A LIFELONG dream for local illustrator and artist Shannon Chan is to simply be able to live her creative passion.
The 25-year-old goes by the Instagram handle @whamonster (a nickname bestowed by a friend in high school), and shares her meaningful short comics and illustrations on the platform.
Chan, who draws full-time for a living, is a chameleon of sorts when it comes to her art-style, and wants to tell visual stories that speak on societal issues.
Besides being inspired by international contemporaries in the art world like Taiwanese-American illustrator James Dean, and Japanese manga artist Naoki Urasawa, Chan also looks up to her fellow local creatives like visual artist Amani Azlin, and innovative graffiti artists Cloakwork and Kenji Chai.
Chan said: “My dream art project is to be able to create art until I’m old or till whenever I leave this world.
“I want to make something, where you look at it and there’s a story behind it, and it’s up to your interpretation.”
What does it mean when you tell people you’re an artist?
“That I do it for a living. Art does define who I am because I grew up with it my whole life. I think I’ve always known, I’ve wanted to go into this as a career.
“A lot of people, when you say you’re an artist, immediately think of painting, like ‘Oh, so do you paint, like, people? How do you earn money doing that? [Do] you need to be famous to be able to sell stuff if you’re an artist?’ I’m like ‘Oh no, art is divided into so many different fields, there’s graphic design, there’s illustration, there’s fine art’.
“There are so many different things. Illustration for entertainment, for movies, for TV shows, you know, you still need artists to visualise what’s going to happen in the TV show in order for them to like produce it, to carry it out.”
What about talent?
“Personally, I don’t believe in talent. I believe in interest and hard work. I don’t think I had a talent for drawing growing up. I just had like, a passion for it. I was really interested. Every day, I would draw. I was really interested in cartoons. What I used to do [whenever] I watched like, Totally Spies on Disney Channel, my grandfather would record the episode.
“When I liked a particular scene, I would pause it and I would draw that scene. So I guess, I had a really big interest in that, and I worked hard throughout the years. So I feel like you don’t need talent, you just need a lot of interest, passion, and hard work. You just have to work at it.”
Can you tell me about a character you drew, Iris?
“She’s a recurring original character I draw [who] emerged in 2016. I was just drawing this one-eyed girl in class one day, and I made a comic out of it. I wanted this character, to kind of embody all the rage that we as women feel when we are getting catcalled.
“We don’t like it. I don’t understand why catcalling is a thing, so then I decided to make a comic about it but use her as a character, and it’s basically to scare people because she’s quite scary. She’s only got one eye and it’s a bit unsettling to see.
“It got like, a lot of reposts and recognition [on Tumblr] and I think it went up to 70, 000 reposts and likes, and I was just overwhelmed.
“I guess, a lot of people related to it, especially women. So then, I decided to make her a recurring character. Sometimes I draw her, you know, just going through life, and it’s not just [about being] scary.”
What message do you want to tell with your art at this moment?
“I want to talk about current issues, whether it’s in society, in Malaysia. Last year, I made this comic about the education system in Malaysia and a lot of people related to it too, because it was about students in government schools.
“I myself was a student in a government school, so I talked about that in comic form. I even got a teacher who drew a comic in a reply to that comic, because she had her own opinions and I thought that was amazing that I actually managed to get a teacher to reply me in art form.
“It was differing opinions but I respected her opinions too. It was good to see people responding to it in that way. That’s where I want my art to be.”
Why do you think art, in general, is able to move people so much?
“I think people look for an outlet all the time, and art is one of them. I think ‘art’ is an umbrella term. Under art there are movies, there’s music, there’s visual art.
“When you’re sad, you listen to specific music maybe, or you want to watch a specific movie that can convey how you feel. Some people aren’t good with words.
“They’re not good at expressing themselves so they look to art as a form of expression. Some people draw their feelings.”