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Ng Yin Shian

Ng Yin Shian

Meet Singaporean illustrator, Ng Yin Shian.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I go by Shian mostly. I’ve been a freelance illustrator for 2ish years and I’m threatening to do a third. I dabble in all sorts of illustrative work but have a penchant for poster work in particular.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

A few years back- I was delirious with fever in the thick of a New York City winter, this exchange happened –

 

Pharmacy Cashier (let’s call him Geoff):  So where are you from?

Me: Oh, I’m from Singapore! It’s somewhere near…

Geoff: I know where Singapore is, near Indonesia yeah?

me: It’s… not too far

Geoff: So what’s it like there?

Me: Uh, it’s very warm there… Oh you know what it’s like? A pair of cargo pants.

Geoff: Pants?

Me: Yeah the kind with hundreds of pockets? There’s something for everyone in those pockets if you know how and where to look. It’s convenient and sensible and safe. But also it’s stuffy and inflexible on your sensitive bits and much too small and you spend a lot of time thinking: ‘I’d like to try on some other pants’  and then when you do, you kinda start to miss the old pants.

Geoff: Ahh, I see. Uh, that will be $5.49.

 

I think about this conversation a lot.

I’ve been a freelance illustrator for 2ish years and I’m threatening to do a third. I dabble in all sorts of illustrative work but have a penchant for poster work in particular.

 

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best thing about living in Singapore is the comfort in the knowledge that wherever you are within the city,

1. There will be affordable and better-than-average food

2. There will be a mall nearby

3. And in that mall will be a cleaner-than-average toilet

 

The worst thing about living in Singapore is that security and comfort seem to have given way to an impassivity towards issues that don’t directly concern the ‘average Singaporean’. I.e: LGBGTQ+, Rights for foreign workers, Mental health awareness.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Restless

Evolving

Contradictory

 

How did you start your career in art?

I took a fairly routine academic route. I took Art for O levels, got myself a diploma and tried my hand at an illustration BFA. I started getting fairly regular freelance work after I stumbled upon a group of enthusiastic print collectors online. Some of them offered me commission work, one of them (Tim Doyle from Nakatomi, Inc,) offered to print and sell my work, and others offered to feature me on their websites. I owe them everything.

 

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

My parents are quite nonchalant about it, which I take to be a form of absolute endorsement. My friends are more verbally supportive of it all.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I’d like to set aside commissioned work for a bit and see what unfiltered nonsense spews forth from my noggin. Really, I’d like to put forth in pictures what I pay a lot of lip service to i.e censorship/human rights violations in China, the situation in Hong Kong, etc.. In a more technical sense, I’d like to branch out into different mediums and explore new possibilities that come with that. This is all very non-specific and vague but I’d like to have my fingers in all the pies.

This is all very non-specific and vague but I’d like to have my fingers in all the pies.

 

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I’d love to work with artists who are also craftsmen. Paolo Puck, who produces over-sized needle-felted wool sculptures of bizarre creatures out of a Tove Jannson nightmare, would be a dream to work with.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Tolerant, complex, resilient

 

Tolerant, complex, resilient

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

The person I was seated next to in school from ages 14-16, Aemilia Widodo (she now works at elastic.tv).

She was abnormally disciplined and driven as a child and was already a competent draftsman and painter by the time I’d met her. More importantly, she would often say things like ‘the yellow of this yolk is a wholesome yellow’ and point out when it was a particularly good fluffy cloud day for future art reference. Following her example was the best art education I could have received at that age.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a gender-specific challenge working as an illustrator in Singapore. I (mostly) appreciate being judged by my portfolio first and what indie bands I listen to second.

 

Draw to understand, not to impress.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Ask for help if you need it, especially about the money stuff. Fill your head with cool stuff, because that’s the well you will draw from. Read more. Draw to understand, not to impress.

 

Photos courtesy of Ng Yin Shian

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