In this edition of our Ask A __ series, we speak to three artists of varying art backgrounds on what they do, why they do what they do, and how others can do it too

In times of chaos and crisis (not unlike what we’re facing in this pandemic), people turn to art as a beacon of hope. Art connects us with our humanity and fosters the community that we intrinsically seek as social beings. Art expresses the words we cannot say and evokes emotions that inspire growth and healing. If anything, art truly shines in dark times—all the more reason to support the people behind the artworks that remind us of what it means to be human.

To commemorate World Art Day that’s observed annually on April 15, we speak to three local artists of varying art backgrounds to find out what art means to them and where the future of the art scene in Malaysia is heading.

Haris Rashid

Ask An Artist: What does art mean to you and how do you put your work out there? (фото 2)

Tell us what you do as an artist.

I am a multi-disciplinary artist. My works range from paintings, murals, digital art to sculpture and art installations. I tend to explore a lot of mixed mediums taking inspiration from flora and fauna.

When and how did you discover your love for the arts?

I’ve always been drawing ever since I could remember. Also, having my mum, who is an art teacher, helped too. I was exposed to arts from a very young age so it’s something I naturally gravitate towards.

What does art mean to you?

Art, to me, is an extension of the soul; something elusive that we always have been attempting to capture. In whatever form it takes, it’s a form of storytelling.

Why did you choose your particular form/expression(s) of art over others?

I’m most comfortable in painting. It is quite therapeutic to me and I enjoy the process of it.

What are some of the challenges of being an artist in Malaysia?

I guess the effort it takes to be sustainable [make a living] through art—there’s a lot of ups and downs. The art circle tends to be small, I wish we could expand wider. It’s also challenging to gain more exposure and opportunities.

How do you hone your skills and put yourself out there as an artist?

I try to practice art daily as much as I can. I also learn from and admire the work of other great artists to see how can I push my art further. Trying different mediums also pushes me out of my comfort zone.

What are some of your proudest artworks or projects so far?

I do like my hijab collaboration I did with Bokitta last year. There were a total of five designs based on nature elements.

I also enjoyed the mural I did for Toppen Shopping Centre in Tebrau, Johor.

What do you think of the present and future of the art scene in Malaysia?

There’s always room to improve, especially when it comes to art appreciation and the cultivation of arts. I hope we can reach more Malaysians outside of the main cities to pursue art. I wish that we are more open in our conversations and are willing to share knowledge so that we all benefit from the art scene.

What advice would you pass along to a budding artist?

The art scene can be daunting but as long as are really passionate in your craft and have a good attitude to always learn, you will always find like-minded people.

Follow Haris on Facebook and Instagram to see his artwork.

Miriam Omar

Ask An Artist: What does art mean to you and how do you put your work out there? (фото 3)
Ask An Artist: What does art mean to you and how do you put your work out there? (фото 4)

Tell us what you do as an artist.

I am a multi-disciplinary artist. My main mediums are painting (acrylic), digital art, mixed media and textiles. I am also the founder of Project Mirro, a lifestyle label where I sell all my art and designs.

When and how did you discover your love for the arts?

I’ve loved art since I was a little girl. I was always drawing, painting, writing, I even dabbled in theatre and acting. It was only in my late 20s did I decide to do art full time as a career and quit my desk job. Prior to being a full time artist, I was working as a Marketing Specialist and doing art on the side as a hobby.

What does art mean to you?

To me, art means freedom and liberation—to freely express how I see and feel about the world; to share my point of view and perspective; to connect with like-minded people who resonate with my art.

Why did you choose your particular form/expression of art over others?

I tend to have so many ideas and too little time to execute. The type of art I do allows me to express my ideas quickly, complete them, and then start on my next idea. There’s still so much more to explore, experiment and discover. My creative process usually starts with me drawing and painting the artwork digitally, and then I move on to painting the artwork using acrylic paints on canvas. I mix the acrylic colours as close as possible to my digital colour swatches, and have a multitude of brushes and objects I use to create the same textures and brushstrokes I use digitally.

The end result always varies, but to me, that’s the fun part. Sometimes instead of painting the artwork, I prepare the digital artwork as a textile pattern and print it on fabric to make it into clothes or furniture. Prior to being an artist, I [have also] worked in fashion and interior design so I enjoy translating my art into products as well.

What are some of the challenges of being an artist in Malaysia?

There is a certain negative stigma with being an artist in Malaysia—it’s not something we are encouraged to do in our society. For example, my high school didn’t allow me to take Art for SPM, and I was asked to do biology instead. I had to write a letter of appeal to do art. A lot of people were also worried for me when I quit my job to do arts full-time because they don’t see a future in it. Unless you grew up surrounded by people in the arts, you have to constantly tune out the noise and stick to your guns to be able to do it.

The next big challenge is making a living by making and selling your art. Not everyone is going to like your art and not everyone is going to know about you. To elevate yourself as an artist, you have to learn entrepreneurship and marketing skills to be able to promote and put yourself out there, on top of honing your skills and developing your art. The reality is that it’s not just about the art. You need to have good social skills to network and make connections to get visibility. If people know about you, people will know your art, then your art becomes valuable and projects will come to you. Having said that, there are so many types of artists out there, all with different kinds of struggles and hardships.

How do you hone your skills and put yourself out there as an artist?

To hone my skills, I practice drawing/painting and do research every day. Sometimes I take classes and watch tutorials to refine my work. It’s an ongoing process and it never ends. There’s always something new to learn, a new technique to discover, a new medium to try. I also love going to art exhibitions and getting inspired by other artists and learn from them.

As for putting myself out there, I use social media as the main channel to showcase my art and share my story and process. I have an online shop and I’m on society6 to sell my art. I also network and collaborate with other brands so I could be part of different communities and connect with new people. Putting yourself out there means giving people the opportunity to get to know your work—be it through social media, exhibitions, events, or putting your work in a physical space or establishment.

What are some of your proudest artworks or projects so far?

My current favourites are two of my latest artworks, Stalking Operation and Woman / Perempuan.

What do you think of the present and future of the art scene in Malaysia?

When I started doing art (before Instagram existed) it was hard for artists to have autonomy and independence over their art. They would have to rely on galleries to represent them and connect them to buyers, advertise on magazines and newspapers, or find a way to be in a physical space to get visibility.

With the rise of social media, artists are able to promote their art, connect with fans and brands, and sell their art easily so they could continue making more art. Social media changed the game for artists all over the world. In Malaysia, it exposed Malaysian talent to the masses. People are now way more knowledgeable and appreciative of art. They want to support Malaysian artists. They want art in their homes. Brands want to work with artists. Establishments want art on their walls. In the future, I only see this improving and progressing even more. Now there is even NFT art, which gives artists another channel to earn income with their art. 

What advice would you pass along to a budding artist?

That it is a marathon, not a sprint! It takes years to develop your art, make connections and figure out the best way to make a comfortable living while making art. There will be lots of hardships and challenges, especially in the beginning. But you’ll get better at it, and once you’ve found a good rhythm, the work will flow, the income will flow, and soon you’ll be living your dream materialising all your artistic ideas. Be consistent with the work, have a good work ethic, and learn to be resourceful.

Follow Miriam on Instagram, Twitter or her website to see her artworks.

Lau Kia Hau

Ask An Artist: What does art mean to you and how do you put your work out there? (фото 7)
Ask An Artist: What does art mean to you and how do you put your work out there? (фото 8)

Tell us what you do as an artist.

I work as a designer and visual effects supervisor. During my spare time, I enjoy working on personal art pieces using photography, motion graphics, and 3D animation as a way to chill and refresh.

When and how did you discover your love for the arts?

As a child, watching the amazing visual effects in movies like Jurassic Park, Total Recall and Star Wars blew me away, and I’ve always wanted to follow their footsteps of creating visuals which leave as much as an impact on the audience as they have on me. Upon graduating from arts college, I entered the motion graphic industry and have loved working with digital visual arts and motion graphics ever since.

What does art mean to you?

Art is a personal space for me to explore and create purely from feeling, without limitations. It has also given me so many opportunities to grow and learn new techniques for my work.

Why did you choose your particular form/expression of art over others?

Motion graphics and 3D is my main passion, but I also love exploring other mediums to combine them with, like photography and video. It’s really fascinating to learn different ways to create striking visuals, and I’m always excited to try new things.

What are some of the challenges of being an artist in Malaysia?

I think one of the biggest challenges is getting our name out there while finding an audience that resonate and identify with our work.

How do you hone your skills and put yourself out there as an artist?

I practise and try out new technical skills and software, and I find I learn a lot by trying new styles as well. I also enjoy getting to know and interacting with artists on social media as much as I can.

What are some of your proudest artworks or projects so far?

I loved working on these artworks (see below) as it was so much fun experimenting with bright and vivid colours!

What do you think of the present and future of the art scene in Malaysia?

The talk of the town seems to be moving towards NFTs in the international scene. Although it is still a relatively new concept, I feel it gives a lot of opportunities for Malaysian artists and their works to be known overseas.

What advice would you pass along to a budding artist?

I would say that the most important way to keep motivated to create is to be true to yourself and do what you love.

Follow Lau on Instagram and Twitter to see his artworks.

Find more stories from our Ask A __ series here.

See also  181 Fremont Residences Present a World Premiere Art Exhibition from Fashion Designer Naeem Khan and Fine Artist Stanley Casselman

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