This week’s Malaysian artist is the lovable Minifanfan, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few times around crafty events in the city! She’s one of the handful of artists I’ve had the honor of befriending who is friendly, as she is talented. Read on for more, and at the end of the interview, there’s a discount code especially for Pikaland readers to be used in her Etsy shop!
Tell us a little more about yourself!
I have a wonderful Chinese name called “Yī Fán”, and I am the eldest children of three. I was born in Malaysia and raised in a small town called Kota Tinggi, but I now live in Kuala Lumpur. Currently I work as an artist in my small bedroom studio (yes, I work and sleep in a same place!) I’m in the process of saving up enough money to move into a bigger place.
You live in Malaysia — what stands out about living here, and what is your daily schedule like?
I found that cooking is a very interesting hobby since I decided to pick up my pen as my full-time job. Normally I will cook my breakfast before I start working. For me, thinking about what to eat for dinner is my way to keep working without feeling lonely.
Sometimes people ask me what is the benefit of working at home? I always told them the happiest thing is I won’t need to get stuck in our super horrific KL traffic jam! My working time is flexible, and usually depends on what mood I’m in. Sometimes I take a break and go for movies or watch funny videos if I feel stressed. Browsing internet for fresh ideas also is a thing I must do everyday.
And does being in Malaysia influence your art in any way?
Being a Malaysian, I have been raised in this land for many years. Malaysia’s multi-racial society contains many ethnic groups, so I the best word to describe our country is “Colorful”. Colorful is what I use to easily connect my audience to my works. Besides, I’m glad that we have internet today. I’m able to share my thoughts through my works on different platforms with few clicks. At the same time, I can easily appreciate other people’s works from different countries. I’m not only learning in my own country but also through the whole world.
In Malaysia, I find that the progress of the art and craft community has yet to catch on. What do you think can be done to increase awareness of art and craft locally?
We can see a lot of art organizers promoting their events as a “creative art market” in recent years. This is good news to artists because people are becoming more interested in art events.
Unfortunately, I found that most of the art organizers are merely looking to gain quick benefits from these “creative art markets”. To me, they are not sincere in wanting to further and promote our art community. So, I only take part on creative events that are reputable. Instead of wasting your time and energy to take part different events, it is better to choose good quality organizers to win more potential customers. At the moment, I find that more people are joining our art community. It’s supposed to be exciting news, but I don’t see it is a good sign to the community. Why? If you look closely, most of them take it as a platform to make money. They are thinking of making more money but are not really keen to improve their skill and ideas for their works. Some products are sold at cheap prices with bad quality. I don’t think people will go for art and handmade if we continue to ruin the community. My advice would be to go for the price you deserve and never lower down your value. Stick to your principles because it will be difficult to educate people on the importance of handmade in the future!
How did you get your start in illustration?
I started drawing ever since I was a kid. My first attempt of drawings was inspired by the Japanese manga, Sailor Moon, and I have drawn about hundred pieces of these “modified” Sailor Moon characters. It seemed inconceivable that through my drawing styles, Japanese Manga was my first inspiration. Luckily I learned some basic skills in my secondary school’s art class. Graphic design is my main course during my college time, but I choose illustration as my major for graduation project. After graduated, I started my full time artist career after one and half years working in office. I have been consistently creating and illustrating a series of characters and illustration with a lovable and whimsical style.
Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece?
I will note down in paper or quick note in my notebook when ideas are coming. Ideas come from everywhere, mostly come from music, movie and my boyfriend. I love to talk with him as I always discover lots of weird ideas after our nonsensical talks! A good idea is unpredictable and it comes when you least expect it.
What’s your favorite project so far?
I demand a lot of myself. I never feel satisfied with my works when I look back on them. If I really have to choose, Better Together is my favorite project so far. This is my first zine and is dedicated to my grandmother (she is in heaven now) and in it, I talk about the reasons I choose not to be alone.
Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
I do not have the habit of using sketchbook. I tried to cultivate this good habit, but it didn’t work out for me. Usually I will have a draft in my brain before I start to draw a new illustration. If possible, I draw without any sketch, because I don’t want to limit my chances of getting new ideas in the process of drawing.
Would you care to share your studio space as well?
What or who inspires you?
Beautiful things, movies, music, people… they always inspire me!
What keeps you motivated?
I want to make beautiful works. I become highly motivated when I se a lot of brilliant works.
Could you share with us your progression as an artist — compared to when you first started out, how has your style changed since then?
I always feel that there’s something lacking every time time I look back on my works. My work still has much room for improvement. My style has become more whimsical and I hope it can be a remedy for people when they need something to cheer up in the future.
What’s your favourite tool?
Markers from Kuretake (please share with me if you have better!) and my hand.
Are you a full-time artist?
What advice would you like to give people who are interested in being an artist full-time?
Welcome to underworld! Haha. You won’t get any overtime (OT), allowance, holidays, annual leaves, bonuses… if you’re really interested to forge ahead as a full-time artist! You must be prepared to work overtime for completing all jobs, such as paper works, emails, regularly updated your new works, and website… This work is much harder than your previous job in office. And be sure you have enough saving for covering your monthly expenses. I encourage young people to give it a go when they’ve saved up some funds!
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
Moving to bigger space, have my own studio and I hope to have my first solo exhibition very soon.
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
My purpose is simple — I hope people will feel happy and cheerful when they look at my creations, hence my tagline “Happy drawing for Happy People” that I’ve created for my works.
Tell us something random about yourself!
1) I love to have tomatoes and potatoes in my every meals.
2) I wish to be a professional cook when I have my own kitchen.
3) I am only 152 cm tall, and I’m proud of it!
4) I never have long hair.
Minifanfan is offering Pikaland readers a 30% discount on everything in her SHOP in conjunction with her one-year anniversary of being a full-time artist — just key in “HAPPYBIRTHDAY” during checkout!