Imagine a world without your smartphone camera and social media, and it won’t be long before you scurry in frustration like an anxious ant under the heat. However, there are those who are readily prepared if a smartphone crisis were to occur. Meet Favian Ee – doodler, sketcher, illustrator, artist – you name it. Underneath this friendly countenance lies a man who is known to be articulate and reflective in his thoughts mixed with a good dose of wit. Favian’s artworks range from portrait sketches, watercolour pieces to comic art that reflect his versatility. He prides in carrying a small sketchbook with his drawing and colouring kit wherever he goes, so as to capture moments with the stroke of the brush. As part of the famed Urban Sketchers Singapore group, the former visual effects artist explained to me how his drawings make a large part of his life:
When did you first develop the talent for drawing?
I’ve been drawing since I was young. I recall having this big, white board in my room and I just doodled all over. Most of my drawings tell a story. I gravitated towards comic drawings in my primary school days, designing characters etc. I spent my years working in digital effects for movies, and had no opportunity to do commercial drawing works. So, my illustrations were created during my free time.
Did you pursue art in your education?
I had the option to pursue art in University, but me and my family decided to be a bit more pragmatic about it as typical Singaporeans would, that was why I took up Computer Engineering. I worked at IT for a while, then went freelance for a bit. After that, I went to animation school for 2 years.
Your drawings have a variety of different drawing styles. What are your biggest influences to your drawings?
I don’t stick to one medium of style when i do sketching. Nowadays, I’m doing more urban sketching using the comic side of media, so it’s more sequential art. A lot of my travel sketches tend to be documentation or comic. I go around, observe and record situations that I encounter along the way. I have many influences which are mixed. When I was younger, I used to read a lot of Garfield so my characters stood out looking Garfield-style. Then, there was another stage where I was influenced by manga, and then Calvin and Hobbes etc. Mostly, my drawings are done in watercolour, pencil or ink. They are convenient to carry around. For my comic drawings, I use markers. I love the versatility of pencil although I don’t use it that much. Regarding my style, people comment that I tend to be quite ‘neat’ in my drawings, meaning I am not loose with my strokes or deliberately ‘messy’. Since I gravitate towards the comics, my lines tend to be quite clean and it suits my storytelling. If I am doing a scene, I can afford to be a lot more loose.
What to you think of drawing digitally vs hand drawn art?
I rarely sketch digitally. I have done 1 or 2 onsite digital sketches. Digital is another medium, but digital art does not tend to command as high a price, partly because they are re-printable. It’s not like one original piece of paper that you can sell and no one can imitate that. The digital approach affords a lot of different techniques that you cannot do on paper which is a less forgiving medium. I see digital as another tool, but in terms of market value, it definitely differs from drawing.
How long have you been with Urban Sketchers in Singapore?
I joined Urban Sketchers Singapore in January 2012. It’s a very informally organised group, where we have organised sketch walks. We have official sketch walks every last Saturday of the month, so they will announce a place to meet and we will meet in that area, draw for 2-3 hours, then gather back and share our sketches.
In which publications can we see your work?
Epigram did a series of books with urban sketchers under “My Neighbourhood” series. We covered places like Bedok, Queenstown, Katong and Geylang Serai. We sketchers contributed to each of the book. I have sketches in all 8 series. Last year, I contributed to 2 of the books organised by Urban Sketchers Singapore, partly funded by the National Library, which is available at Basheer Graphic Books. Last year before I left my job, I created for SG50, 50 Metres: Our Swimming Pools book which showed drawings of Singapore’s old swimming pools.
Have you thought of pursuing drawing full time?
I’ve done it on a freelance basis before. It’s not easy being a full-time illustrator, even on freelance basis in Singapore. I got offered to teach animation at a polytechnic now, so it’s a chance for me to pursue other kinds of interests and drawing if I want to.
How long does it take for you to sketch your pieces?
It depends on the complexity. For very quick caricature sketches, a few minutes is enough.
How often do you sketch?
I’m not that disciplined or obsessive to sketch everyday. Sometimes I can go a week or 2 without sketching. It really depends on inspiration and discipline because there are other interests I am pursuing too.
Do you find drawing therapeutic and stress-relieving?
Yes, I think it is. If I am not under pressure to draw, it can be quite a relaxing thing. Nowadays, there is a health movement targeting the mind through adult colouring books and so on. Sketching makes you sit down, focus and get into the groove of things. It makes you observe and put it down on paper. It helps you get into the mood, which is good for your mind. Because sketching takes time, you need to stay in one place over a period of time depending on the complexity and size of your sketch. You spend a considerable amount of time observing your subject and transferring that to paper, and you absorb a lot more things. It helps you remember things too.
What kind of impression do you want people to have of your sketches?
I tend to be interested in story telling, so my comic drawings combine both the literary and the visual arts components that suit me. Using that and adding humour to it helps me tell people of the situations that I encountered in interesting and humorous ways. When I draw, I am not too concerned what I am going to tell people of what I sketch as I just sketch what I see. If people like them, it’s great. If they don’t, that’s too bad.
Describe the challenges you face and the reactions you get from people who come across your works.
Actually, sketching is quite a draw for people’s attention. I tend to receive interesting reactions from people who see me draw. There was a funny incident in Penang a few years ago when I was drawing, people started to gather around and surround me that they actually blocked my view while I was sketching. When people come up to me to comment that they like my drawing, I see it as a good icebreaker.
What advice would you give to young illustrators?
If you’re doing it for a passion or for fun, go for it and don’t be afraid of people’s reactions to your drawings because practice makes perfect. Your drawing gets better with more practice and when you learn from others, so don’t feel the pressure. If you want to draw for a living, you better be market savvy with business know-how as it’s not entirely easy to break into the Singapore market and in any other parts of the world. You also need to learn how to deal with clients and not get too emotional about criticisms, rejections, or irregular pay cheques.
Tell us your future aspirations.
For now, I’ve got a few other personal projects which are not illustrative in nature, Whether my artworks get published or not, there are no immediate concrete plans to that, although I’m exploring more options to do more freelance work in this in the near future.
You can check out more of Favian Ee’s drawings at:
All artworks featured here are copyrighted by Favian Ee.
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