Jon Tan’s foray into the world of arts started later than most. Growing up in a traditional Chinese family meant that pursuing a career in the creative field was off his radar. “I came from the usual conventional education route. It wasn’t until my junior college years that I started being more exposed to the arts,” he shares.
Fast forward half a decade and the multidisciplinary artist and designer—who is currently the art director of local design studio and clothing brand Beyond The Vines—has done work for an array of clients which includes Nike, ArtScience Museum and even hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar.
Recounts Tan of his introduction to illustration: “Back in 2019, I was a part of the vintage store Death Threads, which held monthly fashion pop-ups. That platform provided me with the opportunity to illustrate over two years’ worth of promotional posters, which was where I built my design fundamentals.”An average day of work includes a flurry of back-to-back meetings followed by hours of ideation. “It always starts with research for me. I try to find out what my clients are looking for and focus on aligning it to my personal design language and ethos. From there, I begin to sketch a draft, filling in details along the way based on emotions I am feeling or wish to invoke.”
“It is important not to confuse visibility with success. The number of views or likes does not determine the standard of a piece of work.”
Tan shares that his recent references have primarily been distilled from fashion month as he was paying close attention to everything from show invites to runway set designs. Music and travel have also been two indispensable sources of inspiration for Tan, who sees personal experiences as the greatest catalyst for creativity.
Once the initial draft is complete, Tan begins to play with colour and texture. Referring to this part as the ‘actualisation process’, he notes that it is one of constant trial and error. “Despite having worked on many projects now, I feel as though each has its own process and it all boils down to what works best at the end of the day.”
With social media more prevalent than ever, it has become a key marketing and branding tool for all in the creative field. Tan has certainly been quick to adopt this, with his Instagram serving as a curated portfolio that showcases his best works. While he appreciates the praise and recognition he has received online, he understands that remaining humble is key. “It is important not to confuse visibility with success. There are tons of smaller illustrators both locally and regionally who are producing excellent work, and just because a particular piece of work does not garner as many views or likes as another does not mean it is of a lower standard.”
Looking ahead, the future is nothing but bright for Tan. With an interest that spans varying mediums, he is looking to elevate his illustrations through animations. “In the coming months, I would like to incorporate more subcultures outside fashion into my works. I feel I am in the right direction in terms of my creative journey and I cannot wait to show you guys more.”
A childhood interest in comic books led Temasek Polytechnic graduate Hoon JiaLing, or JL as she prefers to be known, to a career in graphic design and illustration. While many kids spent their time outdoors, Hoon would pore over her sibling’s Archie Comics.“I would scan through the pages and stare at all the visuals. It felt like a whole other world between those pages, with so many little details that fed my imagination.”
A quick glance at Hoon’s works and one would instantly spot the feminine, childlike sensibilities that have carried over from her adolescence. Pastel colours and playful characters are drawn against a fantasy backdrop, with a myriad of references that include Alice in Wonderland. Hoon describes her art style asa playground for her inner child, sharing: “When I embark on any new project, I always start with looking at children’s storybooks. From there, I pinpoint the details that catch my attention and try to flesh them out with my whimsical sketches.”
Elaborating further, Hoon also notes the significance that her friends play in her work. “I turn to my friends for feedback, asking which parts of my illustration captures and holds their attention.” Her partner and closest friends also frequently chat about works they see online, bouncing ideas off each other on what does and doesn’t resonate with them. She acknowledges that personal taste is highly subjective: “I like for there to be a good mix of ideas from everywhere. I try to seek inspiration outside the illustration space as well, as that seems really mundane to me.”
Speaking of the current state of illustration and the arts inSingapore, Hoon hopes to see more artists recognise the value they bring to the table. “I think it’s easy as a new artist to compromise your beliefs and work for a big client. I would like to see more illustrators, or even just creatives in general, fight for authenticity.” She also highlights that it’s important for the industry to spotlight lesser-known artists, and that collaboration between these talents would catapult the industry to greater heights.
Lastly, Hoon speaks on this issue’s theme of ‘Play’ and what it means to her as an emerging artist. She prides herself on transporting her audience into a daydream, a fantasy land depicted in fairy tales: “My work is a visual representation of my state of mind, an idealistic vision of the world and everything around me. It romanticises my life and I hope it brings a certain level of joy to all who partake in it.”
Going by the online moniker Fakejol, illustrator-animator Jolene Tan has been in the visual arts field for a considerable time. With a career in motion design that spans over four years and as a media design lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, she is no novice to the industry.
Tan was an artistic child and spent many of her pre-pubescent years drawing. Although she remembers not being particularly good at it, she sees it as the launching pad for her interest in the arts. It wasn’t until her university years that she developed a profound interest in animation and illustration, which was spearheaded by her love for Japanese director and screenwriter Masaaki Yuasa’s works. “It changed my perception of what 2D animation could look like,” she recounts.
Looking at all her works, the influences from her passion for animation is undeniable. Geometric shapes, bold colours and varying textures make up her artworks, working in unison to compose an imagery that is reflective of a ’90s newspaper comic. Tan describes her work as a reflection of how she views the world, sharing: “I like to combine several subjects, creating work based on memories I have with the people in my life.”
“Having fun with my work creates a sense of chaos, but there is novelty and authenticity in that.”
Her recent inspirations are drawn from tons of sources, ranging from packaging designs at supermarkets to indie books sold at the annual Singapore Art Book Fair. Tan is big on vintage clothing too, with several of her most notable works being parodies of Japanese brands (think Hysteric Glamour and Evisu). “I also look at textiles for inspiration as they fascinate me, how they can match pattern on pattern so beautifully. Additionally, my love for Viennese Secessionist designs are a recurring reference as the artistry from that era is unparalleled.”
The theme of ‘Play’ is one that is close to Tan’s heart, and she interprets it as a balance of vibrancy and disorder. “A part of me feels that having fun with my work creates a sense of chaos, but there is novelty and authenticity in that. I relish the fact that there is a sense of naivety in the way I view things and I’m sure [this can be seen] in my art.”
Fresh from a recent collaboration with educational giant TED-Ed, Tan is revelling in the afterglow of it all. She expresses her gratitude for all the opportunities she has had, beaming: “I’m extremely thankful to be able to work with a dream client of mine, who I’ve admired since my secondary school days.” Outside her professional achievements, she has learnt the importance of carving out time for herself. “Clients aside, I hope I’ll be able to do more personal work as I feel that personal projects are essential in helping me grow,” she muses. And if they’re anything like what we’ve seen from her, we are in for a treat.