From massive wall murals to Uniqlo shopping bag designs, Soh Ee Shaun (CS'04) has done it all. Quirky and whimsical, Soh’s ubiquitous trademark cartoons are likely to be a familiar sight to Singaporeans.
His illustrations can be found at various public areas in Singapore, such as a mural titled ‘Move!’ at Bishan MRT station and the 1km-long hoarding that surrounds the Jewel site, the upcoming retail and airport complex in Changi Airport set to open in 2019. The 37-year-old has also worked with international clients such as Nike, Adidas and Disney.
Soh’s venture into the art world began at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information’s very own newspaper, The Nanyang Chronicle. He joined the publication in his freshman year, taking on roles in photography, writing and illustration. His interest in design and layout eventually propelled him to the position of graphics editor, where he got the opportunity to cut his teeth in art and illustration.
“At that time, I thought I would be a journalist, and even tried freelancing as a writer for the South West Community Development Council,” Soh recalled. “I ended up hating it, but then I thought that maybe I could work at the art desk of The Straits Times, something like that.”
The idea pushed him to experiment and explore art work through various freelance gigs. In his final year, he started gardensilly.com, where he began uploading cartoons and doodles, often with a local, humorous flavour. His illustrations gradually began to receive more attention from the press, driving him to pursue a career in illustration.
“I would draw cartoons that were very Singaporean,” said Soh. “There was this series called Durian Boy, and another one about an auntie and uncle living in Chinatown…the things I drew were pretty strange, but people found them interesting and relatable.” Soh explained that in the early 2000s, when the local art scene was still developing, local cartoons were still considered uncommon, which gave his work a sense of novelty.
“The skills I picked up in WKWSCI — things like public relations and copywriting — helped me to market myself as an artist.”
Soh Ee ShaunIllustrator
While his early illustrations tended towards a more character-centric oeuvre, Soh’s style has since developed into one that is more abstract and experimental. And despite the lack of formal training in art due to his decision to major in communications, Soh does not regret studying at WKWSCI.
“The skills I picked up in WKWSCI — things like public relations and copywriting — helped me to market myself as an artist,” said Soh. “I’ve been writing my own bios for about ten years now.”
Today, Soh continues to freelance as an illustrator and artist while working at Ngee Ann Polytechnic as a Student Development Officer (Arts). In his day-to-day, Soh oversees the development and coordination of seven arts co-curriculars ranging from Drama to DanceSport. His job scope ranges from facilitating the students’ schedules to mediating problems within the clubs.
“It’s been an interesting shift, from being an artist to taking on a more arts managerial role,” said Soh.
“As an artist, you don’t really consider what goes on behind the scenes — things like lights and room bookings, they’re just expected to be there. It’s a fresh perspective.”