Lai, more commonly known as the Book of Lai is an illustrator who owns a small illustration studio in Kuala Lumpur. He mostly does commercial illustrations. Recently, he has ventured into producing illustrations for children storybooks. Lai’s contrasting personality allows him to see both sides of the coin which allows him to make better decisions and create his unique art form.
How do you define your style? Where did the inspiration for your style come from?
I like to draw things with a blend of fiction and reality. Given my polarizing personality, my conscious thought process is often mixed with my subconscious thinking. In turn, this thought process helps me to create something imaginative out of things we can find in reality.
The inspiration for my style came from a scene in Mr Bean, specifically the scene where Mr Bean was sitting on top of a sofa at the roof of a car. When I draw something on top of a car, I often question myself as to why I would draw something in that manner. My inquisitive nature breeds this self-sustaining principle where I no longer rely on others to be financially and mentally stable. This principle keeps me in touch with my imagination and it helps me translate a fiction of imagination with a piece of reality. To me, that process is truly liberating and it allows me to tell a story in an unconventional way.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
The freedom to create. When I was younger, I wanted to become a scientist. It never crossed my mind that I would be an artist. Initially, I perceived scientists as people who would always create stuff. Little did I know that a scientist’s job can be quite boring as they tend to do a lot of experiments and analyze information.
However, I did like the aspect of creating or inventing something. It wasn’t until I became an artist where I realized the ability to create an idea, concept or ambience to the people that are viewing my work. Hence, the part of my job was something that I really enjoyed and it keeps me motivated.
What were some of the challenges you faced throughout your creative journey?
Recently, I started to face a creative burnout. Usually, it occurs to most artists when they approach 30. When it hits, there tends to be a lack of inspiration and a feeling of unfulfillment which can make it difficult for us to continue our art career because we may feel that our style is getting a bit repetitive. I am not feeling that now but I have a feeling that it will come soon.
As an artist, I think we constantly wrestle with the idea of creating something that is familiar with our audience or experimenting with new ideas and concepts that the audience may not like. It can be easy to lose your creative identity in that fight but I think I have found a balance to creating what I want and telling a familiar story that is relatable to our audience. It is a little bit easier now because I am working on illustrations for children storybooks so there is a huge degree of creativity that I can work with. This helps me to stay connected to my purpose in creating art and reduce my chances of suffering from a creative burnout.
What were some of your favorite projects that you worked on?
Last year, we collaborated with Snapchat to create 800 localized stickers for their app. It was a true honor to make our mark as Malaysian on an international platform like Snapchat. I felt really happy that we were able to make people from all around the world understand and be aware of Malaysian culture. It was also one of the most memorable projects that I worked on because we had to create 800 stickers — and that is a lot of stickers.
As an artist, I think we constantly wrestle with the idea of creating something that is familiar with our audience or experimenting with new ideas and concepts that the audience may not like.
What do you hope to achieve with your work?
Generally, I want to create more stories and ambience for my audience to experience. In terms of projects, I am working with Puma to localize the graphic culture. I try to incorporate some Malaysian elements into their graphics to emulate that New York pop-culture vibe. It is a fun project and it will be a good platform for outsiders to pick up on it and spread the South East Asian culture on an international platform.
In the future, I hope I can properly teach people about my storytelling process. Currently, I have a couple of pointers and some tips and tricks on how I tell my stories but it is not something substantial that can be implemented at a college or university. This is because there are so many aspects to storytelling such as Character Development Art and Environmental Design that need to be properly explored.
Who are 3 local Creative Crushes that inspire you?