Watercolour dreams

INDEPENDENT illustrator Hsulynn Pang has never taken an art lesson in her life, if you'd rule out Pendidikan Seni sessions in school. She has nonetheless been drawing since she was a toddler – a pastime her parents cultivated before art became a vocation for this petite lass.

"My dad loves art but he never got to do it because he came from a childhood where his dad didn't allow him to. He'd sneakily learn music at the neighbour's house to my grandfather's dismay, while my mum wasn't even allowed to read fictional books! So when they got married they decided to let their children freely explore the arts," shared Pang.

Now blissfully married in Kuala Lumpur, the Malacca native is known for her charming characters and whimsical stories done in watercolour. But going freelance wasn't an obvious decision for the digital media major from Auckland University of Technology. It took her two jobs in a corporate training company and an animation studio before she answered her calling in 2013.

"When I was doing murals on the side for Marmalade Cafe – which led to more cafe mural gigs – I was itching to do my own thing. My then-fiancé Samuel thought I was crazy but when I left my job, I already had a few gigs lined up and somehow they just kept coming. I didn't have to worry about anything for the entire year and I never once advertised myself. God's been amazing," recalled the 29-year-old.

Currently, Pang is working with a writer on her dream of publishing a children's book.

Describe your style of art.

Always evolving. My style from the very beginning was very messy with a lot of
outlines but I've ditched them and turned completely watercolour. I drew digitally in my previous job so I wanted to explore stuff on paper.

Where does your penchant for drawing animals and nature come from?

My dad did a lot of outdoor stuff with us when we were kids such as hiking and mountain climbing. We'd dig up worms for fishing bait or to feed our hamsters. I'm passionate about Malaysian wildlife and nature so most of the animals I draw are local. I desire to make Malaysia famous for its beauty.

Why did you pick the fox and bear to represent you and Samuel?

When we first started dating I realised that Sam was unproductive. I call him a bear because he used to hibernate – he'd sleep until way past lunch hour before he's ready to start his day! As for the fox, I wanted an animal that's completely different because our personalities are so different and I'm much smaller compared to Sam. I like the fox's femininity and bushy tail.

How do you balance creative liberty and a client's request?

I always say this to clients: you need to know my style and what I do well in because you hire me for that. Otherwise, it's just a job and it's no different from hiring any other illustrator. But I'm not super protective – I don't believe that you have to do only what I want because at the end of the day it's the client's product and they should be proud of it as well.

What messages do you wish to send through your art?

Love in different forms and not having fear. If you're passionate about something, there'll be someone on the other end who appreciates what you do. I hope that because of what I do, people are inspired to take risks to do what they love instead of feeling like they have to do what's safe. I have friends who I feel are even better than me in art but they don't want to put themselves out there because they're afraid of not making it. But I think you just have to find out! If you fail, go back to full time. What is so bad about that? At least you tried and you'd never have to live in curiosity.