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The healing touch

Chew Sue Phing hopes to create positive impact through her art

23 Feb 2021 / 07:00 H.

ART changed Chew Sue Phing’s life, for the better. It gave her self-confidence and motivated her to “explore beyond boundaries”, as she put it.

“Art has helped me to be more confident and brave to try out new things. I am always on the lookout for new art styles or mediums to experiment with and being an artist has pushed me to think outside the box on many occasions,” said Chew, who uses ink, watercolours and oil based paint in her artwork, and also dabbles in digital art.

“I was a very shy kid in kindergarten and drawing was one of the ways I could express my thoughts and communicate with others. Realising that my friends and teachers loved my doodles, I would give it to them as gifts and it made me feel very happy as well,” said the 20-year-old Chew.

Her hard work and self-confidence paid off, as she recently won the first prize at the MyTIGER Values Art Competition and Exhibition 2020 organised by the Maybank Foundation.

“I decided to focus on the integrity aspect of the T.I.G.E.R. theme and I chose the abstract concept because it gave me more room to expand when it came to visual research. I was inspired by a Chinese idiom for the drawing. I remember learning the idiom in primary school and it has stuck with me all these years.

“It means no matter what kind of environment you grew up in, you can always maintain a pure and strong heart once you have set your mind on it and realise how important it is to uphold your integrity. That prompted me to tie the integrity part with the tiger, a metaphor for humans,” said Chew, who is from Selangor.

In the winning artwork, she also experimented with calligraphy and Chinese art painting style (using Chinese brush techniques) as she has never tried it and wanted to test if she could manage to pull it off.

Chew was also given the Merit in Static Visual Aesthetics award for an experimental typography poster for the Kancil Student Awards in 2019 and in December last year, her bullet journal packaging design was published on Packaging of the World’s website.

Chew also won a consolation prize for an artwork that was exhibited at a World No Tobacco Day art competition at Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2016.

“I believe many hidden stories are waiting to be told from the Malaysian perspective and I wish to let their voices be heard through art,” added Chew.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I was definitely inspired by the cartoons and anime I watched while growing up. The shapes and colours caught my attention and I would try to replicate that in my doodles as a child. I was also obsessed with the dresses of Disney princesses and I would draw every single one of them after watching the cartoon series or movies. From there, I started to visualise characters and imagine stories in my head that I wanted to pursue, by drawing on paper. That is how my journey as an artist started!

What is the main subject of your art?

I have tried my best not to focus too much on one subject when drawing as it stifles my thinking and creativity. However, I tend to gravitate towards portraits, humans and landscapes or environments that are either very picturesque or focuses on buildings. I have been practising painting nature or landscapes for the past year and I love losing myself in the details, especially when it comes to painting flowers and leaves. For human sketches or portraits, I enjoy studying body language and facial expressions and drawing the details on paper.

What message do you want to convey through your art?

I hope that when a person looks at my art, they are touched by it, emotionally. Even if they do not understand the message of the drawing at first glance, I hope they will feel the emotion behind the art. I wish to invoke positive feelings and emotions. If a busy or stressed-out person can look at my art and feel a sense of calmness and peace, then that’s good enough for me.

Do you create your own cartoon characters?

When I was really young, I would fill up notebooks with comic stories invented with my own characters. Mostly, my imaginative characters would be princes and princesses on an adventure to save someone or solve murder mysteries. I was really into fantasy and drama during those years.

How would you describe your art?

Colourful is the first thing that comes to mind. I love playing around with colours and I am always testing different ways to express different tones and moods with various colour palettes.

What is your future goal?

Currently, I am in my final semester for an Advertising and Graphic Design diploma course. I hope to graduate by the end of April. After that, I wish to experiment and improve on my art skills and techniques, especially in inventing new characters and stories to share with the world.

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