Thursday, January 08, 2015

Drawing Strength from Loss : The Charlie Hebdo Killings

As a female Muslim cartoonist from Malaysia, I feel this is Horrible horrible! The Charlie Hebdo cartoons may have been what they were, but in other editions of the paper other religious figures were equally given the same satirical treatment .
Why couldn't these particular Muslims have retaliated with cartoons/comics of their own to express how they felt? This is why art and creative expression is important, they could have let their feelings of anger out without this terrible massacre. I'm so upset. Cartoons and art can build bridges between cultures and create friendships, they can provoke heated debate, but they can never be justified as a reason to kill another human being, for putting lines on paper!
My condolences to France and the families of those murdered.

This event has reminded me of how much I cherish the people I have met and friends I still cherish across the globe, and how I dont want those bonds to be ever be broken. Thus, I will draw strength and hope from the Charlie Hebdo event to move ever forward on this pencil path that connects all the dots to form a beautiful picture.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A Tale To Encourage Female Artists

I wrote this to encourage a lady artist who wrote about being dissed by an anonymous coward with online comments about how her "egoistic creative ambition for celebrity" was a false cover and reason for "a domestic life in shambles".

The commentator above spewed venom under the cover of anonymity, but how many of us spew even more venom on ourselves in the privacy of our thoughts, on a daily basis? As I wrote it, I realized that it could apply to any of the many talented people I know who play the game of balancing family and career. I've played that game myself. I still do. I've tasted that venom.

But today I  wanted to offer a different , more kind, more gentler story to tell ourselves. An anti-venom, if you will. To myself and to others who feel the sting of conflict.

How about this perspective...being immensely creative and massively successful and in the demand, the heroic young female (you could be male as well, the message is the same) artist / career-woman/ entrepreneur valiantly tried to manage it all in addition to the demands of being a 'good' wife/ mother/ sister/ daughter. It was a new frontier fraught with opportunities, but littered with frustrating obstacles that singles or married men didn't have to think about. But she was determined. She would do it. She had help. She was brave.

There were times she felt overwhelmed and discouraged when she found herself torn between work and family...being ambitious seemed the antithesis of being domestic, yet both sides of these precious areas conflicted within her. In the end she was criticized in both arenas, and even more cruelly she criticized herself for not 'performing up to her own standards'...this ate away at her precious self-confidence, her own harshest critic. It was a vicious cycle.

Finally, she slowly realized that who she was was not her job, her talent, what society expected of her, what her gender was programmed to be. She didn't have to be any of those things. She was somewhat known for her work, but she was only beginning to know herself. At her core, she was already perfect, already loved, already powerful, already whole. She was all those things before she ever became famous.

She was perfect in her passion for doing what she loved, firstly as a way to love herself, then to share and offer that others. She had compassion for the world, now, finally, it was time for her to learn to have some compassion for herself too.She would no longer be her own harshest critic, but her own most devout protector, nurturer, lover, healer. She would learn to be crazy and playful again, and laugh. She would be , in spirit, as a child again.

She grew stronger, and this time, her power burned from a place much more deeper and eternal, than fame status or money. She found her core. She had to be burnt through many layers for the light to find her, but it did. And it was Her Light.

And now She shines ever more brightly than she ever did before, day by day and continues to be, as she always has been, a light for others and a light of her own.

Her story is the story of us all.
Be gentle to ourselves, and to others!

Let the haters roll in the mud and hurl rocks at the stars.
They don't know (or perhaps fear) what it takes to get up there and shine.
Maybe if they are lucky they will, one day.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Artist Haven : Art Friend, Curve Damansara

So an accomplice on Facebook whispered to me about a new mega art supply store in the Curve, Damansara. Melodious music to my ears, as I reckon there must be healthy demand from people wanting to make art for a new art shop to pop open. GO Damansarians!(has this word been coined before? I claim it!)

This new store  is none other than the brand new second branch of  Art Friend, a Singapore based chain. I have spent (wasted?)many a happy hour browsing and buying from their Gardens, Midvalley Megamall branch,  and headed to Curve today for a look-see with some family.

The store is located on the second floor right above the MPH bookstore and next to The Reject Shop. During my brief visit I was pleased to observe the shelves being stocked with delectable artist materials. My  sister commented my eyes suddenly changed color in the store...she accused them of being lit up unabashedly in creative lust at the sight of all that was available... or perhaps it was just the good lighting, dear sister. *pokes out tongue*

I didn't have that much time to browse, but what I saw, was good:  rows and rows of deliciously blank papery goodness dedicated to the  sketchbook fetishist (you know who you are). The array of sketchbooks dedicated to the water color medium alone was staggering.

You will also find it to be a treasure trove of materials,  tools and mediums that inspire you to try out new things. I saw linoleum,  rollers and ink which has given me an itch to try out printmaking and get my hands all dirty and inky like I did in college (printmaking was my major)...   I must warn you the temptation to buy is great! Had to restrain myself!

Art Friend offers memberships too. RM 10 for students and  10% off purchases.Fill out a form at the cashier .Later on just give your mykad number if you have no idea where your membership card is (like me, ahem).Handy!I would say its worth it of you buy art materials on a regular basis.

I also found a great list of art shops in the Klang Valley in this post on the Haze Long blog :

Afterwards went to check out Daiso on the same floor. Who hasn't heard of that crazy Japanese store that has everything you never knew you needed for RM 5? Daiso doubles as a sneaky art supply store for luck today, my favourite brush pens were in stock. The Daiso in IOI were out yesterday. It can be rather unpredictable.

There is a solution, though! Did you know you can order your favorite items in bulk from Daiso? Sorry, no discounts and delivery takes 45 days. Still.... just speak to the manager and they will help out. I have not tried this personally but perhaps I will. When I do I'll share my findings with you!

So thats two great new stores to in a great mall.Don't forget IKEA and their Sveeedish meatballs are  next door! And there's a nice Borders too...if you are looking for graphic novels, art books or how-to-books,  thats a good place to go.

I foresee much time and loot being spent here in the future.
Cheers till the next post.
Bright , airy and the scent of newness. Yum.
Oh. My. Mmmm. All that Blank Papery Goodness just waiting to be ravaged by a passionate pen. It's obscene!
Or maybe it's just me. *blushes*
Block Printing Color for RM 40 +. I will be back, my pretty ones.
All these sketchbooks for water color alone! Check out the interesting shapes on the top shelf.
Entrance to the store. Yes, it's huge!
Cheerful printmaking tools and lovely, lovely slabs of linoleum aching to be deliciously carved...
I'd better stop now.

Art Friend Midvalley:
Lot 245B, 2nd Floor
The Curve
Mutiara Damansara

Art Friend Midvalley:Lot T-213, Third Floor, The GardensMid Valley City KL

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Comic Workshop / Bengkel Seni Visual at National Visual Arts Gallery

I've been teaching comic classes at the National Visual Arts Gallery for the past month now and it has been a wonderful experience. I still remember how exciting it was to see the leaflets the designers at the NVAG had printed out to promote the workshop to the public. The classes are for teenagers (although my youngest student is 12 ) and held every Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm , lunch included.  I have about 17 students in total, which is great because I was a little nervous at first that no one would show up! First time teaching jitters, I guess.

It's great to see cartooning and comics as a form of creative expression being supported by such an institution. It's not the first time though - the NVAG has a record of hosting shows and exhibitions centered on comic and cartoon art. In fact, up until a month ago there was TULEN, a really neat show featuring original artwork from legends of the local cartooning scene. I'll put up more pics from that soon. Cheers till then!

Nona TV3 Features Eccentric Cartoonist-Mom-Person (ME)

The TV3 ladies show Nona is featuring a segment on my cartooning career! It's on this Sunday 2:00 pm.
 Do check it out! It's set in the National Visual Arts Gallery and kids, hubs, students (and funky sunglasses) make guest appearances. I also draw a picture for the Nona crew, LIVE! (Well, kinda?)
Check it out, or catch it later at

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Doodling in Immigration / Conteng2 kat Imigrasi

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ugly Side Of The Malaysian Comic Magazine Industry

I was requested to post this really long facebook status on a blog for easier sharing, so here it goes:

This is the ugly side of the Malaysian comic magazine industry .
(although artists are more aware and informed of rights nowadays – thanks in part to the heroes below). 

"tergamak anda buat keuntungan dengan karya orang lain dan membuang nama pengkaryanya..." 
"How could you bring yourself to profit off another persons creation and discard the creators name..."

This was a facebook comment referring to the 3 pictures above and spurred me to elaborate on what I know as an artist who used to draw for Ujang magazine.

1) In the first book , a very popular comic compilation, the name of the original author Ujang Budak Minang was erased from the cover after a legal dispute with the publisher. Ujang's case is a whole essay in itself. I wont even go there. The next two happened during my years at the magazine.

2) The middle book was also a compilation whose printing status was 'frozen' by the publisher and is in purgatory. The original/author artist , Ubi Kamil has since left the company (over the issue of artists rights) and is freelancing but cant publish this particular work elsewhere because apparently all rights of his artwork are owned by company FOR ALL ETERNITY. The original art will probably rot in the MOY cellar somewhere.

3) The third book : the author/artist Aie Sulong (arguably Ujang's no. 1 artist at the time and wildly popular) name was erased from the cover of this compilation of HIS work after the artist quit working at the studio over the issue of artist rights. 

Now.You'd think the readers would realize their favourite artist/authors were gone, right? 

You'd think the magazine would be worried they’d lose two of their top artists and their readers, right?

NO. They let these two top artists quit rather than ‘infect’ the other artists with inconvenient notions of intellectual property. Then , horrifically, they simply hired two other artists to mimic Aie and Ubis work (to cringe worthy effect ) and continue their hanging series so their readers wouldn’t know they were gone. 

Of COURSE the readers realized the very,very sudden drop in quality, which was the final humiliation for these artists , because the magazine didn’t publish the names of the new artists or announce the original artists departure. 

So , in addition to losing their job and intellectual/moral rights,they had to bear the additional embarrassment of their readers wondering why their favourite series had become so crappy. ( This was before the facebook fan page days ). Not that the artists could continue the original series they so creatively conceived elsewhere…without being sued (and being told this explicitly to drive fear into them).

The very very fine print was that once they paid you (ONCE) for handing over your artwork, your rights as a creator disappeared. You were simply a worker bee. And they weren’t changing their ways to suit you, the ‘artist’.

 Sadly, most artists whose eyes were open were too timid,scared or didn’t want to rock the boat, leaving the more courageous ones who put their necks out to suffer financially, emotionally and psychologically….only because they wanted to stand up for fairness and their rights as creators and to be respected as creators.

All this drama started a while after I became an artist there. It was great initially, the creative atmosphere was fantastic, the artists seemed to be genuinely happy. Then things started to change. Whispers of disputes. Rumor was the new business owner was more interested in a career in politics and frankly couldn’t care less about artist welfare. Furrowed brows. Cold silences between long time cartooning comrades. 

It didn’t feel good. Or right. When I realised how (in my eyes) the artists were seen as dumb cattle being milked for profit I felt disgusted, and very vulnerable. I was just a kid after all. Remember, I started when I was 14 at Ujang. What chance did *I* have negotiating my rights?

Then I thought…hey…I AM just a kid! And you cant sue a kid for signing any legal agreement without parental consent.

I figured I was young and didn’t have much to lose ,except a huge fanbase. But then, I never drew comics for the fans or money. I did it for the challenge.So I left, at the height of my Ujang popularity. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving. 

My fantasy was to publish Aspuri in the future and if anyone came after me, I mused ,I’ll tell them all my work was created as a minor and I quit before I became a legal adult. That will be my legal loophole if need be (yeah, I’ve spoken to a few lawyers and they agree the odds are very much in my favour). I say fantasy, because my original artwork is also probably rotted/shredded somewhere leaving little record of my early work except for a few saved issues that are not tattered, borrowed or etc.

So I rather sadly sent in my last comic before my 18th birthday (telling no one it was my last- after all , what if they replaced my comic with a horrifically drawn knock-off?) and began the next phase of my life as a Fine Arts student.I felt I did the best I could to keep my rights and esteem as a creator protected.

And that was the end of my time at Ujang. It was good. It would have been great if the bosses had listened to the artists. The ones who stayed behind will all tell you it’s not the way it used to be.

 The readers will say the same thing and wonder where all the good artists have gone. They are still making good work. 

But you’ll have to look a little harder now.

PS: I'm sure none of these artists want anyones pity.They most certainly have moved on and created new works, carrying themselves very well as artists, despite the lingering effects of intellectual rape.(a bit harsh, but that how I see it.... step into the shoes of a passionate creator 
to understand your work being taken from you and mutilated under your nose). B
ut at least the tale of their experience might serve as beacon to other creators to be more conscious of what they may be giving away.

Its not a pity party, but an unchecked injustice.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Graffiti Art @ Klang River, KL

So I told myself I'd join this graffiti mural competition just for the hell of it and to get my hands on some very cool  boxes of graffiti spray the sponsor was giving out. Easy right?
WRONG!! There's no such thing as a free lunch.Even with my brothers help , the end of the day had me lying flat on my back on the banks of the Klang river staring at the sky and thinking I'm far too domesticated to try to pulling these kind of stunts. I never missed the comforts of home so badly. But how many people can say they've laid down on the banks of KL's Klang River at the night gazing at the moon? That's pretty cool. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone personally, but it's cool.

A few days later The Star newspaper ran an article on the event and you can read it here. They even quoted me!

Sarah Joan Mokhtar, 28, an illustrator and mother of two, had to call in her brother Ali Zainal, 24, to help complete her piece, Muslim Biker Girl.
“I’m no stranger to big murals but they were often near a fridge and under a fan. Here, there were dead fish with maggots in the drain. I had to tell myself to focus. If my brother had not showed up, I’d never be able to finish it,” laughed Sarah.
How feminine!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hope Iridescent

A while back I got the word from a facebook friend that Linkin Park was looking for some art to go with their new single, Iridescent. I liked the song which had a message I really needed to hear at the moment.

The illustration somewhat combines my geeky love of 80's cartoons and soul-therapy. WOAH DEEP. In the end , I liked it the final outcome. I hope the band will too. Thanks for the great song, LP.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Malaysian Cartooning Heroine ?! : Gempak Comic Magazine Interview

The title of the article which is "WIRAWATI SENI KARTUN NEGARA" roughly translates to "National Cartoon Art Heroine"....I don't think I'm quite where I want to be yet, but feel very humbled and a little giggly.

Gempak is one of the top selling comic and infotainment magazines in Malaysia. It was very cool of them to interview me ( honestly, I'm so not mainstream at the moment ) for their magazine...thanks Gempak! :)
 If you did not manage to find the issue (man those Gempaks sell fast) , here's the scanned 4-page spread :
(warning before you click: they're pretty big!)

  I will put up a translated version when I have some free time. 
Thanks to Hansel, the very nice reporter and the graphic designer who did a pretty awesome job.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

100th blog post !!!

Thanks for visiting this blog since I started in in 2006 ! I promise to make it even more interesting and fun to read in the future (with more frequent updates , too). Cheers!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thank you , Sofie's friend.

emo pic to match emo post

I was feeling a little isolated as of late. It could have to do with spending a LOT of time at home with Kai while getting back on track with projects and plotting my return to postgraduate pursuit... my mind always on one thing or another!

So going down to KL about once or twice a month to visit my grandparents in Kuala Lumpur is a relief. Well, usually.Was still feeling kinda bummed. Even my crazy kids antics were only temporarily amusing. I was pretty much being a pain to Rashid with my cranky behavior.

Thankfully  my sister Sophie (also the talented photographer known as Malayrish ) tagged along for a ride home after meeting up with some of her friends in KL and one of them had some nice things to say about my comics,my Rojak graphic novel project, my blog (!)

It's nice to have reminders that there are people out there who follow and appreciate what I do/attempt. It makes me feel more connected  and part of  the great Out There. Especially since I probably spend  WAY too much time inside my own head ( especially delving into my past with Rojak ). Human contact is so important in a world of tweets and likes...those are nice too,but make hearing it person so much more awesome.

So to all of you who are reading this, follow the blog or wonder what I'm up to, who have ever commented or sent an e-mail : your words of encouragement mean a LOT to me. I don't think I'll ever get tired of knowing and reaching other people through sharing my work.

Thank you.

You are part of what makes my life awesome.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Lingua Comica International Comic Anthology Published!

Year: 2009 
Editor: David Ocon Fernandez and Titus Ackermann 
Publisher: Asia-Europe Foundation
 ISBN: 978-981-08-4817-0
Order from here

Finally! What can be considered my first internationally published book :)

In 2007 ( yes, books sometimes take that long ) the Asia Europe Foundation  organised for an awesome team of young comic artists from Asia and Europe to meet and live in London for one week. The purpose? Create comics that encouraged inter-cultural dialogging , world peace and being excellent to each other.

Artists were paired up to create comics , and you can see the final product, edited by Paul Gravett ( UK), most awesome comics writer and Titus Ackerman ( Germany) in the video above. We're all so thrilled to be presenting it to the world. Guys, you rock!

Lingua Comica has contributions from JM Ken Niimura, Sophie Darcq, Kaori Kuniyasu, Mari Ahokoivu, Gabor Kiss, Nguyen Thanh Phong, Sarah Joan Mokhtar, Tom Smith, Aziza Noor,  Paola Cortese, Rommel Joson, Vishwajyoti Ghosh and Fionualla Doran.

Lingua Comica
The 2nd Asia-Europe Comics Project, LINGUA COMICA, was held in London from 20th-24th October, 2007. ASEF joined hands with COMICA (the London International Comics Festival) to bring together 14 emerging graphic novelists from 14 ASEM countrie. The participants undertook online artistic projects and engaged in a five-day dialogue using the medium of the graphic novel as the main tool of communication and artistic work.
The project was organised in two phases. It started off as an online artistic project, the Asia-Europe Collaboratory, at the end of August, 2007 in which the participants were broken down into seven Asia-Europe pairs and worked together via the internet. They continued their collaboration in London in October, where the artists met, attended panels on comics collaboration between the two regions and shared their experiences on their online works, continuing their collaboration.
The partnership online and offline was facilitated by internationally-renowned comic artists and lecturers Sarnath Banerjee (India) and Gerald Gorridge (France), and supported by a high-level number of resource people and guest lecturers, including Benoit Peeters (Belgium), Kosei Ono (Japan), Igort Tuveri (Italy) and Titus Ackermann (Germany). Paul Gravett (UK) was the Artistic Director for this project.
The outcomes from the meeting will be made available to the public in the form of a graphic novel. The graphic novel will contain the very relevant and innovative works from the talented Asia-Europe artists that worked in Asia-Europe pairs for this project, as well as solo works from each artist. The graphic novel is expected to be published by mid-2008.
This project was implemented in co-operation with the COMICA International Comics Festival in London and was supported by the Institute of Contemporary Arts London, the Goethe Institute London, the Institut Francais London and the Japanese Embassy for the UK.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Disagree Album Wins @ AIM Music Industry Awards

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sarah Kena Buli?( Berita Harian Newspaper Interview)

Baby Kaisan : OMG Mama kena buli ?!

Read the full article here ( better resolution soon , I promise : )
*update* Online version here (sorry, it's in Malay ).

This morning I went to the neighborhood kuih-muih ( traditional cake ) shop to buy the usual breakfast and weekend paper with a bit more anticipation than usual. I was looking forward to reading about the interview I had last Monday ( or was it Tuesday ? ) with a very friendly female reporter from Berita Harian.

And I saw this:

It refers to the senior cartoonists pulling pranks on me during my days as a teen comic artist. It's a very lighthearted article, really. But the BOLD RED font just SCREAMS at you , doesn't it? I really can't complain, it is a rather eye-catching headline!
And the red brings out the poster nicely :)

I was smirking to myself , six newspapers under my arm, all the way home XD

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Friday, June 18, 2010

ACA Graphic Novel / Comic Book Residency in Florida , U.S.A *WOOT*

The Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency program is focusing on GRAPHIC NOVELS in October 2010. Each year they  provide interactive work spaces for writers, artists,choreographers, composers, etc., hosting fancy folks from Robert Rauschenberg to Edward Albee to Saul Williams. 
This year - Paul Pope,Svetlana Chmakova, and Craig Thompson will be acting as “Master Artists” and hand-selecting eight “Associate Artists” (a piece) to work with.
Awesome, right? I would have never known about this if the very kind Faizah Elis ( with whom I am helping organize a comic art exhibition and 24 Hour Comic Day challenge this coming October ) had not forwarded the info to me via Facebook. I had very short notice before the deadline though, and was hesitating to apply...

And then I thought : "Dude. It's Craig Thompson. 3 comic-soaked weeks in Florida with Craig Thompson.And other comic-creator type people who will surely be most outrageously awesome." The more I thought about it, the more I HAD to apply, or it would have turned into a "what if I had only applied" moment that I would regret forever.

 I sealed my frenzied application with a kiss and a prayer - and went back to changing nappies and degrease-ing the kitchen counter ( yes, nobody ever tells you the less glamorous bits about drawing comics from home with a 4 month old).

Well, that was the end of May.I received an email this morning...
...and I'm very glad to say that I'm very much looking forward to meeting and working with Craig Thompson and 7 other Associate Artists for three weeks this October. 
My application was approved! Thankyouthankyouthankyou Mr.Craig Thompson!

...aaand back to changing nappies and cleaning out the fridge. But much happier now there's something a little extra awesome to look forward to. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Unlikely winner at Anugerah Industry Muzik 2010 - A Comic Artist !

A music award, in fact! For Best Album Cover for the band Disagree at the AIM Awards 2010. It was a real honor, because I was up against some pretty awesome and talented folks.And also because ..well usually graphic artists/ photographers get this sorta thing. So here's one ace for comic artists! Woo! ( Music industry, pay attention. Malaysia has some serious talent lurking in comics)

 Kudos goes to the band Disagree ( who also won Best English Album of the year, I might add ) for thinking outside the box and daring to try new things. When they contacted me , I was thinking ,"Hell Yeah. That sounds AWESOME!" It was a real collaborative process and over the period of...4 months..I think..there was great ideas and  energy going back and forth. The final product was something we could be proud of: the limited edition version of the CD boasted a hardcover , fully illustrated,edgy 'children's board book' with lyrics and specially designed CD inside.

*sniffs* so thankful.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010