Ever since KUL launched not too long ago, we’re constantly on the lookout for local talents to feature. I was at the Art For Grabs bazaar a few months back and in the sea of local artists, a particular illustrator caught my eye.
It wasn’t just this artist’s crafty illustration of that iconic White Chicks’ Yo Mama scene which pulled my attention to his booth, but also the aesthetically pleasing way his polaroid-sized prints were arranged on display.
This is Bryan Ong.
He’s a 22-year old videographer and photographer for The User Guide.
I contacted Bryan for an interview and sat down with him at a café in Subang to talk about music, pizza toppings, artist’s block and more.
We started with him delving into how he started dabbling with his nifty pieces of art.
“It started early this year. I just enjoyed doing it because it’s fun. I wouldn’t call my work A+ drawing [laughs]. I think the only time photography, videography and illustration came together for me was when my bosses needed a storyboard, they kind of looked at me and asked me if I could draw the storyboard. I was like ‘I can’t draw for nuts but okay, I’ll try.’”
With most of his work being based on song lyrics, it seemed appropriate to ask him about his favourite musical acts.
“I’m wrecking my brain to choose, but I would have to say As Tall As Lions, Royal Canoe and Everything Everything. They’re all really good, I promise. I would also include Alt-J and Twenty One Pilots. The first set I ever did was for Royal Canoe.”
Bryan went on to recount an anecdotal stroke of luck – the frontman of Hillsong United noticed an illustration he did of one of their lyrics when he tagged them on Instagram. The band liked it and reposted the illustration on their page, causing Bryan’s followers to quadruple in numbers.
“It came out of nowhere! My sister called me and said, “Have you seen your Instagram?! What’s going on?” So that was really cool. I think the Art For Grabs bazaar helped a lot as well. About an extra 100 people followed me after that,” Bryan exclaimed.
When asked about his favourite illustrated lyric and what it means to him, Bryan mentioned that he illustrated the whole of Alt-J’s first album “An Awesome Wave” and really liked “Ripe and Ruin”. His favorite lyric was
“Like all good fruit; the balance of life is in the ripe and ruin”.
“At that point when I was doing it, I was trying to find the balance between Noisy Art and all the other things I did. I really liked the idea that to get all the good things, you have to get through all the bad things. Like to enjoy the good, you have to experience the bad.”
I was curious as to how he went from doing videography and photography to illustrating cute pictures – as they generally fall under different categories of art. To which Bryan responded, “I don’t think I’m an artist honestly. I’m just a guy who likes art. So it really is a hobby more than anything else. I don’t paint in my free time nor do I carry a sketch book with me everywhere I go. Some people do that and they really are artists.”
“That’s why I don’t consider myself an artist. I’m just scared people will think ‘Oh this guy’s so pretentious, he doesn’t consider himself an artist but he draws’, but I really don’t spend all my time doing it. Some of my friends do that and they love it. It’s not a problem to do that, but I just don’t know how to do it. Some people just carry a sketchbook and they draw anywhere they go, it’s so beautiful in the end. Like what even? I can’t even draw a potato. Stress…”
One can certainly relate to that, especially when you see people post photos on their social media of random sketches they did while having breakfast or on one of their procrastination breaks from studying. However, as much as Bryan doesn’t consider himself an artist, everybody encounters a creative block one way or another, so I asked him how he overcomes it. Bryan mentioned that he went through it before and that it can come in many forms. For him, it came in the form of both the lack of motivation and inspiration.
“I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore. Although I had all these ideas in my head, I just couldn’t pick up the pen to do it. I knew what to draw, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. After the bazaar, I was so sick and tired of doing it. When I tried drawing after that, it just looked ugly.”
That was when Bryan knew he needed to take a break. He pointed out that as it’s a hobby and not a day job, he has the opportunity to do that.
“People messaged me asking about when the next set was coming out – I didn’t even know the answer to that. I think I did lose a few followers, but I guess that just happens when you’re inactive, even for two months. During that time, I had to shut off the pressure and focus more on what I wanted to do which was make something good, rather than what people were expecting of me.”
The best way to overcome an artist’s block, according to him, is to just leave it alone and find something else to do so that way, when you come back to it, your mind will be fresh and you’ll have new ideas.
Bryan went on to talk about an uprising issue of young people being sponsored and how it causes some famous local videographers to run out of content.
“The whole idea of being sponsored, to me, if you do it well, it’s fine and there’s no problem. Some of the viral YouTubers I’ve seen for example. They started so well in the beginning and now it’s become very ad-focused. Being sponsored is a great thing for a video, but an artist should always try to make original content because plagiarism is a problem.”
“So I think for the Malaysian community, especially this art scene, I will always continue trying to make original content. I’m really glad that no one has come up to me and said ‘Eh, this is something I’ve seen before,’ despite nobody saying, ‘This is new!’ either. I brought music and illustration together which are two things I really like! You can’t always say that everything’s been done before when there’s still so much left to do.”
During his first bazaar at Art For Grabs, he met a lot of other artists who like him, were selling their art, notebooks, and postcards.
“Everyone had their own artistic flair and their own style to it. People in the community are helping it grow, they’re not stuck up or snobbish. They’re just people who are really supportive of each other. I think the arts scene just lacks advertising, ironically. To grow, we need more of these bazaars, festivals like Urbanscapes and such, more avenues and places for artists to come together and share their art.”
“I think I’ve always had the idea in mind to sell these pieces, to share my passion with those who might have a similar taste, and maybe introduce something new to someone! But the push to sell it, I owe that to my friend Kahyan (She runs her own Insta and sells alongside me!) who told me ‘Hey, I’m going to sell my stuff at this bazaar, wanna join me?'”
If time wasn’t an issue, Bryan would love to travel and take photographs – the most artistic thing he can think of doing.
“Money doesn’t really feel like an issue for me as it can always be earned at any age. Time, however, is the issue because one can always earn one’s money back but not one’s time. I also really do want to make a web series or a TV series! I have no idea how, or when, but it’s a pretty decent dream project at the back of my head. I might start with my own YouTube channel and work my way from there?”
To cap off the interview, I asked Bryan what his top three pizza toppings were, to which he replied, “I like tuna, onions and whatever that Domino’s sauce is. So basically I like Domino’s pizza, that tuna one. I would eat that, everyday.”
Even though Bryan won’t be making an appearance at any bazaars until next year, you’ll be delighted to know that he takes a lot of requests on his Instagram. His upcoming plans for Noisy Art include more Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead themed illustrations, along with more song interpretations.
You won’t be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t when I bought prints based on songs by twenty one pilots, Foster The People, Young The Giant, Foals, MGMT, and Cage The Elephant. Just to name a few. That being said, why aren’t you typing Noisy Art’s username into your Instagram search bar yet?