Loco for local: Loo Jia Wen

Malaysian artists: a special feature!

When I started blogging back in 2007, there weren’t many illustrators who had an online presence around Kuala Lumpur, where I live. I know that they were out there somehow — it’s just that they haven’t made themselves known to me, or anyone else for that matter. And now, I’m thrilled to see that there are so many out there, and I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting face to face with them at craft markets and events! I’m really proud of what my counterparts have achieved so far, and hence, I’m introducing a special series here on the blog to showcase our local talents to our readers from near and far. And there’s a special surprise at the end of each interview too: there may be a discount code or a giveaway, especially for Pikaland readers!

This week, it’s Jia Wen of Inkypots – a yoga enthusiast, clay artist and illustrator who has loads and loads of energy!

Loo Jia Wen

Name: Loo Jia Wen
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Website/Shop: inkypots.etsy.com
Blog: inkypots.wordpress.com
Illustration media: ink and paper

Tell us a little more about yourself!
I’m a freelance writer, graphic designer, potter and drawer who works from a book-filled, slightly cluttered (ok maybe that’s an understatement) studio in Kuala Lumpur with a very greedy but adorable dog waiting at my feet.

You live in Malaysia — what stands out about living here, and what is your daily schedule like?
What I do during the day really is decided by the kind of work on my to-do list – this can include anything from designing a logo or poster, writing blurbs or copy for some advertising campaign, throwing a couple of pots, sketching, or just cleaning up the studio (it gets dirty very fast!). But every day begins the same – wake up, make coffee on the stovetop brewer, feed Toro (my lustrous black mixed breed dog who is slightly overweight) some wild boar meat that’s semi-cooked in the microwave, followed by some garden-gazing. I save my most creative work (drawing and potting) for when it’s raining or at night when it’s cooler… somehow the work turns out better that way!

Loo Jia Wen

And does being in Malaysia influence your art in any way?
There is one Malaysian craft that I cannot resist – batik! I love it when someone wears a batik sarong out – rare in Kuala Lumpur, but today there was an old Indian lady at a restaurant eating chapatti and she wore the most beautifully coloured sarong, paired with a tailored sleeved top in a totally unmatching-but-matching print! I want to make a trip to the East Coast in Malaysia to go batik hunting soon… anyone wanna go too? Back to the question, yes, I do get colour inspirations from batik – the colours on ‘Good Morning Plants’ are based on one of my favourite sarongs dug up from a stall at the Kota Baru batik market.

In Malaysia, I find that the progress of the art and craft community is a little slow compared to other countries. What do you think can be done to increase awareness of art and craft locally?
I think the local scene is expanding and there are some really enthusiastic buyers around. We have a great local community of crafters active on Team Etsy Malaysia, where everyone is always helpful and supportive. Places to sell are SO important – right now there are Art For Grabs, Crafty Art Market and Pipit, all great craft markets to sell at. It would be even more conducive if these were held bi-weekly or even weekly (so that it’s a ‘dependable’ weekend activity for the crowds). That way, full-time crafters could potentially use these markets as a regular platform to sell (and maybe the market organisers could have discounted rates for regular sellers (hint, hint!). 

How did you get your start in illustration?
I started drawing big pieces of about a metre wide and upwards on rolls of paper I bought from the art store. This was back in college days, when I had a lot of energy and would be hyper at night. The drawings back then were kinda emo and angst-ridden (gulp!) but did sell at a local art gallery. Which was amazing to me! But I folded away the brushes for a long time, and pursued ‘normal’ work in advertising, only to come back to drawing in recent years.

Loo Jia Wen
Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece?
I must have a very strong feeling before I start, for the drawing to work, because that is when I draw fully in the moment. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to draw, but usually I know the emotions that I want to convey, and that translates into a scenario – a figure, a pose… from there, it grows!

What’s your favorite project so far?
The Blahs! Battling the Blahs was my way of turning my own depression around – by seeing it from a more forgiving, kinder perspective. It started with words, led to drawings and then I compiled them all into a chapbook.
Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?

Loo Jia Wen

Would you care to share your studio space as well?

Loo Jia Wen

I cleaned up a bit! It’s almost time to do tax, so the form has been sitting on my table for a few weeks and you can see all kinds of scribbles on it.

What or who inspires you?
The wonderful people who teach me yoga, my parents for their unending generosity, books, things that grow, dreams, the sea and mountains, the smudginess of charcoal, animals on TV.

What keeps you motivated?

Could you share with us your progression as an artist — compared to when you first started out, how has your style changed since then?
My art has become more restrained and contemplative.

What’s your favourite tool?
A zero-point-two felt tip pigment ink black pen.
Are you a full-time artist?
Not yet! Still have to earn more from my art to do that…

Loo Jia Wen
What advice would you like to give people who are interested in being an artist full-time?
I’ll let you know when I get there…
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
Living by the sea, hopefully! In terms of art, I think I’ll be drawing and making pots for a long time…

Loo Jia Wen
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
I hope my art makes your home a brighter place!

Tell us something random about yourself!
I read dragon books… any books with dragons in them, whether they’re children’s lit or fantasy, are my kinda books! Recently I found the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik… love them.

Jia Wen is offering Pikaland readers a 15% discount on everything in her SHOP — just key in “codepika” during checkout!

{Thanks Jia Wen!}

Inspiration: Elephants

I’ve been seeing lots of elephants lately, and I thought that it was high time for another Inspiration post! And while I zip around here in the backend attending to pressing matters I’ll leave you here with a selection of artworks dedicated to these gentle giants for your enjoyment!

Original artwork printed on Repurposed Vintage Dictionary page by RococcoCo

Helen Dardik

Join the circus print by Helen Dardik

Burnt print by Troy Moth at Mammoth Collection (this one reminds me of an elephant!)

E is for Evelyn Elephant in Earrings by Cart Before the Horse

ELEPHANT print by East Witching

Baby Elephant screenprint by Amanda James

Heaven’s Blue Through Me Print by Dan-ah Kim at Little Paper Planes

I’ll catch you again tomorrow with the first of a special series of interviews! 🙂