you love –in this case, your career.
“I believe if you choose a career that you love and it makes you happy, you’re set for life. It all depends on what your life goal is. My life goal is to be happy. What’s yours?”
Article from the Sun daily by Mark Mathen Victor (posted on 8 March 2018)
TAKING photography to new heights, 22-year-old Ivan Lee is relatively new to the photography scene.
Yet his eye for shot composition, symmetry and colours has the young, self-taught photographer developing a growing cult following on social media.
“People know me for my work, and that’s something I’m proud of. You don’t have to know who I am, who is ‘Ivan’. If you recognise my work, I’m proud enough, because every artist has his or her own style,” Ivan explains.
“As an artist, if you work to the level where once your audience sees your photo and says ‘This is Ivan’s photo’, then no one can alter or copy it. You’ve already made it”.
Posting under the alias @kosherunit on Instagram, Ivan has begun to take his exploits to the skies with a Phantom 4 drone, resulting in stunning aerial photographs of Penang.
The extroverted Mass Communications graduate with an introspective view on life, art and photography recently took the time to speak to theSun.
How did you get into photography?
When I first started out as a photographer, last year around June, I started with an iPhone 6. I wasn’t really into photography, but life had a plan for me.
Before that I was a dancer, until I got appendicitis. So I had a major operation that made me stop dancing.
To me, I live and breathe in art. I love everything that has something to do with art. So I discovered that photography is one way for me to express myself in art form.
At the time, I was capturing images on an iPhone, and my parents encouraged me on. There was this one time I took a photograph of a really nice sunset in Batu Ferringhi, Penang.
And I told myself “This is one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve taken.
How am I going to overtake this picture next time?” Because when you do something, you want to get better.
How do you find locations for pictures?
I scout for it myself. In Penang, usually when I drive, I don’t really drive but I look around a lot. I’ll tell myself “This place looks really good”.
It’s just that I’ll have to be there, find the right angle and take the most beautiful picture I can get. So, I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, because he or she just takes normal pictures. I call myself a “visual creator”, because I alter my images into an art and style of my own. It’ll have my own colour grading, my own composition, etc.
How do you decide on which combination of camera, lenses and/or a drone goes with what you want to capture?
Before I started out, I did a lot of technical research. I would say my teachers were Youtube and Google; it was a lot of self-taught knowledge. I got most of my inspiration from Instagram, as it’s a community for artists. To get the picture I’m inspired to get, I need to know the technical aspects of a camera; the aperture, the light, shutter speed, lenses.
What is your creative process like when it comes to taking pictures?
Three months ago, I got a drone. In the beginning, I practised my drone for the first month, and the second month was for scouting. Whenever I’m driving around in KL, I would imagine, “Ivan, if you can fly on top of there, how would it look like if you looked down?”
To me as a photographer, I’m very drawn towards lines, geometry, and patterns. If you give me a line, I would figure out something that would make it look good. Be it from the top, side or bottom.
What is photography to you?
To me, photography is about creating something that will live forever even after I turn to dust.
Do you think social media and drones are changing the way pictures are and can be taken?
Yes, they are. Drones enable you to take aerial photos, where its technology is continuously advancing.
From starving to successful
Article from the Sun daily by Mark Mathen Victor (posted on 9 November 2017)
GLEEFULLY nodding in agreement to the mention of Howl's Moving Castle, an animated film by the maestro of Japanese animation Hayao Miyazaki that inspired a piece of art she had crafted using embroidery on gauze, Yim Yen Sum is a stripped down portrait of an artist.
Self-deprecating to a fault, and completely vacant in the stereotypes often associated to the more pretentious circle of artists, Yim claims, "I had no other talent. When I was in Form 3, I tried hard to study all the subjects, but my results remained bad. I felt like maybe I had no talent in studying, and that perhaps art is the only choice."
Not being bound by the shackles of responsibility as the youngest in her family, Yim would go on to join an art school, winning multiple awards and being part of various exhibitions along the way, before her big break came last year.
After almost seven years of living as a "starving artist", Yim submitted her embroidered artwork The Floating Castle for United Overseas Bank's 2016 Painting of the Year competition, ultimately snagging the US$25,000, (RM105,050) grand prize and a residency programme in Japan's Fukuoka Asian Art Museum.
Do you come from an artistically inclined family?
My mum loves craft. Before our family had financial problems, she would do crafts and decorations, but after, she had to work. By the time I was born, she had stopped completely. As for my father, he doesn't love art, and doesn't comment on my involvement in it.
As my mum was a chef, she would decorate the food so we would have the appetite to eat. I used to help her, when she would take the time to arrange things like carrots into flower shapes, small things that made the dishes look nice. It fascinated me.
Did they encourage you when you chose art?
As a first year student in college, I studied the basics of drawing, and when my mother saw my drawings, she responded "Oh, this is so realistic. My daughter painted this!" Initially they were really happy for what I could do, but after graduation, they were worried that art could not help me survive.
I tried to alleviate their worries, so I never asked them for money, and I had to work many jobs to survive, but after winning the prize money, I think they gradually began to believe in my ability.
Do you think it's necessary to study art in order to create art?
No, it's not necessary. There are artists without an art background, but they still do quite well. Yet what I cannot deny is that art school really helps us to find our voice. After I left high school, I knew nothing about art. But studying Fine Arts in Dasein Academy of Art really gave me a good guideline on how I could become an artist and which direction I could go towards.
What made you join UOB Malaysia's Painting of the Year competition?
I think you know! (laughs) The money! Other than the prize, I knew the winners from previous years. Gan Tee Sheng (2013's UOB Painting of the Year winner) is my best friend and I saw how his life changed after he won due to getting a lot of different opportunities.
At the time, I was still very poor and I had to do a lot of different jobs to sustain my livelihood, so I used to dream maybe I could join this competition, and it could change my life. I did not think I would win, as my experience was mostly in installation art pieces and sculptures, whereas the UOB competition were about paintings. I tried my luck.
Where do you get your inspiration for art from?
I grew up in KL, living in a flat with four houses. I never spoke to my neighbours, or knew anything about them. After I studied in college, I had a project about research and photography in Malacca. In my very first trip, I saw the difference while living with my friend's family in their neighbourhood, where everyone shared their food and conversed with each other as part of a community. It was very new to me. It made me think about the environment and the relationships between people.
Why was it important for you to highlight culture and tradition through art?
We study the past to know the future. We need to know who we are. This is the topic I felt would interest others as much as it interested me. Where we come from, who we are. I think this is important.
What was the experience that you took away from your Fukuoka Asian Art Museum residency programme?
It was my first time to Japan. I felt like the way they spoke and treated each other is so much different than what I had seen here. It was an interesting experience, because that environment affected how I talked and thought about things, even the language.
In full bloom
Article from the Sun daily by Nur Shahirah Mohd (posted on 18 May 2017)
LOCAL homegirl, Limzy remembers subconsciously telling herself that one day she would make a career out of being an artist. True enough, she has gained herself a reputation on social media platforms and has coined herself as a visual, lifestyle and fashion artist-illustrator with a penchant for flowers.
Inspired by her loving grandmother whom she made floral bookmarks for, she remembers pressing flowers between dictionaries and the result, the flowers bear a resemblance to coffee dresses. Today, she creates art in hopes for it to be meaningful and relatable to her grandmother who loved flowers.
Since young, her parents would enrol her in drawing competitions and in school, she would join national drawing competitions – and despite coming from the science stream with arts as an elective, she pursued her passion in fine arts in college.
Initially working with Western paintings and watercolour, she was later introduced to delicate flowers by her aunt who is a florist.
Starting with a blog to share her paintings, she eventually decided to make it her career and started recruiting a team. Building their way up, they have collaborated with companies such as Dior and Lavieflo.
What were you doing before becoming an artist?
After graduating, I taught art at my college in the children’s department and after that, I was transferred to the gallery department as a gallery assistant. I was doing work that is art related although it was somehow different because it was a nine-to-five job which I felt did not give me the creative output.
I got inspired when teaching children because we were using ordinary materials such as alphabet macaroni, leaves, stones and broken crayons. That was where I took all the bits and pieces to compose small artworks every day after work. It was fun at first and eventually escalated into something serious.
I then thought to myself, maybe I could use some of these materials in my artwork and make it relatable to the public.
How do you get inspired to draw?
It sounds very cliché, but I get it everywhere. I do most of my research on Pinterest, in magazines and by just observing people.
As I am more focused on fashion illustrations now, I draw a lot of figures and characters hence I enjoy watching people – their personality and attitude, the way they walk, and how they dress and their style.
Whereas for flowers, I love to take walks at parks, visit the florist and even plant them myself – and the inspiration comes naturally. When I switched from Western painting to fashion illustration, I struggled because I didn’t want to make it commercial and figure drawing was my worst subject in school. But I went with the flow, like the saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
How did you build your company?
I built it along the way and didn’t know there is a thing called fashion illustration. I got into the industry unintentionally.
We are set up as an events company focusing on artwork creation and live events. Everything comes down to me, but the team helps reduce paperwork and liaising. They don’t draw, but they learn basic things like how to apply or press the flowers and calligraphy.
What have you learned from art?
I think I have learned a lot. The biggest artwork I have done was a mural, and I really enjoyed creating it.
I also enjoy doing installations in shopping malls or visual merchandise displays. The execution usually takes a week, but the planning probably takes one or two months.
Article from the Sun daily by Bernard Cheah (posted on 26 January 2017)
WHILE people look for beauty and elegance in art, Ahmad Ashraf Romli looks the other way.
Fascinated by gory and horror movies, and inspired by artists such as Neckface and Skinner, the 26-year-old from Kelana Jaya prefers to feature monstrosities and dark humour in his artworks. Ahmad Ashraf calls himself a “spawnist”, as he “spawns” monsters and creatures on paper using a Sakura Pigma brush pen.
He’s always had an affinity for drawing, and was encouraged by a friend – a successful artist in the local scene – to pursue his dream. However, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Ahmad Ashraf is at risk of relapse. The last occurrence was in 2015.
“With the condition, it’s not like I have a switch to start and stop how I feel. But I coped by skateboarding and drawing,” he revealed.
Ahmad Ashraf was featured – among several local artists – at the 2016 International Artist Day celebration in Central Market, and he has been invited to showcase some of his artworks at the upcoming Parallax Art Fair in London on Feb 25 and 26.
Tell us about your inspirations.
I grew up watching Pokémon and Digimon, and playing Monster Rancher the video game. It’s one of my favourite games, and I like drawing the monsters from the game franchise.
I have a fascination for horror films and zombie-themed video games. I also enjoy injecting dark humour into my works.
What’s a common reaction that you get from viewers of your artworks?
At the exhibition in Central Market, I heard that people were giggling at my artwork. A group of youngsters was also laughing at my Mamak Mornings piece, because they could relate to it.
I like to see people get weirded out by my drawings, or find them to be funny. I do not want ‘This is nice’ reactions. Feeling grossed out or creeped out is a much more interesting reaction.
How long does it take for you to create an artwork?
Depending on the size, it can take between half an hour and three hours. Some can take up to a week, like my Herman the Merman artwork. I used a Chinese calligraphy brush, and focused on different parts of the painting. It was one of the most complicated artworks I have created.
Would you like to explore other media for your drawings?
Most of my drawings are done in black and white with the Pigma pen brush. But I would like to incorporate watercolours into my artworks. I want to see these different colours merge together and produce unconventional colours in my works. But I would stick to ‘spawning’ monsters, zombies, and creatures.
What would you like to achieve in the art scene here?
In this art community, it is good to see a lot of artists and their styles, and a community that appreciates arts and various exhibitions.
For me, one of my biggest dreams is to have a Halloween-themed art exhibition – to have all these artworks displayed in a haunted house. I would want to gather and get on board fellow artists who like to draw monsters and similar themes.
Favourite food: Pizza.
Favourite book: Goosebumps horror fiction series by R.L. Stine.
Favourite bands: Crystal Castles and Sweet Valley.
Creative juice: A cup of teh o ais and a cigarette.
Article from the Sun daily by Bernard Cheah (posted on 29 November 2016)
HE may be quiet, but Yuli Yap has a lot on his mind and he transforms these thoughts into art.
Being diagnosed with autism did not stop this Ampang lad from obtaining a degree in graphic design from Curtin University, Australia. It certainly did not restrain him from setting up his own studio Predator Art and Design (facebook.com/YuliYapDesigns/), where he produces various artworks to serve the needs of skateboarders, surfers, bikers, hot rod enthusiasts, and metalheads.
His artworks have been featured in two solo exhibitions and other events such as The Best of You Exhibition 2015, Hong Kong International Art Fair in 2013 and the 7th Malaysia International Dive Expo 2012.
How long have you been making art?
I have been drawing since I was four years old, but I started the art studio in 2010. I use all kinds of mediums, ranging from digital to pen and ink, watercolours, acrylics, markers and pencils.
What inspires your artworks?
I am inspired by all kinds of things. For my acrylic paintings, I am inspired by nature and the cities. I like painting a lot of Japanese scenes as I am fascinated by Japanese culture, Zen and its simplicity. I am trying to diversify into other types of paintings, beyond Japanese culture. I get inspiration from vintage toys, hot rods, motorcycles, classic cars, video games, comic books, heavy metal, punk culture, movies, fast food, action sports, skateboarding, surfing, and tattoos.
Can you share about your fascination with Japanese culture and heavy metal.
I really like samurai and the Edo period of Japan before the Meiji Restoration. I am in love with the katanas (swords) and the armour that the samurai wore. What interests me most is the kabuto (helmet) with its intricate detail in design, in addition to the horns and the mask which were modelled after the Japanese rhinoceros beetle.
I like martial art such as ninjutsu and bushido, as well as the numerous weapons they have. I am also very fond of the Japanese tea ceremony, the art of growing bonsai, and the principle of Zen and simplicity, as well as Japanese mythology and folklore such as dragons, kappa, oni and tengu.
A lot of heavy metal graphics often reflect the mythological or legendary aspects of cultures of the long forgotten bygone era.
Besides autism itself, what are some challenges you had to overcome growing up?
I faced a lot of bullying in school and university, and rejection in general.
As a result, I took up skateboarding, an activity that helped me to do something on my own unlike team sports like football and basketball. Through skateboarding, I learnt balance, met new people and improved my self-confidence. I also started listening to metal and punk music to cope. From these, I channel all my angst into art.
Tell us about the stigmatisation of those living with autism.
A lot of people do not recognise autism in Asia. Those with Asperger’s Syndrome are perceived to be rude as they lack social cues, the ability to read body language and fit in with others. To most people, they come across as eccentric. In addition, it’s difficult to find employment because most corporations see autism as a liability.
What’s next for you?
I plan to keep producing art and make a name for myself in the art scene.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
Try not to be influenced by too many people. Art is a reflection of who you are; be yourself and it will reflect in your art. Individualism is sacred.
Other hobbies: Travelling, taking walks in the forest, and skateboarding.
Favourite food: Japanese.
Favourite flicks: Ghost Rider (2007), The Last Samurai (2013) and The Lord of the Rings film series
With ballpoint precision
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 1 November 2016)
IT IS a wonderful thing to be gifted, especially if you discover it at a young age.
Syahbandi Samat started drawing since the age of four, but he never thought that he would one day make art for a living. As he simply put it, he just liked to draw. It was only when he was commissioned by a local daily to draw seven portraits of children, and got paid a good sum afterwards that he realised he could make money out of this talent.
“I was expecting RM50 or RM100, but suddenly, the cheque was worth RM700,” he marvelled.
From there, he jumped straight into the fine art scene – sending his artworks to galleries and working his way up. Today, he is based in Galeri Titikmerah in Art Row, Publika, where he can be seen working on his next showpiece.
What were you up to following your exposure in the local newspaper?
I joined a few exhibitions and competitions, including Malaysia Emerging Artist Award (MEAA). It’s a university level competition, so anyone in Malaysia can send in an artwork, and five winners will be chosen.
When I was producing the artwork for MEAA, I still worked at my father’s car wash shop. I’d draw when there’s no car to wash. After submitting my artwork, I received a call saying that I was one of the winners, and they flew me to the Philippines to do a show.
Was that your first international award?
Yes. It was also my entry into the fine art industry in Malaysia. I didn’t know anyone in the local art scene, how things work around here, how galleries function – I was just a kid going around and sending my artworks to galleries. That was five years ago.
Prior to Galeri Titikmerah, where were you based?
Before this, I was in Kepong. I wasn’t with any studio. I had this 20 by 10 feet container, which I bought and placed in my father’s car wash space. I stayed there and did my art inside.
Moving to Galeri Titikmerah was a public debut for me. When I stayed in the container, no one could see me. When I send my artwork to galleries, people could only see my artwork. Now that I’m based in Galeri Titikmerah, I can do my work there and the public can also see how I work. That way, I can expand my art.
How did you start out using a ballpoint pen as a medium for your artwork?
Back in high school, I used to draw portraits of historians in textbooks. I found out that I could draw with the ballpoint pen, and moved on to bigger sizes. I use ballpoint pens because I want to tell the public that you don’t need expensive materials to make art. All you need is your creativity and knowledge to explore the medium that you chose.
Is there a common theme to the art you make?
Usually, it’s about the environment and things that happen around me. Fairy tales; the original, dark ones – not the versions with happy endings. I do a bit of idioms too. But lately, I’m venturing more into dark and surreal art.
Any plans for yourself in terms of art?
For now, I’m aiming to do more art residencies outside of Malaysia. I need to learn from others, because I’m a self-taught artist. I’d like to join art residencies in Asian countries, particularly Japan and South Korea. Japan is very well known for its culture and politeness, and its art is very fine and detailed. I want to learn from them because it is relevant to the kind of art that I’m doing.
Work playlist: Anything from Frank Sinatra and Arctic Monkeys to P. Ramlee.
Artist he looks up to: Leonardo da Vinci.
Number of pens to create an art piece: More than 10.
Biggest piece of art drawn: 8 x 7 feet.
A medium he’d love to try: Marble or clay sculpting
Better for Borneo
Article from the Sun daily by Rachel Law (posted on 20 September 2016)
ALENA Ose' Murang may not be very good at maths – her elder brother's got that covered – but she's profoundly inspired, and equally inspiring. The 27-year-old is an artist, musician, dancer, strategist and social entrepreneur all rolled into one; armed with a mission to bring about positive changes to society and the environment, and preserve her Borneon heritage.
She was born to a Kelabit father, but it was really her English-Italian mother – an anthropologist – who nurtured Alena's interests and identity in Kelabit culture, traditions, and their way of life. Growing up in Kuching, Alena took ngarang (dance in indigenous lingo) classes; learnt to play the sape (a traditional twostringed lute), weave and make costumes; even studied songs of the Kenyah tribe, and the language of the Penan people.
Although she has a management degree, Alena pursued an arts foundation course at Singapore's Lasalle College of the Arts in 2014. But her dreams of becoming a fine artist were dashed, when her lecturers told her she wouldn't make a happy one.
"They told me, 'Fine artists are selfish and inward-thinking; while your work is all about your community and heritage.' I was quite troubled by that for a few months, but then I started ART4 (i.e. art for) – as a hashtag, initially – promising myself to use art as a medium for social impact.
"Eventually, I started taking commissioned artwork and performances to ART4 (www. alenamurang.com). I also do management consulting, and the revenue I get from those I channel into cultural heritage and environmental impact projects," explained Alena.
This Saturday, the multi-talented lass is hosting a public launch for her debut EP, Flight which was released last month.
Have you explored your English and Italian roots?
I studied in the UK for five years, but I was a bit naive. I didn't like England because I didn't see any culture, which to me, meant colourful traditional garbs, beads, celebrations and dances back then. Only when I was a bit older I realised culture is effervescent.
I've never lived in Italy, but I try to go back every year. I really connect with where my grandma's from, which is Naples in southern Italy. It's rich in history and culture, and in a lot of ways people there are very similar to Malaysians. They love their food, and park on yellow lines. I do want to explore that side more – I just haven't done it yet.
How is storytelling through painting, dancing and playing music different for you?
Honestly, painting is my first love. I feel that I do music more, but I'd rather paint – it's my ultimate form of expression. With the sape, I don't write my own songs so I don't express all of myself through it. I use it as a medium to tell stories of my roots. I do traditional dances to keep the art form, so the only stories I tell are why and when we used to dance.
Which was the most interesting project you've done under ART4?
In January last year, we collaborated with Biji-biji Initiative to upcycle a helipad in Genting Highlands. It wasn't used anymore so they wanted an art on it. We painted a big bird, where one of the wings came out as a 3D sculpture – made using metal parts welded by Bijibiji.
About 80% of everything we upcycled were from Genting. We rummaged through its waste management area, and found old casino chairs, pots and pans; and took apart an old Transformer – it was like a playground for us! But it was taken down early this year, because Genting is going through a transformation programme. Outdoor art is almost always ephemeral.
Tell us about your EP, Flight.
My music is quite traditional, but I want to make it relatable, so that people in the urban setting and people who don't know anything about Sarawak are able to associate with it. In Flight, I play the sape and sing, and it's backed by other instruments such as violin, harp and some percussion.
Spirit animal: Hornbill.
Dessert of choice: "Dark chocolate anything!"
Favourite scents: Freshly ground coffee, or freshly mown grass.
Inspirations: Parents; social entrepreneurs Biji-biji Initiative, and Build for Tomorrow.
Favourite artists: Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian and Cilau Valadez.
Fear factor: Lizards. "I can handle snakes and scorpions – just not lizards."
The promise of art
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 15 September 2016)
FEW people can recognise talent in a child. Fewer would go out of their way to ensure that it is nurtured into something more. Thankfully for Joanne Poon, her late grandfather saw her imaginative mind and talent in drawing.
“When I was younger, my parents were busy working so I was mostly under the care of my grandfather. I would spend time with him by drawing and telling him stories.
“He was very amazed. Knowing that my parents couldn’t spend a lot of time with me, he told them that I was special and that I should continue doing art, so they’ve always been encouraging,” the 22-year-old explained.
From watching Art Attack to drawing with her father, Poon grew with her craft and in college, took up multimedia design – which encompasses animation, 3D design, web design and more – instead of illustration.
“There are lots of medium you can use to showcase your art, so it was a very good course to take,” said the graphic designer.
Have you always only been drawing, or did you also explore other forms of art?
Although I’m arty, I’m actually really terrible at craft! A lot of people assumed that I’m naturally good at it. I’ve always been drawing, and when I was 13 my parents invested in a digital tablet for me – that was how I started drawing digitally.
Did you go through the phase of drawing anime and manga?
Everybody goes through that. Japanese influence is huge, back then and even now. I’ve always been drawing people and characters, because I like creating stories. I adhered to the anime style for a good amount of time, until I realised that style of drawing is not unique anymore. It’s also not a style that people will open up to naturally.
So how has your drawing style evolved since?
I took a year to revamp my drawing style after I graduated. At first, I thought of sticking to the anime style, partly because I wanted to eventually work in the gaming industry. But then, my current boss suggested that I try a different style.
I then watched a lot of cartoons, especially Disney’s. I wondered why people are more open to Disney’s style of animation compared to Japanese anime, so I tried adopting Disney’s style of drawing cartoons. Ever since, I’ve had people come up to me at comic events to say, “I really like your style. It makes people feel happy.”
And that’s my intention – to make people happy with my drawings.
What have you achieved with your art?
A few months ago, I published my comic The Dandelion’s Promise. It’s a story that has been with me since I was nine years old, and it’s mainly about my experience with depression because I had it for a very long time.
Drawing à la anime when I was younger, I realised my art was pessimistic. When I got out of depression, my drawing style changed with me and became happier. I was depressed for the longest time, but thankfully there were supportive people around me.
That is why I published this comic; I hope for people to know that dying is not the solution to your misery. It’s about making a choice – to continue being sad, or to be happy.
You also have a full-time job at a creative agency. How does that differ from what you do in your personal time?
It’s extremely different. Graphic design mostly involves layouts, advertising work, and promotional items; and there are clients to give feedback. But graphic design has definitely helped me in terms of layout and typography, so it’s a great skill to have.
When I’m doing my own thing, I have the freedom to discover what I want, love and enjoy.
What would you tell a budding artist on self-improvement?
Enjoy what you do and learn to take criticism. A lot of artists these days – me included – don’t take it well. Granted, the criticism has to be constructive. There are people who can teach you the right techniques and how to perfect them, and that’s very important for us.
Favourite drawing subject: Evan, her blue-haired alter ego.
Favourite cartoon: Gravity Falls.
Favourite K-pop band: BIGBANG.
Favourite snack: Mushrooms.
Best creative fuel: Music.“I’m hooked on Coldplay’s new album.”
Fusing nature with art
Article from the Sun daily by Michelle Lim (posted on 1 September 2016)
MANY people have the perception that art can only be done by the talented. According to Raja Azeem Idzham (also popularly known as Ajim Juxta), passion and perseverance play a major role in an artist's success as well. Without these key traits, it will be difficult to go far based on talent alone.
Azeem has been exposed to art from as young as the age of four. His late parents, while not artists, were art graduates and have imparted their appreciation and love for art to their children. In fact, the architecture graduate decided to pursue art full time after working for a while.
"The first few years were definitely tough. People tend to ask if I can cari makan (make a living) as an artist," Azeem recalled.
"I said, of course you can – but it is not easy."
Since then, Azeem has been working on his pieces in his gallerycum-studio, Titikmerah in Publika, which is shared with two other prominent artists.
"Working on my art here has allowed me to engage with passers-by and share about my work in person," Azeem said, adding that being on site helps break the stigma that all artists are reclusive.
Last April, Azeem was gifted a Young Art Award at the 2016 Young Art Taipei fair in Taiwan.
"Getting this award made all the difference in my career as an artist," enthused the 28-year-old.
Which genre would you say your art belongs to?
There's no specific genre for what I do. However, the closest answer would be a hybrid of architecture and conceptual, abstract art. It is also surreal and contemporary at the same time.
Where do you usually draw your inspiration from?
From the people around me, and the many issues we have – especially environmental ones. As you can see from my Arcology series, most of my work contains elements of nature. This series is my reaction towards the treatment of humans on the environment. It paints a bleak, dystopian future to remind us to do something before it's too late.
Tell us about the first piece of art you created.
The most memorable piece I can think of was created when I was about 10. I turned a 70 sen exercise book into a comic about superheroes and everyday life. My teacher was impressed when she saw it.
What were some of the toughest phases in your career as an artist?
The beginning is always tough when it comes to getting exposure, recognition and sales. It takes a lot of perseverance to go through this stage. Many artists would have already given up and gone back to the nine-to-five corporate life. I'm grateful that I managed to pull through those difficult moments; otherwise I wouldn't be where I am now.
If art were a superpower, what would you do with it?
Grow more trees, and reduce the amount of buildings that are not eco-friendly.
That said, what would your dream project look like?
I'd like to collaborate with architects and engineers to fuse our buildings with nature. I want to turn all of our skyscrapers into buildings that are sustainable and
Do you think social media has played a role in your success?
In some ways, it has helped me reach out to a community of people who heavily relies on social media to find artists. Fans sometimes turn into buyers; but social media shouldn't be the only outlet to rely on.
What is your daily routine like?
I usually sketch in the mornings, and by noon I'll be at Titikmerah to work on bigger pieces. The rest of the day is spent networking and responding to emails. People often ask if it's a real job. Yes, it is – minus the punchcard and dress code.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Work hard, but remember to appreciate time with your family.