What's In Your Bag Series: Stephanie Ho
The trend of snooping around in people’s bags never gets old. If you grew up reading the now-defunct Urban Magazine (given out with Thursday issues of The Straits Times), you would be familiar with the ‘What’s in my Bag’ feature on the back of every issue. The person featured on the page varied every week - there were actors, professional athletes, designers, and the list goes on.
Similarly, the ‘What’s in Your Bag?’ series on the BooksActually blog will feature various individuals from Singapore’s arts scene, hopefully providing some insight into what being an artist is like.
Stephanie Ho is an illustrator and artist commonly known for her colourful and vibrant illustrations. Her personal works can be found on her website, http://www.muffinsaurs.com/index.html.
Hi Stephanie, tell us more about yourself!
Hi, I was working as an in-house graphic designer for a company before deciding that I wanted to work for myself as a full-time illustrator. I started my own business and gradually made the transition from becoming a graphic designer to an illustrator. This is something which isn't easy to do in Singapore as it is difficult to make a living purely by being an illustrator. As part of this process, I made the time and space to create illustrations for my own line of merchandise. One day, a friend invited me to draw on her wall and that’s how my mural work began.
What do you love most about your work?
I’ve loved doodling since I was young and went to Temasek Polytechnic to get a diploma in visual communication. Taking the illustration route is a challenging journey and having a decent income as most artists know, is heavily dependent on one’s skills as a graphic designer. At the end of the day, drawing makes me happy and I hope that through my art, I can make other people happy too.
Which art medium(s) do you engage with the most and why?
I do a lot of murals which involves taking a paintbrush and drawing directly on client’s walls. There are usually no mock-ups although a general concept is involved. It takes anything from one to three days to complete a mural, with the longest being four days. Recently, I’ve changed to using markers as they dry almost instantly.
Ink is another favourite medium of mine but the problem with using such a traditional medium is that mistakes are permanent. For illustrations to be used on merchandise, I fall back on my iPad to create digital pieces. As for personalised work such as pet portraits and customised cards, pens and pencils are my favourite.
I went to Taiwan recently and the art market there opened my eyes. Art and good design seems to be ingrained and integrated into their lifestyle and modern culture. Packaging in Taiwan is not just functional but aesthetically pleasing and well-thought of. It made me realise that I need to find a way to brand myself overseas.
What’s in your bag?
I have my iPad for digital work, my watercolour set, stationery, and notebook for hand-drawn pieces.
What’s an artistic exploration or project that you’ve always wanted to try out but never got the chance to?
I’ve always wanted to try fabrics! Illustrating motifs or doodles on fabric and have them sewn into clothes / dresses / scarfs. I’ve got no experience in fashion design nor can i sew to patch a hole, therefore I’m waiting for the right opportunity and perhaps some day I can find the right textile printer or brand to collaborate with.
Another project that would be great to work on is an illustrated line of coffee powder / drip-coffee packaging. I’m a coffee addict! But sadly I haven’t found the right person to collaborate with yet.
Who are your favourite artists or art inspiration and why?
I was very inspired by tokidoki (https://www.tokidoki.it/simone-legno/) when i was young but think he’s too overrated now. I frequent the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention (STGCC), which happens annually, and I still see his stuff around there. He does a lot of cute Japanese-style doodles, and I particularly look up to him because he started doing art and murals then progressed to merchandise. He actually managed to become highly successful internationally and the number of artists who have reached that level of success is very small.
Whom or what do you turn to for inspiration when having a dry spell?
I will sleep and procrastinate then suddenly come up with something haha. Procrastination actually works wonders for me.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a colouring book, and I also need to republish my book - the one I did with Math Paper Press in 2014, “The Adventures of Fatman and Superchub”, a comic about characters who do not give a damn about their weight and body image. On top of that I’m also preparing to launch my wall stickers / decal series online.
Interviewed by: Cheryl Tan, May 2018