There’s something so lovely about a hobby! It gives you direction, it gives you a better perspective of life- and it helps you enjoy yourself even more! That’s what we’re discussing on the Inspiration feature today.
Li Ching makes some beautiful artwork- and what I especially love about it is, she makes art for herself. It’s rare to find people who do things not to please others, but to make themselves happy. You can see this reflected in all her work- be it her intricate pen work, or her free watercolour style! She incorporates so much art in her life- and that’s uncommon these days. Both her work and her inspiration are priceless.
Read on to hear what she has to say!
Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m Li Ching (Lich or Leach for short) I’m 43. In my last job, I was a Gemologist based in Bangkok, Thailand. I specialised in grading and appraising coloured gems. When my family relocated back to Singapore, I became a SAHM. I’ve always loved art, but it was only this year, with more time on my hands, that I started to draw more productively again.
I love both your pen work as well as your watercolours! Do you usually practice one type of art for a long period of time, or do you alternate between different art forms regularly?
I am self taught. I’ve had no formal instruction, but because I sat for Art exams at GSCE O and A levels – I’ve had experience in everything from collage to pastels to charcoal…In the end, I keep going back to pen work. What’s new is my newfound love for watercolours!
What makes you happiest in your creative process?
This question is so hard! I like when a piece just grows as I work on it. I’m not the best with planning…sometimes the art develops on its own. When it works out, I’m always amazed (that I didn’t screw up). I also feel glad when people identify with what I draw. Or if they feel something when they look at it. Someone just told me my work made her feel happy. I mean, wow..that was a revelation to me. I was flattered and I was moved.
You seem to be inspired by books and nature, from looking at your work! Can you describe in detail what inspires you as potential drawing topics?
I love books! When I was younger, I would read the classics and poetry. Now, I prefer fantasy and fairytales. I particularly enjoy A.S.Byatt and C.S.Lewis. I don’t have very much time to read these days. You could say I’m painting from memory…
As an English-speaking Chinese in multiracial Singapore, I think I subconsciously try to compensate for my lack of “Chinese-ness” through art. I studied under a famous Chinese artist for half a year, but my work still looked too graphic and western. I don’t fight it now! Instead, I incorporate oriental elements, symbols and rebus, into some of my pieces.
(Some of Li’s amazing pen work- inspired by books! Bet you can guess which ones..)
What is your usual process for illustrating a piece?
I don’t have a fixed process when I draw. It’s all rather arbitrary. I decide what size of drawing I’m going to do then simply start. Even if I do a preliminary sketch, I may change my mind mid way. Sometimes I make a plan in my head. But if my gut says something, I tend to listen. I really believe that the key to painting a good piece of art, is knowing when to stop.
How do you balance your creative pursuits as well as your regular life duties?
I’m a full time mom and a part time artist. A lot of articles talk about balance..But I feel it’s a zero sum game. You cannot have more of one without having less of the other. My kids will (usually lol) come first. I set aside my mornings and selected afternoons for myself. It’s an indulgence for me, not a career. Maybe when the kids leave for college…T-T
(I love how Li encourages her children too! Can you guess which one of these three is made by her daughter?)
What are some of your favourite art supplies you use?
I prefer Copic Multiliners for my pen work. I also use Copic color markers, Derwent Coloursoft and Artist color pencils. For watercolors, I use Daler Rowney Aquafine & Artists, Winsor and Newton Professional and Schmincke Horadam. Most of my paper is Daler Rowney and Arches. While I have several Raphael Kolinsky sable brushes, the majority of my other brushes are just regular brushes.
What inspires you to keep illustrating?
I worked many years in HR, Internal Audit and Gemology. As far as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to draw seriously and I’ve never gotten the chance, not even Art lessons. That’s why “endorsement” is really important to me. I’m elated when people, especially artists, tell me they like my work. Fundamentally, it’s insecurity, rather than narcissism. I want to believe I can, and that’s why I keep drawing.
I just had extra time on my hands and wanted to give it a go. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t been very serious about it…But I’m thinking of really getting down to listing more art.
Oh forever! Since I could remember… 🙂 I recall being so profoundly affected by criticism that I would deliberately leave my paintings unsigned so I could deny responsibility. Once, I brought one particular piece to an established framer to be framed. This was someone who had seen thousands of paintings. When she asked me, “did you paint this?” I wanted to say “NO!”
She said, “You must sign it. It’s important you own it”. She never said if it was good or not. But just like that, she helped me understand that just like everything else, you can’t please everyone. If your work appeals to some people, great. If not, own it anyway. Here’s the artwork in particular.
Do you have any advice for artists out there?
Don’t stop learning!
Just for fun: what’s your favourite food, colour and flower?
Malay satay! No, I don’t have a favorite colour! It’s like asking me which note I prefer. They need to go together right? I love orchids! We’ve always had them at home, planted in pots. I especially like the small varieties.