Guest Artist Spotlight – SCONG

Benny Ong (also known as SCONG) doesn’t just doodle – he doodle noodles. While that may leave you scratching your head at first, have a conversation with SCONG and checking out his art, and you’ll start to get an idea of what “doodle noodle” actually is. We spoke to him to find out more about his doodle noodling and how he juggles his time between art and being a full-time architect.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I am Benny Ong. I have been working in the construction industry for over 10 years, but it’s all a disguise for my true passion in life, which is to doodle noodle! Taking up the moniker of SCONG, I doodle noodle to create illustrations that matter to me and hopefully to you as well. SCONG represents my rebellion against the sham and drudgery of a terrible profession!

Where did your pen name come from?

I wish I had a really cool story to tell, but it’s just the initials on my army uniform’s name tag –”S.C. Ong”.

You’re a full-time architect by trade. How do you balance time between your personal comics and commercial projects?

When you really need to doodle noodle, you will find a way to doodle noodle.

Your quote on your website – “If I do not doodle noodle, I’ll die!!” – how accurate is it? How often do you doodle and draw? Do you drive your spouse crazy?

I thought it sounded funny. Like, if I do not doodle noodle, I’ll die. So, how can I live if I do not doodle noodle!? I actually doodle the most during meetings and lectures. A couple of my new prints were by-products of forcing me to sit through a lecture that is of no relevance to me. My wife is pretty cool with my doodling and I must say she has been extremely supportive of SCONG. Without her, I would certainly have doodled myself to death!

What are some of your favourite themes in your comics or artwork, and why do you love them?

I came out with this idea of a Freak Parade many, many years back, just so I can draw weird, cute and creepy characters. I draw freaky versions of gas mask babies, freaky versions of Monkey King, freaky versions of cats, freaky versions of anything! There is no escape from the Freak Parade! I also enjoy Brazilian jiu jitsu, which inspired me to create EROJITSU, a sexy amalgamation of Brazilian jiu jitsu and doodle noodle.

Your illustrations vary a lot in terms of themes, but visually they are very distinctly you. Does it come to you naturally? Do you have any secret sauce to spill for us on how to maintain that consistency?

I think it’s done through years and years of doodling. You just have to keep doodling and trying out stuff, copying stuff, mixing stuff up until you somehow come out with your secret doodle noodle sauce. It’s not a natural thing – you just kind of develop it over time.

Tell us more about your latest products. What can we expect at IAF 2018?

I recently printed a four-colour risograph ‘zine. It’s a compilation of the dog creatures I have been drawing since the beginning of the year to commemorate the year of the dog. I completed 24 different breeds and have them printed on shiny postcards as well! I also have a number of new risograph prints, stickers and poster prints.

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You can find Benny and his doodle noodles at Illustration Arts Fest at Booth E3.

IAF 2018 Interview with Friends from Taiwan

Since the first time we’ve organised Illustrations Arts Festival (IAF), we’ve always been joined by a contingent of illustrators hailing from Taiwan. They brought with them a wealth of artwork from their island to ours, of dreams, of wonders, of gods. We got to know them better every passing year, watching their ideas flourish, and hoping that our minds would be enriched by this annual exchange! We got to speak with four members of the delegation: Fuzzypig – an art agent and the coordinator for their yearly trip – along with three of their illustrators, 25degrees, Duga, and Shih-Fen.

Welcome, our illustrator friends from Taiwan! Please introduce yourselves to our readers in Singapore, what do you do?

Fuzzypig: Hello this is Fuzzypig, I’m a full-time art agent. I negotiate commercial projects on behalf of my artists, plan and manage their branding and products. Everything, really! On the side, I’ve also wrote a webcomic titled ‘Fuzzypig Illustration Diary’, which is illustrated by another comic artist. It is based off the life of 25degrees and I.

25degrees: I love dreaming up stories and unfolding their events in my head, then visualising them with what I do best – illustrating! Sometimes I’ll try doing that with simple animations, or do a mixed media approach. I’m working with paper cutting these days.

Duga: Hi! I’m Duga. I love any literary or visual works related to magic and fantasy, my creations revolve around these themes.

Shih-Fen: I’m Shih-Fen, I graduated from Academy Of Art University with a Masters degree, and now live in Taipei as a freelance illustrator. I also lecture part-time. My specialty is the picture book style, and I’ve gravitated towards using pencils and digital tools for my work.

What do you think is the most appealing element in your artwork, your biggest selling point?

Fuzzypig: I like to think that I stand out among agents since I’m someone who does creative work. My comics tell the many stories I’ve encountered since I’ve unexpectedly become an art agent. I think it’s popular among my artist friends because it reflects our hustling life, and I sure hope it gets a wider reach so people get to learn about our lives as agent and artists and our challenges!

25degrees: If you like my art or stories, perhaps you and I have similar tastes or habits! I love surreal illustrations and whimsical tales, and I like to interpret dreams.

Duga: I think my audience would have themselves nurture a love for fables, myths, and the fantastical!

Shih-Fen: I think my works gained traction as I campaigned to crowdfund my book ‘The Secrets Of Hearts’. I think its theme resonated with a large audience, and that was fortunate! I believe my particular brand of treatment to colours and light has led a couple of projects my way.

So I know 25degrees has a child-like charm to her drawings and Duga is fascinating with his pointillist style. What does each of you think is your specialty? Would you say you apply or exploit it consciously, or does it come to you naturally?

Fuzzypig: I’m completely aware I don’t draw well at all! But my friends have found some charm in my raw, unskilled drawings so there’s that. I don’t think my art does the story of ‘Fuzzypig Illustration Diary’ justice, so I got someone who’s good at drawing for that.  I do like my drawings though, I think it captures a bit of the real people my characters are based off.

25degrees: I think it comes naturally with practice. Being observant and keen to learn leads to one’s growth!

Duga: I believe that the artist’s personality determines the output. One of my few strengths is that I’m patient – when I’m doing creative work, that is. That affords me the attention to detail and the extreme care in linework and technique which developed into this style I’m known for. Not to say I don’t enjoy this very time-consuming process, it is therapeutic!

Shih-Fen: I feel that art is a process of searching for that look you like. Of course I study from artists and masters I admire, but I would try to combine it with the look that I like. Over time our style changes, because that reflects how that look has changed, too!

Tell us what is your favourite themes to draw or interpret, and why?

Fuzzypig: I picked the topic about an agent to tell my own story. However, as illustrations and picture books become more visible in Taiwan, the public at large know very little about the lives of the illustrators. I thought my comic would be a good gateway to introduce ourselves, and in doing so, perhaps that will make the environment friendlier to navigate.

25degrees: I like to imagine myself as a child, and think about what my five-year-old self would see or think about certain things. I feel that our thoughts get complicated as we grow older, and we lose that purity of thought. We as adults think in logic and morals, but a childlike imagination is precious because it is unburdened by those concerns.

Duga: Obviously anything to do with fantasy! Creating what one loves is what drives the passion!

Shih-Fen: My previous book was about love, but there are still other themes that I would want to explore! The next one I’m working on is about “reading”.

Tell us about a recent work that you’re particularly proud of! How do you think it has contributed to the betterment of your craft?

Fuzzypig: ‘Fuzzypig Illustration Diary’ for sure! I’ve always wanted to tell my own story, but being able to do that with comics – a medium I love – and authoring it, that’s a dream come true.

25degrees: Other than working on my own illustrations, I’ve also recently dabbled in the art of papercutting. I love traditional crafts! How papercutting works differ from how I usually illustrate: I have to think about if I want an intaglio or relief design, and simplify pictures, apply geometric elements – so there is a lot to consider when it comes to composing a papercut piece. I’m still learning, and I hope to be better at it! I think the paper designs and my stories and illustrations go along very well together, so I’m learning a new skill for my toolbox.

Duga: I’ll have to say it’s this key visual I made on the occasion of The Ghost Month. I was quite constrained by the requirements of my previous job working on children’s books, and it had bled into my personal work, unfortunately. It has now been three years since I left and it has taken that much time to course-correct back to the direction I wanted to go. This piece so far best represents all that I like about my own work.

Shih-Fen: I’m actually swamped with work this year, and there has been no time to make art of my own, much less those that I like. I feel that I do need to spend more time making personal work, or I risk something burning out in the process of serving only my clients.

An age-old question to artists everywhere: when do you first discover your love for drawing?

Fuzzypig: I’ve loved doodling as a primary school kid, but it wasn’t till secondary school that I felt the need to create stories of my own. ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ and ‘ONE PIECE’ are books I read almost everyday, and I would copy their art. Badly, of course, but I enjoyed it!

25degrees: I think I was a year old, when my parents handed me a pen from their office desk. I began to draw on my hand, on the walls, then along and around the entire length of my arm. I guess my parents must have had a terrible time trying to bathe me back then.

Duga: My earliest memory of drawing was when I was 5, copying characters off the cover of ‘Mashin Hero Wataru’ videotapes.

Shih-Fen: Since a child! But I’ve only gotten to study art properly at the graduate level.

How do you balance between personal and commercial projects?

Fuzzypig: Commercial projects usually limit creativity and artistic expression, but pay relatively better. I would always attempt to negotiate for a higher budget for my artists, but when that’s not possible, I’ll seek compensation in other means: more publicity for my artists, a tighter control over the timetable, for example. I would also communicate with my artists over the execution of these projects, and make sure their emotional well-being is taken care of. What I find is that commercial projects could be a good testbed to experiment with styles we’d like to see developed, to gauge how well-received it is.

]I tend to consider potential for merchandising and monetization even for personal works, so long as originality can be maintained. I try to talk things over with my artists regarding their personal works, even do some planning ahead, so we can understand what are the potential revenue or value we can derive from them, before we commit our time and effort.

25degrees: I’m still trying to get used to it. I feel my mood is affected by the projects I have to work on, and sometimes I feel I don’t measure up. Making personal art frees me from those feelings, so I’m trying to balance it out!

Duga: I keep them mostly separate! The three years I’ve spent as a publishing house employee taught me to be flexible when working commercially, I would usually adhere to what the clients ask and want. However, when I get to work on any project that allows my own tastes and sensibilities to surface, I would treat it like I do my personal work.

Shih-Fen: I’m still trying to figure it out. How I got myself into a situation where I’m buried in commercial projects this year is a rare occurrence. I’m beginning to feel like even though it’s for work, I really want to draw it in my own style!

I’m curious about where you get your pen names or nicknames from?

Fuzzypig: Fuzzypig was what 25degrees called me a long time back, then the name stuck among our circle of illustrator friends. I find that it’s quite memorable and charming, so I kept on using it, and adopted it for my brand as an agent.

25degrees: I saw this number on an air-conditioner precisely at the moment I was trying to think up a pen name. More of this story is included in my zine that I’m selling at IAF, so check it out!

Duga: I’d just graduated then and an event organiser asked me for a pen name. I didn’t have one, so I used the name of my online game character. It doesn’t even mean anything since my brother made it up. I guess I could say it symbolises my hope to be as passionate and motivated to draw…as I am to play games.

Shih-Fen: Shih-Fen is just my name in English. I used it when taking on work while based in the United States, and since it isn’t too hard for foreigners to pronounce, I’ve kept it. Is that old-fashioned? Haha!

What’s next for you?

Fuzzypig: The artists I manage: 25degrees and Duga, will each have new products and exhibitions lined up in the coming year. Both of them has launched their own indie books this year, which you can get this weekend at the IAF2018 Artist Market! Come check them out and talk to us. As for my own, a print-version of my webcomic ‘Fuzzypig Illustration Diary’ will open for pre-orders this October, hopefully it’ll gain more readers this way.

25degrees: I have a new collection of short stories, which I’ve selected from my works created over the past two years. I hope you’ll learn more about me through the book.

Duga: I’ve finally put together an art book of my own! It collects my best works from the past 10 years, and this milestone of mine fulfilled a dream I’ve had as a student. Next up I’m working on a series of drawings that reinterprets folklore and fantasy tropes and archetypes, it’s something I’ve planned to do for a long time. I’m also setting up a few exhibitions next year, hope those go well!

Shih-Fen:  I’m trying to put out a zine about “reading” next year, followed by a fold-out book. Hope you’ll look out for that!

Follow them on social media:

Fuzzypig: @fuzzypigillustrationagency

25degrees: @25degreesillus

Duga: @dugahook

Shih-fen: @shihfenlin


Check out their work and products at the Illustration Arts Fest at LASALLE College of the Arts on the 22-23 Sept 2018! This interview was done by Benjamin Chee.

 

Cosying up with COSH Studio – Graphic Novels about Singapore’s Past

1) Who are the writers and artists in COSH Studio?

Our first two phases of titles see 7 teams – Koh Hong Teng & Oh Yong Hwee (Coalition of the Savory Spare Parts), James Tan (Final Resting Place), Benjamin Chee & Lim Cheng Tju (Guidebook to Nanyang Diplomacy), Don Low (Kungfu Dough), Cheah Sinann (Terumbu), Joelyn Alexandra & Elvin Ching (Unstable Foundations), and Dave Chua & Max Loh (We’ll Eat When We’re Done).

2) How did COSH come about?

In a meeting room full of comic enthusiasts – artists and writers alike – wanted to come up with a series of comics about local heritage with a twist. More discussions and ideas ensued and the first seven teams of COSH, or Comics of Singapore Heritage, came about.

3) Where can we buy your books?

At the Illustration Arts Festival! Haha. Our books are also available at select POPULAR Bookstores, and Kinokuniya Singapore, do check them out!

4) What titles are you selling at IAF 2018?

All our Phase 1 and 2 titles – Coalition of the Savory Spare Parts, Final Resting Place, Guidebook to Nanyang Diplomacy, Kungfu Dough, Terumbu, Unstable Foundations, and We’ll Eat When We’re Done.

5) If a comic was a dish, what are the important ingredients that MUST go into it?

Ben: Charsiew!!! *Good* charsiew makes everything better!

CT: Garlic, Chilli padi, and Worchester “Wooster” sauce.

Elvin:

  • – 11oz Fresh Story, separated and “well-texted”
  • – 11oz Visual Skill, peppered with structured thumbnails
  • – 12 tbsp Gusto
  • – 1 grain of Salt
  • – 2 tbsp Dark Soy Humour
  • – 5 gallons Caffeine
  • – Large rolls of 2cm Thick Human Skin
  • Scrutinize the writer carefully and discard unnecessary plot points mercilessly. Separate the social life from the artist and beat gently, picking up speed and strength slowly. Heat a large wok of high heat and scramble the ingredients angily like a religious conservative nut clicking on the “I am Against the Repeal of 377A ” petition”. Add epiphanies as and when they occur and serve.

6) What are some comics you guys enjoy reading?

Ben: ‘East Of West’ – a fantastical sci-fi Western, ‘Sangetsu No Lion’ – a slice-of-life manga bursting with feels, ‘The Ravages Of Time’ – a Machiavellian retelling of the Three Kingdoms tale.

CT: Can I mention music instead? The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell.

Elvin: There are too many genres to list, but the recent ones i have enjoyed are NAJA and Nimona. Anything by Adrian Tomine. I will devour anything by Leinel Yu and Mike Mignola too for the visuals. On the local front, I’m still trying to catch up on their later volumes of The Resident Tourist by Troy Chin.

Jo: Matt Fraction’s “Hawkeye” series, The Chew Series by John Layman and Rob Guillory, Vox Machina: Origins, Dungeon Meshi, Rex Regrets, Robert the Otter, and anything by Max Loh (LOL #plug), Derek Chua, Hwei Lim, and Fishball. I’m working on my local list /ashamed.

7) What are some of the public feedback you have received about your comics?

CT: The public didn’t know about the Sepoy mutiny in Singapore, with many of them initially confusing it with the Sepoy mutiny in India of 1857-58. So they were glad to learn a little more about Singapore history from reading the book.

8) Tell us an interesting, secret fact about one of your writers!

Jo:  I can’t speak for the other writers in the group, but umm… lately when I’m stressed, holding my gaming dice collection in my hands calms me a little. Holding a D20 like how Astrid from Crazy Rich Asians holds that pearl earring in that film calms me a little further. Haha.

Elvin: Ok, this is a not-so-secret fact: Benjamin Chee, the artist for Guidebook to Nanyang Diplomacy is a brilliant Pixel Artist. And someday when I am a millionaire, though Joelyn will kill me for it, I will commission Benjamin to render the entire Unstable Foundations story into pixel art format. Watch for it! (Put down the knife, Joelyn…)

Jo: I won’t kill you, Elv. I’ll just want… a cut.


Check out COSH Studios at https://www.coshstudios.com/ or at their IAF 2018 art market booth this coming 22nd and 23rd of September at LASALLE College of the Arts.

COSH Studios will also be giving a talk titled “Partners-In-Crime” from 15:30 – 16:30 on Saturday 22nd. Tickets can be purchased here: https://iaf2018cosh.peatix.com/view

Guest Artist Spotlight – Firestarter Design Studios

Guest Artist Spotlight – Firestarter Design Studios

Sarah Isabel Dominique’s now-famous love for dragons and dinosaurs evolved from a childhood love of crocodile plush toys. As the brains behind Firestarter Design Studios, Sarah’s career has had a similar evolution, from animation to concept art and toy design – and from an unknown at regional events to an in-demand creator at Los Angeles’ Designercon. We spoke to the dragon artist about being a little pyromaniac, balancing her workload and what’s next.  


Where did the name Firestarter Design Studios come from?

I have an unhealthy obsession with fire. I tried to set fire to a tree at school, nearly set the house on fire… by accident, and successfully set garlic bread on fire. In that order. But really I got the name when I was studying in FZD School of Design. I have tons of little ideas, little sparks. Some die off quite fast and some survive longer to grow into something more substantial. I’d like to set the world on fire… with my ideas.

Tell us about yourself and what you do?

By day, an artist. By night, a dragon… artist. I started off with animation when I was still in polytechnic and found out that  I didn’t enjoy animating, and I wasn’t any good at it. In year three, I made the decision to shift my portfolio towards illustration and have been generally much happier since. I’ve been in game art, concept art and now toy design.  Right now, I work freelance for Disney and Magicmon, doing style guides and production artwork for merchandise.

You draw dragons and dinosaurs quite often. Why do you love them?

I was six years old when Jurassic Park came out and I loved it. I had lots of dinosaur figures and would set up little armies of them to attack each other… and the few dolls I had. I probably worried my parents a little. Then Dragonheart arrived and I was like, “These guys have wings and breathe fire! Way cool!” If we go way back though, my first love was that of a crocodilian nature. I had no less than 10 crocodile plush toys and would carry them with me everywhere in the house and when I was out with my parents.

How do you balance time between your personal and commercial projects?

An excellent question. I have no idea. My personal work is driven by inspiration, which is why you will sometimes see bursts of work appear on my social media before dying down for a while. Commercial work always takes priority. Sometimes, if I’m feeling burnt by commercial work, I squeeze some personal work out to kind of act as lubricant between assignments.

What kinds of challenges do you face when translating a 2D illustration into a 3D toy?

Sometimes things get lost in translation. What you thought looked perfectly fine on paper actually doesn’t look so great in 3D, and that’s not a sign of being a terrible artist. I think the tricky part is capturing the feeling of the drawing in a 3D shape. When I was working with licensed character toys, it was easy for subtle details to get lost in the modelling process, and I’d often do paint-overs or draw-overs to ease the model back into what I thought looked best. Even when looking at a full 3D turnaround that looked good, I needed to see an actual printed prototype before I could give the go-ahead.

You’ve attended several conventions around the world, how different are the crowds’ response when it comes to your work?

I was young and starting out when I did the show in Thailand, so no one really paid much attention to me. I built up an audience through the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention, and social media. By the time I hit Designercon, people kind of already knew who I was. When the show floor opened, this lady ran up to me and asked for certain limited edition Darumao I had painted up. I was really surprised and flattered that she had been tracking me with such enthusiasm. I met up with some great toy artists I was friends online with, and made even more new friends and fans.

Tell us more about your latest projects and will they be available at IAF?

I have a pair of fox pins I have been toying with since last year and two kaiju pins from my chibi kaiju series. I actually am sorting out Darumao sofubi toys, but since they’re not ready yet, I will be releasing a small resin batch at the show in a new colour.

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Check out more of Sarah’s art on Instagram at @onibi_art. Stop by her booth at Table C2!

Dogs, Cats and A Touch of Shamelessness: An Interview with Stephanie Raphaela Ho (Muffinsaurs)

During a panel at this year’s Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention, Stephanie Raphaela Ho (better known as Muffinsaurs) got to finally meet and chat with one of her artistic idols, TokiDoki’s main man, Simone Legno–and she did so in spectacular fashion. When asked who she would want to work with next, Stephanie proudly proclaimed how shameless she was, and made it clear that TokiDoki was at the top of her list.

Legno had a good laugh about it, but don’t be too surprised if a Muffinsaurs x TokiDoki collaboration becomes a reality.

Since the 2014 release of her comic, The Adventures of Fatman and Superchub – a collection of strips about a pair of plus-sized superheroes who don’t “give a cow poop about how they’re perceived” – Stephanie has been expanding her little empire built on a foundation of cute cats and corgi butts.

“Commercial work takes up a lot of time and is the bread and butter of any full time illustrator’s career,” she says. “Currently, I’m in the process of taking another big leap to cut down on commercial work so that I could spend more time in building my own brand.”

We sat down recently to talk about her art, her pets, and the future of Fatman and Superchub.  

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m an illustrator who draws cute and quirky stuff. I’m more known for my animal murals! Inspired by my dog and two cats, I also designs merchandise such as buttons, mugs and even repositionable fabric wall stickers for your home.

When did you discover your love for drawing / illustration?

At a very young age actually. Since I learned how to hold a pencil! I was scribbling all over the house – an activity which was not appreciated by my parents.

A lot of your illustrations focus on cats and dogs. How much of it comes from personal experiences? How many stories are of Truffles, Patches and Barney?

I love animals and had been drawing dogs and cats way before I had my own. After I got my dog, Barney, and two cats, I was inspired by their daily antics to draw my experiences with them! It’s kind of like blogging, but instead of writing, I draw a comic strip. Not all of my stories are of my pets, but you can follow their silly life on Instagram at @Barney.Truffles.Patches

Will we see more of Fatman and Superchub?

I do hope so! I’m supposed to be working on the new reprint! That shows how bad I am with time management currently.

How was the panel with Simone Legno?

It was awesome! I finally got to talk to him after following his work for 10 years! Also, it took me 10 years to get his name right! Because he is Italian, his name is actually pronounced as ‘See-mon-aye’, not ‘See-mon’. Talk about a fox-pass – or is it faux-pas?  

What will you be bringing to IAF this year? And what merch can we expect in years to come?

I’ll be bringing stickers! Cute, weird-as-hell stickers, as well as wall stickers. I will also bring iPhone cases, posters and my colouring book. I hope to expand my wall stickers in the future, so that I could offer printed wall murals for my fans internationally!

 


 

You can find out more at www.muffinsaurs.com and follow Stephanie on Instagram at @muffinsaurs.