Professions in the arts sector may not come to mind when people discuss career options in Singapore. In fact, when you speak to any adult born before the ‘90s, they might even tell you that working in the arts sector isn’t a “real job”.
We hear from 5 artists about the misconceptions people have about their career choice, and why they find their job worthwhile.
1. Your Profession Is Frivolous
“People used to tell me that my job is child’s play, that it’s frivolous because all I do is “draw” and that it’s not productive.
I disagree – I believe that art can help to draw attention to taboo issues in society and help to create conversation.”
At the beginning of my career, acquiring projects was a problem, but now the biggest issue is finding a balance between what I want to create versus what others expect me to create.
To me, the biggest compliment is when people tell me that they can relate to my illustrations and artworks.
I have a permanent mural at The Fullerton Gallery, and I remember watching people appreciate my artwork when I was at the opening of the gallery. That was a very significant moment for me.”
- Aida, Illustrator
2. Can You Do It For Free?
“Some clients have insisted that my art be created for free – or at my own cost – because it’s a community project, and within unrealistic timelines too. This undermines the value of the artist and the art that he/she creates.
Despite that, I still love working in the art industry. I conduct community workshops in heartlands and community centres. Some of the workshops that I’ve conducted are for Art Outreach at Gillman Barracks and Act3 International at ION Art Gallery.
Most of my workshops are catered for residents, ranging from children to senior citizens.
I feel fulfilled because I get the opportunity to inspire and influence people who attend my art workshops or volunteer at my community projects.
There was a family who told me that my art helped to bring them closer to one another. There was also a lady who told me that she was touched by my work because it depicted sights she could only see in her hometown back in India. These are moments that I live for.”
- Eunice, Multidisciplinary Artist
3. But You Don’t Look Like An Artist
“I’m a multidisciplinary artist and I’ve been developing my practice for almost 10 years now.
However, till today, people still occasionally tell me things like “But you don’t look like an artist” which I find offensive because there is no such thing as a standard “artist” look.
My work usually depicts identifiable moments and characters within contemporary urban society, suggesting a plethora of private and often solitary narratives.
Nothing beats that rewarding feeling whenever I complete an artwork and seeing people appreciate it.”
- Sarah, Multidisciplinary Artist
4. He Mentioned That He Can Recreate My Artwork Using A Photo-Editing App
“I’ve been in the creative field for almost 13 years now, working as a Senior Graphic Designer and Photographer.
I picked up drawing when I was a kid because my mother realised that I didn’t enjoy reading and gave me comic books instead.
When I first started working, the feedback I received wasn’t good and people would tell me that I cannot ‘make it’ in Singapore if I remain in this line.
The worst thing I’ve ever heard was someone mention that he can recreate my artwork with a photo-editing app. But I don’t let that get to me.
I love to sketch my friends during their birthdays, and watching them receive and love the sketch really brings me joy. At least I know that I brightened someone else’s day.”
- Ali, Senior Graphic Designer/Photographer
5. People Think That My Art Is Vandalism
“I’ve been a full-time artist since 2003, and I’m coming up to my 15th year in the industry. I am probably the only artist with a background in the graffiti and street art scene, to have won the National Arts Council Young Artist Award.
I remember once when I was painting in the middle of Orchard Road, I overheard a father tell his son that I was vandalising. There was another incident when I was told that my profession was not “real work”.
I feel sorry for people who have such a narrow-minded mentality as to what constitutes as a “real job”.
The most encouraging thing I’ve heard was that my work and what I do as an artist and researcher is significant to my community and in the advocacy of street art and graffiti practices in South East Asia.
My advice to young aspiring artists out there, is to stay humble and keep on learning.”
- Zul Othman (ZERO), Visual Artist
This article is a sponsored post in promotion of “Dance With Me”, a Toggle: Originals series.
All 8 episodes are now available on Toggle.