As I pen down this little story of mine, I wonder, myself, how many moons ago that I have acquainted myself with art and flowers. If there is one story of mine worth telling, this will be it.
Of Post Graduation
Some of you might have known, I moved to Singapore since high school, and graduated from NAFA (Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts) with a diploma in Fine Art, majoring in Western Painting. It sounded like an odd and exotic course choice (especially in Asian countries) but I did it anyway. Art is my lifetime passion and I could not imagine myself studying anything else, though the idea of career and money mean very differently for this idealistic teenage girl. Upon graduation, I did a few years of children art teaching and then worked at an art gallery as a gallery sales assistant. I was not too contented with my job, as it felt just like another 9-5 job with too many children to teach and anxious parents to deal with (Don't get me wrong, I love children! But I figured out that it's not my lifetime calling). But I needed the necessary skills and experience to gain other than just painting, as I learnt a lot about art companies, management, sales and pricing, things that I did not learn in college. Believe me, during the early career years, I didn't touch my brush and paint for years as I was way too young, clueless and uninspired, blaming my daytime job as a perfect excuse to have taken all my time and creativity freedom.
A Child's Eye, A Child's Mind
Back in the classroom, we used a lot of ordinary materials found in daily life to teach and grab the students' attention, like stones, leaves, broken crayons, and even alphabet macaronis. I would use the leftover materials to casually construct a quick art after class, and took pictures of them. It was an initial intention of pure fun and creativity, and I wasn't even thinking about anything serious. But my friends suggested I should post them on Facebook and Instagram (These giant apps were pretty new and still alien circa 2000), and so naively, I did anyway.
'Artworks' made of materials gathered after class. I had so much fun then.
When it comes to flowers, it was a gradual transition from using the random materials I found everyday. I remembered clearly that it was my dear grandma's birthday, and I was figuring out what to gift her. I wandered around her garden and plucked a blooming red rose. Somehow at that blink of instant, I thought that it looked like a puffy dress. So I press-dried it and made her a little artwork. She loved it instantly! The immediate response from my grandma gave me such a huge inspirational kick, that I have always been looking for a zero-distance experience in art with people.
Flowers and other ordinary materials can easily be comprehended by almost everyone. In college, we were encouraged to do projects with serious topics and abstract ideas, but I personally feel it creates a barrier between the art, the artist, and the viewer. This approach is straightforward and simple, un-overanalysed and genuine, that even my grandma understood it. So to me, it was also a break out of my comfort zone.
The Flowergirls Series
From there, it seems like I have found my calling in art. I developed a whole series of artwork using watercolour and flowers. The Flowergirls series was one of my earliest and most personal. The fusion of watercolour and petals are so seamless and sublime, I could just stare at the artworks for hours.
[insert classic pieces like Russian Red, Rose Kimono]
I would obsessively gather flowers everyday, from my garden, from the florist, from the park, just to understand and explore all sorts of flowers and foliage I could find. As I only used fresh flowers back then (I didn't know anything about preserved flowers until much later, and this will have to be another day of storytelling, my friend), it was challenging yet therapeutic at the same time. I have to gather materials a day before. But if they're plucked from my garden or elsewhere, I have to create my work as soon as possible. I usually start creating in the evening in my front yard. That is when the sunlight turns merciless and perfect for photo-taking. If it's windy, I will work inside my studio.
Some pieces require sketching beforehand, but a lot are spontaneous ideas and experimentations. So I could be done in 10 minutes or an intensive stretch of two to three hours. I also learnt to let go of my worries and be more versatile, as nature has taught me what's done is better than perfect, as some works can never be repeated. My works are mostly about that very moment I feel and how I visualise with nature. It might not be the best work at that point of time, but it best represents that particular story and context.
Sometimes I have an idea in mind, but when I don’t have the suitable materials, or the timing or location is not right, I will keep that ‘sketch’ in mind. Other times when I travel, I find the most extraordinary materials or inspirations that I have to complete on the spot immediately. This happens for daily practices. But when it comes to organizing and selecting works for an exhibition or installation, it is however another tedious story to tell. It took nearly eight months to plan from scratch and execute my exhibitions that I have done in Australia, China and Singapore.
Found some beautiful fallen maples leaves on the streets of Shanghai. I brought some back to my hotel room, and did this goldfish artwork immediately!
Whereas this exhibition at Dalian, China took me months to plan, and days to install!
Of Moonlighting Jobs
My first two job inquiries popped in my email. One's from American Express at the United States, and the other was QQ from China. You could imagine the shock on my face, and thought that it must be a scam. But no, they were legit commissions as the clients loved my artworks. From there, I started receiving moonlighting jobs, while working on my full time job. Sooner or later, my commissions outweighed my daytime job and I considered real hard to make the biggest decision in my life. I took a sabbatical leave from my company to try out freelancing full time, and I never went back. Best decision ever.
Artworks for Weibo Mother's Day Campaign
So you see, this is a less beaten path nonetheless, but also a pretty amazing journey to share with you, and I hope it gives you a glimpse of the stories behind my works. I am grateful for each and everyone of you who have supported me, my team and my brand thus far. And if you are an aspiring designer or artist, never give up. It took me at least 7 years to get to where I am today. And I hope we all live for such passionate legacy to tell our next generation. And I wish you all the very best!