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23-Year-Old Malaysian Artist Went Viral On Twitter During Pandemic And Now She Can't Imagine Herself Not Doing Art Anymore

Most people in their early twenties are just starting to get their lives together. They are exploring what they want to do with their lives and figuring out who they are as adults. But for 23-year-old artist Karen, her life is already more impressive than many people at twice her age. In the middle of the pandemic, when most people were hunkering down in their homes, Karen’s one tweet went viral on Twitter for her incredible artwork and received 150 orders overnight! Scrolling through her feed, you can see pieces that are both calm and beautiful, offering a much-needed glimmer of hope in the midst of all this chaos. 

But her art journey wasn’t all so easy and smooth sailing… 

Karen started selling her art online as a side-gig back in 2017, when she was only 18 and just enrolled herself into the Malaysia Institute of Art (MIA) at the same time. Fast forward to 2020, just when she thought she got everything that she needs to do art full-time by starting her own business, the pandemic hit, and she had it pretty ugly. 

She couldn’t head out to purchase her art supplies nor could she ship them into the country as all borders were closed. She lost her main source of income. Instead of learning how to thrive, Karen was learning how to survive. For two to three months, she had to live off her long-earned savings and depend on her parents.  



Then one tweet changed everything overnight. 

In July, this simple tweet went viral. 

It garnered over 54.3K likes, 9,162 retweets, and 367 Quote Tweets. Just like that, she received over 150 orders in one night! That’s the sound of money coming in, KA-CHING $$$! 

Thankfully, it was also the time when the economy started opening up and her online business could go on again. 

We often hear people say, “whenever something good happens, something bad follows.” Sorry to disappoint but this does not apply to Karen, AT ALL. In the same exact month, she was invited to a live painting event hosted by Riuh. You know those really cool artists where you thought you could only see in the movies, who bring their own canvas and art supplies to paint an art piece on the spot – like a public performance? Karen did TWO of those!   

This was also where she had the opportunity for more Malaysians to come across her art. Coincident or not, many would think that she’s from the States but in fact, most of her buyers come from there! 



“My lecturers have questioned my art and the value they can produce, but I persist.”

In the interview, Karen told us her artwork often revolves around abstract meaning and history for two reasons. (1) Art that revolves around aesthetics and beauty is usually not something an established artist creates paintings with a story behind it. But to her, art isn’t black and white. People should have the freedom to interpret how they want to see it. (2) History because they are true stories with a meaning behind them. Although her lecturer has questioned if people would buy from her way of art, she still chose to do what she finds most meaningful to her.  


“When people see my art, it reminds them of psychedellic dreams. Most of my followers in the US would think they are high on weed."

This was how Karen described the unique side of her art. In other words, psychedelic and surrealism are uncommon among commercialized pieces. It's abstract and there is no meaning attached to it.



“If not art, I’d do anything that uses my creative mind and is hands on related.”

There’s no reason for her not to do art but if she had to pick an alternative, it would be baking. Although she’s tried making pottery, pots, and cups by joining workshops, she thought it would be a waste of money because she wouldn’t do it frequently. 


“I just want to make sure I can keep doing art and make a living out of it.” 

Before the pandemic, she had ambitious goals to achieve – host an art exhibition in another country and have her very own clothing line. After going through the hardships of losing her main source of income, she knew that it wasn’t a good idea to solely rely on just one source of income for a living, so she started creating content online. Plans changed; intentions remained. Today, she only wishes to continue painting and sharing her creations. 


“Not many people grow the art scene in Malaysia, I feel like work has to be done.”  

But when she came across St!ve Asia, she found our platform really refreshing to see a social media account that fully introduces more Malaysian creatives, illustrators, graphic designers and stuff. 


If you’re looking for visuals that calm your heart and soul or give you the nostalgic feel, be ready to feed your eyes with aesthetically pleasing art when you check her out on social media! Follow Karen Cheok on: 


✦ Instagram:

✦ Tiktok:

✦ Youtube:


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John Tester2 2022-05-25 16:16:37