Spend time with the correct people if you wanna head into the direction of your destiny. I always tell myself "If you wanna go to the Moon, you have to hang out with the guys from NASA"
Singaporean artist, illustrator and our first creative neighbour Joycelyn Wong (aka Mslatenightjam) shares about home, her evolution as a creative practitioner, and what they don’t teach you in school.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do
JW: My name is Joycelyn Wong and I am a Singaporean Artist/ Illustrator. For the longest time I don't know if I should use my name/ my artist moniker Mslatenightjam when I submit my works. My jobs mainly revolved around illustrations for public spaces, books and commercial clients, with the occasional opportunity to conduct stamp carving and watercolour workshops.
I enjoy shopping for household items, playing the guitar, cooking and looking through pretty faces on magazines. I believe that living will influence the way I make my art, so I do dedicate time to do things apart from my work. To cease from work and explore other areas of life is also a form of discipline.
How did you develop yourself into a professional artist / illustrator?
JW: I attended my first official art lesson when I was 7 years old and saw it as an interest.. I never thought I would do a creative job as a fulltime thing as I really do not have any idea what kinda fulltime job allowed for such interest. But I l journeyed to find out and took a Visual Communications diploma in Temasek Polytechnic and found out I did not enjoy Graphic Design at all. Because of this, I became a huge procrastinator, and an even bigger one when deadlines drew nearer. It was huge problem in my early 20s and it would cause me a lot of stress and fear just to overcome my 'obstacle' of ill-discipline.
In 2008, I found the reason to this problem - which was: I wasn't enjoying the work I did. I couldnt sit at my desk all day facing the computer. From then on, I made it a point to only take on projects I personally choose. I rebranded myself in this direction as an artist doing illustrations in the way I know best - using only craft/ traditional materials coupled with the occasional Photoshop for layout. Today, I am still exploring various mediums (food included in my fine arts practise) and experience a greater sense of satisfaction when I am able to control my processes from the beginning of the project to completion.
Describe the location of your studio by the most frequented eateries around you.
JW: 20degrees from my room, theres Hola Coffeeshop where I have my Chicken Rice & Nasi Padang fix. At Eastpoint, a 8 min walk away has Souperstar - a store serving fusion Popiah and Western Soups, Koi Bubble Tea, Mr Bean.
How has your work evolved over the last few years?
JW: I personally feel that I have become less imaginative because 'practical' work suits most of my client's brief and timeline. However, these few good projects allows me to balance my love for technicality and the lack of creativity. It's like a 50/50 trade off. I would say my style is still visibly apparent through the years, just that it has somehow matured in the confidence of the strokes. I also learnt how to apply various techniques for different projects. Sometimes doing a simple paper cut craft would work better than illustrating 10 images.
As for my personal works - It was in 2015 when I went through a super rough patch in my love life, I have learnt that by being honest with my struggles allowed me to express my pent up emotions in a manner when words failed. All that crying didn't help one bit, but my drawings made me feel instantly better.
What is a typical day for you like?
JW: Laundry is the number one priority of the day as I gotta keep watching the skies to see if the dark clouds are coming. If it rains, it's like an off day for me! I spend alot of time at my desk - drawing, crafting stamps, reading, checking social media and lotsa packing. As my the nature of my project changes from large public works to works done on my desk, I find myself reconfiguring my table space a lot, so I always feel my table is in a huge mess.
What don't they teach you about the creative industry in school?
JW: There were 2 jobs which I took on and will never forget the negative encounters I had. The first freelance job I took was in 2005, 1 day after my Diploma graduation show and was very excited and ernest about it. They promised me 3.5k upon FA and after I submitted 70% completed illustrations, I didn't hear from them for a month. As I didn't know the processes, I thought it was usual. When they finally called me back (after umpteen calls and emails), they explained that their client cancelled the project and they could only pay me $100.
I realised that I was very unprepared for the working world. Institutions do not teach one to be an independent creative, and we did not know how to draw up clauses, terms and conditions, or negotiate payment or conditions. I once churned out 10 brochure designs and the client still couldn't tell me which one he preferred which led to a waste of time and motivation.
I spend alot of time at home and my studio is pretty nomadic moving from the kitchen, to the dining, to my room.
If i'm not home, you can find me in the library, cafes or at the site I am painting on
- usually at the void decks of HBD blocks.
What do you feel makes your creations meaningful to you?
JW: I feel that it reflects the mood of the current self. All artist are processors and we understand the world differently from each other. What I touch, see, hear, eat and smell, who I meet and where I go will all affect the outcome of my next work.
The work is as meaningful as to how much of that 'self' I wanna put into the creation. There is absolutely no comparison when it comes to creative work - everyone has a forte and there is no meaning in trying to imitate someone else's. The only comparison I can make is to the person I was before my current self. There is only 1 original, just be myself.
What do 'ideas on adventures' look like?
Do a quick sketch for us!
JW: Many of my works stem on relationships with people and sometimes the personal insecurities I face. I usually dream up ideas best when I am in the gap between being awake and asleep.
Are collaborations vital? What are the main ingredients for a fruitful creative collaboration?
JW: Collaborations are as important as having a good spouse. The need to have interaction with a fellow creative is like a convergence of another set of resources/ skill-sets. Open Communication, Honesty, Trust and Respect are my favourite ingredients because thats what all good relationships are based on. Competency aside, I think the willingness to say "I will try, lets try to make this work" is enough honesty and respect for my fellow collaborator.
Images & Artwork Courtesy of Joycelyn Wong, Mslatenightjam