Did you do art at school or is art more of a hobby?
Yes to both! I chose art as one of my options in high school and college. I continued to do art in university but less in the traditional sense so I actually lost touch with painting for years. We are probably talking 8/9 years. I actually enjoy making art now more than ever – maybe because there’s no pressure to meet anyone’s brief other than my own. I would say it’s a passion rather than a hobby.
One thing I do want to point out though, is just because you go to art class or art school, it doesn’t automatically make you a good artist. Actually, it’s a difficult one because teachers might not even like your work! It really just comes down to practice and passion. But certainly, it gives you a foundation.
What’s your favourite painting and why?
Would it be narcissistic to talk about my favourite painting from my own collection? It’s a sad one, titled (I Was) Once a Crybaby, Now I Just Admire the Rain. I made it one weekend when I was feeling horrendous and just needed to relieve myself. I posted the process on my Instagram Stories to which some friends responded with hearty eyes. It was almost strange to me because I thought the painting would be too sad to admire! That’s when I came to the realisation that you can create something good out of something bad. This painting has now become a reminder of a hard time that I overcame. It means a lot to me and aesthetically, I also love it. It’s currently sitting on a shelf that I have a chance of waking up to everyday.
I should also add that this is the only painting that I will NEVER sell the original of. I may consider art prints in the future, who knows, but I’m keeping this one!
How would you describe your art? What type of artist are you?
Something that doesn’t belong in this world? Someone once asked me where my paintings are based and truth be told, I don’t know as I use a lot of references from Pinterest. My paintings are not place-specific but rather, I’d like the viewer to be taken out of their everyday surroundings and transformed to somewhere quite magical. Actually, I choose my references based on how I feel towards it and whether I can heighten that feeling through my art. If it’s a mundane subject, then I enjoy the idea of alchemy. I like being a cool artist rather than someone who just paints pretty things, if that makes sense?
I don’t consider my art realist which is something I’ve repeated a few times over on Instagram. My main focus has always been colour and texture. I like to think there’s some fantastical elements to my artwork…something ethereal because that to me, is the most realistic. Understanding how something is so beautiful yet so fragile is just like life isn’t it?
You spend so much time painting! What do you like most about it?
I try! I used to complain that there was never enough time for it and even less so now that I’m an adult, so I make time. Honestly, art makes me feel nice even at my lowest. I guess it’s a form of escapism and because oil pastel art involves a lot of blending with the fingers, a lot of tension is released. Second to that, I like the growth I see through making each piece. It always looks childish to start off with but when it starts coming together, that’s when the magic happens. I like this a lot. It reminds me that the same happens in life too and you just have to get through it to grow. A beautiful painting doesn’t just happen on its own. Actually, making art again has reminded me of life’s most important lessons that we often forget. We have to see a project/circumstance through in order to get stronger. That’s why, I try to complain as minimally as possible and just be grateful everyday for the progress. Today’s result will be beneficial to tomorrow’s success.
Which artists inspire you?
I am not that up to date with artists in the traditional sense – especially as modern art can be very hit and miss. Yayoi Kusama is a big favourite though. I went to her exhibition in 2014 at Tate Modern and thought it was incredible, particularly the Infinity Rooms. Having read more of her bio, I just found her story really captivating and her as a person extremely relatable.
Instagram is more my stop-shop now for viewing artists’ work. I have been following @itsreuben for a few years and it’s quite obvious why. I also like @designdain – she’s this amazing Korean illusion artist that absolutely everyone should check out!
When I was in my teens, I had an Art Dictionary book which I loved flicking through from time to time. It really helped me understand a lot of historic art. Some of my favourites are The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch, and Narcissus (circa 1597-1599) by Caravaggio. Studying this really helped me understand the storytelling of art alongside actually painting since I studied Art and Design in school.
Lately, I’ve been really observing of album art and the cinematography in films since it’s gotten so aesthetic over the past few years! Lyrics from songs is also an interesting one.
How did you first get into art?
I have always been creative from a young age! In primary school, I won art and handwriting competitions. I took piano lessons and can still play (although not as great as I can do art). I’ve tried many creative endeavours – crochet, cross-stitch, bullet journalling, you name it. I’m the youngest in the family and both my brothers were great drawers – technically better than me by the time I reached their age. One of my brothers taught me how to colour properly when I was 11/12 years old. The next day, I showed the artwork I had drawn and coloured with the help of my brother (Disney’s Stitch if you must know). One of my classmates saw it and next thing you know, the whole class has seen it and gave a lot of compliments. I was a very shy kid so I didn’t know how to take it but in some respect, it felt nice to express myself so I carried on. I think that was my first real conscious exposure to colour which then developed over the years to become my trademark.
How long does it take you to paint?
My average painting time has lengthened over the course of rediscovering art. The difference between an amateur artist and professional artist is in the finishing touches. The more I paint, the more I am realising this. That is not to say that I consider myself professional either but I definitely think my standards are getting higher thus painting longer than when I first started. On average, I spend 3-4 hours per painting. I don’t like to rush as I want the process to be as mindful as possible. There are times when I can paint surprisingly fast and energetically. Conversely, there are other days when I paint a lot slower. It just depends on my mood. To be honest, I don’t really time myself. I just let the process take over so that it becomes a journey in itself. Sometimes the journey is easy and there’s peace to it; other times, it is a hard battle you need to fight – usually with your mind. But that’s the beauty in the art – it looks easy but it’s never easy.
Do you have any inspirations behind your art?
Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is whether my art can be considered social or political…and I think yes. A conversation popped up some time ago about being political and/or social (unrelated to art) and it really made me realise that being either of those things isn’t necessarily about (solely) campaigning or having a loud voice. Opinions can be expressed quietly and that’s what my art is doing, in a dignified way I guess.
Indirectly, the pandemic started influencing my art which you’ll understand from the titles of a lot of my initial pieces. Aesthetically, I am painting what looks interesting or challenging to me but mentally, I might take a metaphor/phrase or social circumstance and channel that into the painting to give it meaning. I never paint something just for the sake of it being pretty but definitely, I always paint something because I feel like it.