Light the Creative Spark

Two individuals in the Creative Industries show you what life can become when you unleash your creativity and live your dreams.

By Charlene Tan

Seated in the 6000-seater Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal Studios Hollywood for the wrap-up party of DreamWorks Animation’s 2010 3D computer-animated fantasy film, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, 39-year-old Wong Hock Hian felt a rush of satisfaction.

“After a good decade in the film industry, never have I felt my work more vindicated when I saw the film. It has wonderful story telling and great visuals. It is truly one of those projects that I am proud to be a part of,” says Hock Hian.

Breaking boundaries

The 39-year-old has come a long way from his student days in the Art Elective Programme (AEP) where his latent interest in the creative industries was nurtured.

Now, the family man juggles numerous job portfolios and can count working with Michael Bay, acclaimed movie director, as one of his memorable moments.

Besides being a Visual Artist for DreamWorks Animation studio, Hock Hian is also the Creative Director of Omens Studios, a boutique animation studio providing original concept development and computer graphics production services.

In his spare time, he also teaches Media and Animation as well as Game Art at the Art Institute of California.

Despite his busy schedule, the father of two is a strong believer in lifelong learning which explains why he decided to enrol at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2004.

Sponsored by the Media Development Authority’s (MDA’s) Media Education Scheme, the National Junior College alumnus pursued his Master’s degree in Game Development at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Ticket to dreams

Hock Hian’s scholarship is just one of four borne out of the collaboration between the Creative Industries and the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.

Established in 2006, the Creative Industries Scholarships (CIS) offers students the opportunity to carve out a career in the creative industries and information services, ranging from visual and performing arts, design, digital filmmaking, screenwriting, journalism, heritage and public relations.

Since its launch, the CIS has been receiving an increasing number of applications each year. In 2010, 54 scholarships and six bursaries, worth about $3.8 million were given out.

These efforts are part of The Renaissance City Plan III, Design Singapore-II and Singapore Media Fusion Plan to create opportunities and support the development of creative capabilities in Singapore.

A vibrant industry

“There has been tremendous progress in Singapore’s creative industry,” says Hock Hian, comparing his chosen career to practical ‘brick and mortar’ industries like engineering and technology.

The family man cheerfully dishes out an example of how far Singapore has come along in a short span of time.

“Major Hollywood projects are now being done in Singapore; with major companies setting up shop on our sunny shores. Our creative people are reaping the benefits of having some of the best creative minds work in our country. It may take some time, but I can envision our own Academy Award-winning Singaporean director one day.”

With such a diverse job portfolio, Hock Hian has his hands full from the moment he wakes up, striking a balance between work commitments and family time. Sleep may not be a luxury for him but he remains upbeat fuelled by bouts of passion.

Standing out from the crowd

In fact, passion is what drives 23-year-old Adeline Yeo, a DesignSingapore scholar studying Graphic Design at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

Part of CIS, the DesignSingapore scholarship allows scholars the freedom to choose their area of study and contribute to society by working in a design-related sector upon return.

“The scholarship has helped me so much. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to fulfil my dream of coming to London to do my degree. This is a great platform for change in the design scene in Singapore when I return,” says Adeline, who hopes to start an initiative helping students and graduates ease themselves into the creative industry and gain more exposure outside Singapore.

Arts awakening

Like Hock Hian, the independent go-getter was an AEP student in junior college, where she learnt to draw, paint, play with text and images and type, and create images to go with narratives.

“It was a natural progression for me to want to try out design,” says Adeline who has a diploma in Visual Communication from Temasek Polytechnic and won several creative awards for her works over the years, including the UOB Painting of the Year in 2005.

Despite her achievements, Adeline is constantly on the look-out for more opportunities to expand her portfolio. She applied for an internship to Italy and is keeping her fingers crossed.

A creative tomorrow

She scoffs at the common belief that there is no future and money in both art and design in Singapore.

“Design is more people, society and business-centric. Therefore, there are more opportunities and ways for a designer to make his/her mark in the creative industries,” says Adeline.

She cites the Asylum by Chris Lee as one shining example.

“They have now branched out to Berlin. Likewise, Kinetic Design is a group of designers who remain true to their creative selves and yet remain very successful. There really is no problem building a future in the arts and design anywhere, as long as you want it bad enough,” she adds with conviction.

“There is a greater appreciation for design these days. Design isn’t a stigma anymore, whereas it may have been very different five years ago. There are many more design-related courses in our local institutions and many design activities such as the Singapore Design Festival,” Adeline continues.

“Design needs to be less exclusive and more accessible to the public. Clients and designers should work more closely together. Through education, public engagement and grants, designers should strive to make ‘Design less scary’ to the average layperson.”

Following footsteps

For aspiring creatives, Hock Hian advises, “Be prepared to face tough criticism of your work and tough competition from your peers. However, those who persist will get to do what you love for a living.”

Adeline with spirited passion is similarly undaunted.

“Just do it. Get industry experience, fail, try again, and learn as you go along. Nothing teaches you more about life and being a designer than actually doing it.”

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