Brimming with talent

As the first-ever Bangkok Illustration Fair kicks off today, Life sat down with local artists to understand the challenges and aspirations of being an illustrator in Thailand

Preeticha Kongrit's dynamic illustrations showcase her passion for nature and people. (Courtesy of Preeticha Kongrit)

Scheduled for an online debut today, the 2021 Bangkok Illustration Fair (BKKIF) is an international platform through which local art talent can get their work recognised.

Gearing up to become an annual event, BKKIF offers space for artists, illustrators, creators and lovers of art and illustration -- both local and foreign -- to come together to showcase their best work, exchange knowledge and create opportunities for each other to develop a network where they can work with each other on future projects.

Many participants' aspirations are riding on this event as the fair will feature not just an exhibition but also the sale of works, workshops, talks and other activities to make it memorable for everyone.

The BKKIF is a collaboration between three creative entities -- Happening Art Media, the What If event company, and designer "Decembell" Kanoknuch Silvavakul. The trio, who all have ample experience working in art circles, believe that showcasing the event online is a golden opportunity for local talent to be recognised globally.

Speaking on behalf of the team, Vip Buraphadeja of Happening Art Media said the idea to organise BKKIF came due to the lack of opportunities for newbies to showcase their artwork at a competitive and professional level and get recognition and appreciation from more experienced artists.

"Each of us has worked in art circles long enough to realise what is needed to elevate local artists to the next level. That is why for some time we have been contemplating organising such an event. Having participated in art events globally, we noticed that such events generated a buzz in the industry and brought under one roof both emerging and established talent," said Vip.

"We began working on organising our own event about a year ago and due to the pandemic, it felt best to keep it online so both local and foreign artists and illustrators selected by us could have an opportunity to get their work recognised professionally by our reviewers, many of whom have businesses that require illustration/artwork. This is a competitive round where the participant chosen by the judge gets to work with them. We will also follow their progress. It is a win-win situation because even if you are not picked by our judges, your portfolio will be on our website for future referrals by companies looking for illustrators and artists for their campaigns."

However, setting up the BKKIF event didn't come without its challenges as the trio collectively faced obstacles in bringing their dream to fruition.

"Due to the pandemic, I must admit we were in a quandary as to whether we should make it an online or offline event. Eventually, we decided to keep it online after observing the situation was not getting any better. In retrospect, it was good that we decided to go ahead as the benefits outweighed our concerns. For one, everyone involved does not have to go through the hassle of travelling to Bangkok. I know that a number of artists and illustrators from the provinces would not necessarily find it convenient to travel, even if there was no pandemic," said Vip.

"The next obvious challenge was how to make an online event successful and receive high foot traffic. We brainstormed ideas and decided to offer a sovereign book to anyone who logs in to vote for their favourite artists/illustrators, which helped us gain momentum."

Speaking of the applicants, Vip said there was interest to participate in the event not just from Thais but also artists from Japan, South Korea, the US and other countries. Out of approximately 500 applications, 150 BKKIF artists were chosen to vie for a chance to work with one of the 30 judges.

While the average age of the majority of applicants is 30, Vip said the oldest is 75 and his daughter-in-law sent the application for him. Meanwhile, the youngest was just eight years old.

"Despite his advancing age, the 75-year-old's illustrations turned out to be very impressive. His subject was a butterfly and he used graphics as part of his work. During an interview, he shared how his passion for drawing bugs began after he started hearing buzzing sounds in his ears as a young boy.

"The old man never pursued his love for drawing seriously because he was not given the opportunity. Looking at his eye-catching work was indeed a pity because it made us realise the importance of staging an event such as BKKIF. There is so much talent out there -- a gold mine waiting to be tapped."

Visit bangkokillustrationfair.com and the Illustration Fair Facebook page.


NATTAPON PICHAIRAT

  • Age: 39
  • Province: Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Occupation: Graphic designer, illustrator, lecturer at Faculty of Fine and Applied Art, Prince of Songkla University (Pattani Campus)

Why did you decide to participate in the Bangkok Illustration Fair?

Being an illustrator, it was natural for me to have a desire to join this event. I usually participate in events related to fine arts and have regularly taken part in Design Week and Fashion Week. However, as an illustrator, I always hoped there would be an event for illustrators as well, and now we have it. So, I'm thankful this event is happening and am very excited to participate in it. I decided right away that I needed to be in this event so that I could display my work for others to see. By taking part, we also get the chance to meet and create memories with new acquaintances within this circle. Even though Covid-19 is a big obstacle and the reason why the event is being held online, the response among people in the creative circle has been positive. I believe this is a good starting point and that such events continue to happen in the years to come. This will encourage me to develop and improve my skills to be able to participate in the future.

Nattapon puts a twist on his squirrel illustration. (Photo courtesy of Nattapon Pichairat)

Describe the inspiration behind your artwork and why you think it should be picked by the judges.

My style of illustration is a mix of surrealism and fantasy. I take my inspiration from stories and fairytales and I also add in a mix of western or eastern art from time to time (which would come out more dark and less cute). All my artwork is original and is drawn by hand (personally I prefer drawing everything on paper first and then finishing up the work digitally). I draw lines using a pencil or fine-headed fountain pens because it adds more flow and movement to the work; it's not hard and rigid. After that, I do the colours and compositions digitally. I believe it is my unique style and originality that will pique the interest of people that get to review my work. My works are digitally hand-drawn illustrations, which are hard to copy. The digital part also makes them more flexible for many different uses, including works related to corporate, product design, merchandise, motion design, wallpaper, decorative items, fashion design, etc.

What is the biggest obstacle/challenge in becoming successful in your line of work?

The biggest challenge is definitely how to market my talent to reach a wider audience. While I might be a good illustrator, I'm not good at doing PR for myself. In my line of work, being in the public eye opens opportunities for people to hire you to work on their projects. The more your skills are refined, the more it leads to creating better artwork and of course, more income. It also gives me more motivation to work.

What are your goal(s) for the future?

My goal as an illustrator is to continue to be able to create artwork that gets better with time and maybe even have my own brand one day by selling products with my artwork on them. That is what I think will likely happen in the near future. As a professor, my goal is to share my creativity with students. I would like to share the highs and lows of my profession as an illustrator and how illustration work makes me really happy. I would also like to encourage and support students who would like to try their hands in the art of illustrations. I want to tell them that as art students they have a long list of career opportunities awaiting them.


PREETICHA KONGRIT

  • Age: 31
  • Province: Bangkok
  • Occupation: Freelance Illustrator

Why did you decide to participate in the Bangkok Illustration Fair?

One reason is that BKKIF is the first event for artists and illustrators in Thailand and has managed to gather many artists and judges under one roof. This event is a very important opportunity for artists to get to know others who are in the same line of work. Most importantly though, this event is a stepping stone for artists to make their debut in the international illustration industry.

Describe the inspiration behind your artwork and why you think it should be picked by the judges.

My visual style is inspired by the delicate illustrations of Victorian art combined with paintings, especially of trees and flowers. I get inspired by fantasy images of a small fairy or sometimes a small animal dressed as a person. To my knowledge, there are not that many artists today that use this style, which is popular with a wide variety of brands and products since it is lovable and classic. In short, it sends positive energy to the audience and therefore it should be a good bet for the judges to pick my work.

Preeticha gets theatrical. (Photo Courtesy of Preeticha Kongrit)

What is the biggest obstacle/ challenge in becoming successful in your line of work?

In my opinion, the biggest obstacle is the attitude of the customer. They just do not give illustration work the value it deserves. Several artists have had to reduce their prices or set a lower than average price for their works in order to survive. This is the reason behind a number of artists opting to do freelance work instead of making it a full-time job. Due to this, the artist's development stagnates because they are unable to work continuously to sharpen their skills. Looking at the big picture, this impacts people in every field of art.

What are your goals for the future?

I want my working style to be known to a wider audience. My biggest dream is to exhibit my work abroad and work with international brands. These are my goals because I am passionate about drawing, so I want the things I love to be sustainable.


PONGPHOP 'MOIOH' PUANGNIYOM

  • Age: 25
  • Province: Bangkok
  • Occupation: Creative and designer for marketing at an e-commerce company

Why did you decide to participate in the Bangkok Illustration Fair?

I saw it as an opportunity to get noticed as this is a great platform for artists to showcase their work to a global audience. For many, this is a chance of a lifetime.

Describe the inspiration behind your artwork and why you think it should be picked by the judges.

I find inspiration in life in general. The most overlooked and mundane things that surround us often get my mind thinking. Maybe it is my simplistic view that draws the attention of the judges. It will be a great honour if they do recognise my abilities as it will make me seriously consider making this a full-time career. More importantly, I would like to show how paper can become more than just a material for drawing.

Pongphop and his paper Thai dessert. (Photo Courtesy of Pongphop Puangniyom)

What is the biggest obstacle/ challenge in becoming successful in your line of work?

The biggest challenge is staying focused and pushing myself to reach greater heights. I am at an age where I need to prove my abilities so that opportunities are offered to me to make something of myself. I have to prove my worth before I can have a career in this field.

What are your goals for the future?

My short-term goal is to develop stop motion and animation skills to help improve my work. The long-term goal is to become someone that can inspire others through the message I share in my work.


KONLAWAT 'GITGO' SUPINA

  • Age: 24
  • Province: Bangkok
  • Occupation: Freelance illustrator

Why did you decide to participate in the Bangkok Illustration Fair?

I chose to join BKKIF because I believe this event will enable me to reach greater heights in my pursuit of becoming a professional illustrator.

Describe the inspiration behind your artwork and why you think it should be picked by the judges.

I am greatly inspired by my hobby — interior design — so a lot of my focus is on furniture and room interiors. Also, I really like the isometric art style. This allows me to draw rooms through which I can tell various stories from any moment and in various themes. I believe my work should get picked by the judges since it is quite detailed and fine-tuned. Moreover, the isometric style makes my illustrations look compelling and my presentation style fits many themes.

Konlawat's eye-catching creation. (Photo Courtesy of Konlawat Supina)

What is the biggest obstacle/ challenge in becoming successful in your line of work?

To me, it is how to find my own signature and be in a position where I feel comfortable because it is me. I always feel that if I want to survive in this profession, I must have a clear standpoint, so that when others see my work, they instantly know I drew it. Besides finding my uniqueness, another challenge is being consistent in promoting and presenting one's work.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to work with big and famous brands. I want my work to become popular so that brands will come to me [laughs]. In all seriousness, my aim is to become an illustrator who creates happiness for both myself and my customers.

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