Of all the exhibitors appearing at ELCAF 2017 this weekend, those perhaps travelling the greatest distance are the artists who make up the Organisation of Illustrators Council Singapore, or OIC Singapore for short. Intrigued to see that the small city-state (and the land of my own cultural heritage) would be represented at an East London comics festival, I caught up with Kaiyee Tay, Dan Wong, Michael Ng and Ann Gee of OIC Singapore, to learn more about their unique collective and how it is helping to foster artistic collaboration in their community. Here’s what they had to say…
KAIYEE TAY: OIC is a collective of professional illustrators in Singapore, and a platform for them to connect, collaborate, share ideas, get feedback for their work, exchange news and inspire each other. We all share a passion in getting like-minded creative illustrators who wish to grow and collaborate not just for themselves, but for the better of the industry as a whole in Singapore and Asia. Its members range from full-time illustrators and designers all over Singapore.
DAN WONG: We are a collective of like-minded artists that celebrate and appreciate illustration in all mediums and for all purposes.
(Image, right, by Dan Wong)
How did the collective come about?
MICHAEL NG: The collective was started in 2006 by three co-founders after a wonderful dinner where we gathered all the illustrators we know in Singapore together. We decided to meet more frequently, collaborate more and do more stuff together after that. Before then – there wasn’t such a networking / co-op group as this – all the illustrators were alone or worked in small groups of four or less with no monthly activities.
Things started to take shape and get more formalised when we were given the challenge of organising a portrait event every month for an art/design market (which we have done for the past 10 years since without a break, until a few months’ hiatus for 2017). We are actively looking for more partnership and collab opportunities.
Above – work by Michael Ng/Mindflyer
How would you describe the OIC aesthetic? Is there a unifying style you look for in new contributors?
KAIYEE: There is no unifying style that ties us because the Singapore illustration market is so small and there would be conflicts if we were too similar in styles. We celebrate diversity and are always on the look-out for fresh and exciting styles of illustrations!
Is there a selection process for new artists to join?
KAIYEE: There is no fixed process or procedure, however we are always welcoming to new like-minded members who are keen to grow our little community and are able to contribute and support in any way possible! We are very lucky that Singapore has a vibrant mix of young illustrators who are shaking up the scene with new waves of styles, and also a very positive attitude.
Above – art by Kaiyee Tay
Is Singapore a supportive environment for artists, on the whole? How do you think local culture comes through in the work?
DAN: Singaporeans are a pragmatic bunch, grown as tiny facets that reflect a fragment of our ‘founding father’ Lee Kwan Yew. Education tracks are less flexible, and as of ten years ago an education in the arts has been generally frowned upon and seen as a ‘poor man’s career’.
Thankfully, public perception is changing, from the layperson on the street to the director in an agency, and new generations of Singaporean artists will be able to embark on their artistic journeys without the stifling baggage of the past.
Local culture often permeates naturally into many of our illustrators and collaborators. A good example is Lee Xin Li, who draws well-loved depictions of local places and faces in a charming and marvellous manner.
Another good example is local agency Supermama, who have commissioned OIC illustrators to ply their skills on beautiful traditional Chinese porcelain crockery and the newly launched illustrated sticker books.
Art from Lee Xin Li
I’ve always found cartooning and illustration to be quite a solitary exercise! What are the benefits of coming together, versus working independently?
KAIYEE: We feel that coming together to discuss industry issues, collaborating, and exchanging ideas is beneficial to us as illustrators. And it might get lonely drawing and creating alone, so socialising with like-minded people is the best solution sometimes! Over the years, I’ve met some of the best mentors and friends through OIC events and gatherings.
Being a young, small Asian city-state where making a living with art is not encouraged, the coming together, making wonderful art and participating in the various events/ collaborations is how we hope to grow the small community here so that it is less about competition, but more about contributing your “voice” to make the scene more vibrant here.
More graphic design from from Lee Xin Li
What advice would you give to aspiring creators?
KAIYEE: Keep creating, and trying new things! We’re still learning ourselves, and sharing with other creators can be so refreshing sometimes!
Are there any particular artists and works we can expect to see from you at ELCAF?
MICHAEL: There will be works from about 20 artists, including Kristal Melson, Anngee, Xinli, Djohan (Knuckles and Notch), Mindflyer, and many more.
And who/what else on the lineup are you looking forward to seeing?
MICHAEL: ICINORI of course! And meeting Anna Haifisch, Anouk Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud too!
Above image by Ann Gee
Other than ELCAF, what other events do you have coming up?
ANN GEE: The second edition of Illustration Arts Fest (IAF) in August 2017. We first collaborated with LASALLE College of the Arts, ELCAF, Nobrow Press and Singapore Writers Festival to present the inaugural IAF in 2016. This year, we are hoping to invite more international and local illustrators to helm our talks, workshops and panels, as well as reach out to a wider range of creators of original content for the IAF Illustrators’ Market.
OIC Singapore will be at Table 43 at ELCAF on Friday-Sunday.