Insight: Work Alongside Your Dreams

By Zinkie Aw

Say the word “Graduation” and most students will form the visual image of a desk-bound job, where one dons formal office wear daily and with fixed working hours that determine the timetable of their lives for the next 50 years.
More often than not, graduation and embarking on your first full-time job is tantamount to losing one’s dreams to “reality”.
However, there are still cases whereby dreams can co-exist with one’s job.

I realised this after speaking to some veterans and up-and-coming artists who set up booths at December 2010’s Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention (STGCC). Through them, you’ll see how magical it is to be able to find the balance between life’s passions and practicalities.

Sheena Aw


Meet Sheena Aw. Popularly known as Caramelaw in the illustration scene, her exploration of her "candyart” world was realised only after working in the industry for about five years. 

An alumni of the Interactive Media Design course in Temasek Polytechnic, Sheena  has grown accustomed to endless nights of balancing her day job as a motion graphics designer with her nightlife as Caramelaw. She even does customisation on dolls and toys!
Sheena strongly believes that the web is a good leverage for fresh artists. “I used to be completely clueless with websites; but getting your work out is very important in this line. For aspiring undergraduates who wish to do a job like mine, do up your portfolio site soon!”
Asuka Sakumo

Stephanie (known in the industry as Asuka Sakumo) is a 24-year-old student from LASALLE College of the Arts. She once discovered that people were selling her designs that were made into necklaces without her approval. Since then, she understands that unlike her series of fairytale illustrations – the world is hardly a fairytale, and one must constantly claim full copyright to his or her own works.


Stephanie advises young people to “just try”, be bold and constantly ask for tips from veterans. She says, “School is also a good place to grow as there is constant motivation and push from lecturers to push students to develop our own style in illustrations.”

Otto Fong
Otto Fong is a familiar face to many. The author of best-selling comic book series titled “Sir Fong” used to major in Electrical Engineering. After venturing in film and subsequently teaching Physics for eight years, he felt a need to contribute in a unique way to this generation.

At the age of 36 this year, Otto urges aspiring youths who want a unique career in art to “be prepared for the long haul”.  

“Being realistic is very important – in the case of Ottonium Comics, I collaborated with real scientists in Asia to come up with comics that have a credible context. They unfold along feasible story plots that Singaporean kids will connect with,” said Otto.

“It is not always about the few age-old famous scientists Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison, who sound like mythical figures. I’m talking about having to let your audience feel that your work is researched upon and rooted in facts. Then you have achieved the Science of Humour.”
Through his years, Otto also realises the benefits of “coming out of the hermit shell” by talking to people and encouraging collaboration – “things really take off after that,” he said.

Nana Pong


At the STGCC, Nana poses for a smile with her origami box toy version of ‘Fio’, one of her favourite imaginary creatures she created.

Nana Pong is 32 years old and creator of ‘Sockeroos’ series. Her illustrated creatures are transformed into mini-toys made out from striped socks. For her, the advice would be” to always focus on what you want to create – focus on one series and develop it.” 

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) alumni studied interior design previously and found that skills acquired back then have since come a long way.

“I enjoy every part of my life,” Nana shares that “it is not that I can run faster after I graduate from school and launch into a career, but it is about collecting experiences that make my craft better now.” 

Nana found travel trips to Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of Asia rewarding. She spoke to many designers and got to broaden her thoughts on her illustrations and products, and how to run the passion as a business.
Having varied interests help to keep her mind healthy and active. Nana has recently dwelled into silver clay mini sculpturing, and now does her series on this medium as well.

Pamela Halomoan
19-year-old Pamela Halomoan is graduating from NAFA next semester. Just like alumni Nana Pong, Pamela recognises the fact that school can help develop your theory and skills in drawing, but it is life’s experiences that help you position yourself and your drawings better in the industry. For instance, having the opportunity to showcase merchandise and works at the STGCC is another channel of learning how to do sales in the realistic world and also build confidence as an artist.
“There are so many people out there, I’m sure every one has an audience who will appreciate and love your works. Your just need to come right out to show your works, don’t let age be a limiting factor.”

Ng Shi Kian
Ng Shi Kian, 26, goes by the name Kian02 in his character designs. A graduate from Digital Media Design at Nanyang Polytechnic, Shi Kian encourages fresh graduates to work fulltime before fully going into showcasing one’s personal works. For him, working as a Concept Artist and creating characters and designing states for a 3D environment has benefitted and build on his knowledge garnered from school.


Liking to merge Western and Eastern influences in his fantasy drawings, Shi Kian suggests sharing ideas with peer interest groups forged over school terms. In sharing, he believes this cycle of “inspiring others and thus inspiring yourself” never stops.

Sonny Liew


Want some bright ideas from the last of this series, but from an industry veteran? Sonny Liew, 36, shares how he never looked back after submitted a series of comic illustrations “Frankie and Poo” to The New Paper while he was still reading Philosophy at Cambridge, UK.
Sonny shows the comic strip in his published book.  A word of advice for undergraduates alike – “Go with the flow and believe in yourself.  If I had never submitted the work, I might have not found my calling then.“
Subsequently, Sonny majored in Illustration in the Rhode Island School of Design and has since bagged plenty international acclaimed mentions.  
Currently guest lecturing the module of Graphics Story Telling at the  School of Design and Media (ADM) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Sonny also shares with young minds on how discipline and pace is important in wanting to establish a future for their artistic pursuits.  “Use the time in school to develop a good portfolio,” he advised.

As a young designer myself, I guess the tips and suggestions from these pool of creatives definitely help shape the comics and illustration industry a bit. For those of you who are interested to detour from the mundane office job and make your dreams work for you, do start planning your post-graduation career plan now!

Note of thanks from Zinkie Aw: Thanks to these artists for sharing their experiences!

About the Photographer and Writer: Photography started off as a curious experiment for web designer Zinkie Aw, but has since evolved into a mainstay that helps define who she is.

Not only is photography a way for Zinkie to spend time with herself, it helps her dwell deeper and relate to the world a little more. Through her observations of life, she hopes to help people log a visual diary of their lives and culture.

Cat-lovers like her often say: Curiosity killed the cat.
Zinkie believes that passion brought it back.

She welcomes commercial work or collaborations. 
Say hello at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give her a poke on facebook!

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