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Interview: T.Shuxia

1. Tell us a little about yourself, what you do and like doing?

I didn’t know I want to be an illustrator until I was 39 which was just a little less than two years ago. Fortunately, I was able to leave my previous job and focus on pursuing it. So, these first years are spent improving and picking up skills and techniques, exploring types of illustration work and possibilities, and building a portfolio.

I didn’t start from a blank slate and have some foundations in graphic design and art. My interests have always been in the arts, although it did take me quite a while to realise with confidence that I can make art a work that is meaningful for me and my audience.

I am a sucker for stories and look for them everywhere- in videos and films, manga and comics, literature, podcasts, news, conversations, paintings, music, dances, neighbourhood cats, our pet stick insects etc. I also have a soft spot for books.

Here’s my website if you want to know more about me and what I am doing:

Pathfinder by T.Shuxia
Pathfinder by T.Shuxia

2. What makes you want to draw and submit your comics for the anthology?

A friend told me about it and I decided to check it out. Other than wanting to have my work out there for people to see, and enjoy the pride and satisfaction of having my work published in an anthology if it gets chosen, I wanted to know more about the communities that illustrators hang out in. It’s a way for me to learn about the occupation, meet other illustrators and share resources. I was also slowly finding that comics as a medium is a great way for me to express myself.

Comics Anthology My World - T. Shuxia - SG Cartoon Resource Hub - Singapore
Comics Anthology My World - T. Shuxia - SG Cartoon Resource Hub - Singapore
Comics Anthology My World - T. Shuxia - SG Cartoon Resource Hub - Singapore

Artwork done for our comics anthology “My World by T.Shuxia.

3. Share with us your art style, what has influenced you that makes you want to draw in the style you are advocating?

I don’t know what my art style is. I think it’s too early for me to tell.

If mediums are a part of art styles, then I’m interested in and have made art in many mediums – wet, dry, digital and mixed mediums. Sometimes even clay, collage, paper folding and using random objects. I think there will be phases when I will prefer one type over the other but I wouldn’t say that I will stick to one indefinitely. Perhaps this is an influence of my interdisciplinary background as I tend to explore and experiment with combinations and alternative approaches. Having said that, I do take note of what works for me at the moment and what doesn’t. Currently, I decided that I’d like to use more dry mediums because wet mediums are a hassle, especially on days when I don’t feel up to making art. Dry mediums make it easier for me to start working. I have also brushed up on my digital painting skills and use more of them because it’s easier to make changes in a digital piece and it’s just practical.

In general, I believe that it’s best not to force my hand into making art a certain way because a style is cool or trending or that seems fitting to my image. If I need to suffer through untold frustration to make my artworks into a certain “gorgeous” art style, it wouldn’t be authentic to me and I don’t think I’ll last very long making art. So, I’ve decided to just do my best at illustrating and seeing what patterns naturally appear. Maybe then, I will be able to answer your question!

Lampost by T.Shuxia
Lampost by T.Shuxia
Keeper by T.Shuxia
Keeper by T.Shuxia

4. What do you think about when it comes to comics-making or publishing in Singapore?

To be honest, I think that comics-making is a lot of work for not a lot of money because the Singapore market is small (but maybe if the comic is targeted at kids, it’d be a little larger?) and from what I know, book royalties are paltry. But I don’t think it’s difficult to get published if we are not afraid to work for it as it seems that a few publishers do welcome local comic content. Self-publishing is also an option, though marketing and sales will be something that the self-publisher will have to take care of for themselves.

Having said that, I still think it’s a good idea to make comics in Singapore. Because the local comics industry is immature and unsaturated, there is lots of room to grow. In a way, it’s easier for a good comic artist with decent publicity to get noticed because local comic artists on the whole are far and few between.

When I think about making comics, I also think about it as a medium for communication. By this I mean comics can be used not only to tell stories, but also for education (imagine the possibilities of this in textbooks, science books, etc), to communicate public information (think campaign posters, government guidelines, info booklets in hospitals etc), to disseminate research and survey outcomes, for advertising and publicity, instructional manuals, and the possibilities are boundless. That is a lot of work opportunities for illustrators! I think there is room in Singapore for comics to be further consumed in these ways. (It’s already happening!)

These are my thoughts on comics-making and publishing in Singapore. And just so you know, they are like hunches or gut feelings, totally non-researched and non-evidential and absolutely to be taken with a grain of salt!

5. If money is not an issue, what would you like to pursue in comics?

I have noticed that compared to other types of personal art projects, I feel the greatest satisfaction when completing a piece of comic work. Perhaps comic is an art form that gives me the most freedom in self-expression, self-expression being my impetus to make art. So, if money isn’t an issue, a fantasy of mine will be to indulge in making comics for myself, printing and making others read them. Lol!

In all seriousness though, I don’t have any grand plans at the moment. I have realised that one of my handicaps in making comics is scriptwriting. For example, how do I structure a story? If I want to create my graphic novel (a very enticing idea indeed), I’d have to learn more about how to write a story and pick up a couple of creative writing courses. That’s probably what I’d pursue first in comics.

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