It is the dream of many artists to show their work in a solo exhibition and be able to share it with the world. No matter how many times they're rejected or ignored by critics - that never stops them from trying again and inspiring others with their work.
If you’re looking for a quality inspiration to get you all pumped up and continue hustling on your next dream, the story of this Malaysian Caricaturist who was sponsored by EcoWorld to host her first ever solo art-exhibition should do the trick!
While most artists rely on ink and paint for their sketches, local Caricaturist Vivian Lee found an unconventional way to produce her awesome drawings – using her love of our everyday ‘wake up’ beverage, coffee!
Vivian may come from a typical-artist educational background in Multimedia & Illustration, but her form of art breaks the conventional. She juggled between working as a full-time graphic designer for a fashion brand and making comic art for 3M Chinese Newspaper as a side hustle at the same time. She then quit her full-time job as she finally realized it was time for her to pursue what she genuinely loves.
How did using coffee as your main form of expression come to you?
My inspiration came from an asian coffee art festival called Kaffa that I attended in Publika around 2014. Since then, my art with coffee has never stopped. To me, coffee is very similar to water colours but one special thing about coffee is that it has a very distinct colour that is able to create vintage effects and warm tones on canvas – just like the good ol’ Chinese paintings!
And frankly speaking, my choice of coffee to paint is nothing close to fancy. All I use is one cup of Kopi ‘O’ and I’m able to cover the whole paper with my drawing.
Was it hard for people to accept your art in commercial events?
To some people, they think it’s a waste. But I’ve found that the art drawn by coffee could last longer. There was once an aunty who swore to me in my face that she will only come and support me should I go bankrupt one day - her words cut deeply into my soul, but I didn’t let that affect me. So, I took it as a challenge to make myself better.
Fortunately, it was very accepting among many business brands, especially coffee brands like Starbucks, Essenso and Nescafe as it resonates well with their brand.
How did you start your whole brand?
I love going around to places as compared to sitting in an office where most of the time the routines are repetitive. Just not my kind of thing. I quit my stable job as a full-time graphic designer and joined this art market - where I got to widen all sorts of connections, met talented artists from different backgrounds, and coffee suppliers. Every day, I’d go to different locations to showcase my arts and I wouldn’t have done it without the help of event companies. Ever since the Kaffa event, I was invited to numerous coffee art exhibitions, I even got invited overseas! I had the opportunity to work in an international expo, a Café show in Seoul, and travelled to different places such as Vietnam and Melbourne. My calendar was almost filled with events and exhibitions every day!
Until last year 2020, where the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and all physical events were forced to cancel. It felt like a reminder for myself to rest, and so I did take the time to recuperate.
How did your first solo art-exhibition go?
The exhibition lasted for a month and was fully sponsored by EcoWorld. They provided me with a five-room bungalow show unit as my art gallery. Each room came with different themes, including portraits, fashion illustration, landmarks of Malaysia and my journey.
No words could fill my joy and happiness as it fuels me with recognition that I’ve always wished to gain, and it is one of the reasons why I keep doing what I love.
What are the big, luxury brands you have collaborated with?
I’ve collaborated with fashion brands for their product launch in different seasons - spring, autumn, winter, summer. I personally feel that my art is very suitable on leather products, and I guessed that’s how I landed my collaboration with Mont Blanc. I must say, I felt so exclusive as I had my own table to draw influencers and VIPs upon their requests. On top of that, I've also worked with Guess, Christian Dior, Marc Jacob, Chanel and more.
Beside doing live drawing at on-ground events, I also do fashion illustrations for commissioned work such as farewell gifts and first year anniversary.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
I don’t think I can accurately pinpoint my proudest achievement as every work produced is a different experience. But if there must be one, then I’d say my recent collaboration with Nescafe and invitation by MRCA to draw a gift for the Berjaya founder, Vincent Tan
Any upcoming projects that you’re working on?
Since I still can’t do events, I can only do commissioned work. Currently, my latest project is with Oppo Reno 6 to work on an online workshop where I teach people how to decorate their phone cases through zoom.
How did you come across Stive Asia?
I was approached earlier on before I rebranded to do a life fashion illustration at a wedding.
So far, I enjoy my experience with this platform, I think it doesn’t just bring value to me but as well as many other local artists. I say this is because it’s not common to find a locally owned platform where Malaysian talents can promote their work, and here at Stive Asia made it possible. You can find different styles of artists and support our local talents to realize their dreams!
If there is one piece of advice you would like to tell your younger self, what would it be?
Do you want to turn your commonly known caffeinated drink into a masterpiece? Find Vivian’s work on multiple social media platforms!
Follow Vivian Lee on
✦ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vivianleesart/
✦ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vivianleesart/
✦ Website: https://vivianleeart8.wixsite.com/mysite
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