A LATE BLOOMER – that’s what Alexa Ong Seow Fen considers herself, having had no formal training in the fine arts. It was only in her third year in Temasek Polytechnic that the interactive design graduate took an interest in illustrations, an area that was not covered in her course curriculum, but one that intrigued her greatly.
I was first drawn to how colours and patterns used in illustrations could evoke certain feelings from the audience.
Upon graduation, the 25-year-old got the chance to design the loft rooms at the Wanderlust Hotel while working under the local creative agency fFurious. “I got to draw these imaginary creatures which I really enjoyed creating, and worked with architects to choose wallpapers and textile materials.” she recalls.
Alexa went on to pursue a degree in Mass Communications, triggered by her love for writing. Yet upon completing the degree, she realised that her preferred method of self-expression was still through drawing and painting. That marked the beginning of her artistic endeavours.
In 2013, she focused on exploring different styles and techniques to create artworks. She admits that learning a new medium is not an easy feat. “it is like trying to really get to know a person thoroughly,” Alexa mused. "It takes time, effort, and lots of practice."
Through all the experimentation and observation, I have learnt to appreciate fine arts and I am better able to connect with the artworks
Drawing has become a way of life for Alexa. Armed with just a pencil and a piece of paper, Alexa can free herself from the cluttered reality and magnify the beauty in simple joys of life. “It is a form of escapism for me, transforming my daydreams and daily observations into ideas for my art,” she said with a laugh.
Perhaps, this too can be considered a form of wanderlust; diving into a constructed reality.
Alexa is often inspired by stories, from books and people that she encounter on her travels and in her daily life. They help to pique her imagination and provide a multitude of perspectives, which she weaves into her artworks.
She believes in presenting her most genuine self to the audience, with the hopes that viewers are able to connect with her works.
The artworks have to come very naturally for your personality to come through your works. Never try to be something that you're not.
The desire for tranquility is apparent in Alexa. She laments that the pace of life in Singapore can be stifling at times and she yearns to live somewhere with a slower pace of life, enshrouded in greenery. Nature does have her way of breathing life into people.
Although she enjoys the company of friends, Alexa appreciates her solitude as well, “When i'm alone, I feel that I think more and it helps me gather my thoughts and I can do more things also.” She has made a solo expedition to Japan and hopes to embark on more of such trips in future.
The wanderlust in Alexa has flown her to Japan not once, but many times over the past few years. She has a particular soft spot for the land of the rising sun, mostly because of its vibrant arts culture. She feels that the Japanese are exemplary in the crafting domain; they carefully curate details such as paper choice and printing that add to the visual appeal of the design.
There’s always a very strong sense of aesthetics. To be part of it, being in Tokyo itself is very inspiring.
In Autumn 2013, Alexa managed to secure a booth at the Tokyo Art Book Fair organized by Zine’s Mate Tokyo. She experienced a whirlwind of two months while preparing for the fair. Wood&Lead, her personal brand of products, was created in the midst of all the scurry.
Wood&Lead was borne out from the passion for all things handmade. Alexa would make sketches and write her thoughts and ideas on paper, before thinking of ways to make her works aesthetically pleasing yet functional. She currently has her designs printed on tote bags and drawstring bags.
I would really like to work towards creating products for home and small things that adds a nice touch to everyday life.
Alexa no longer believes in planning long term and has since taken to embracing life’s surprises. Her only mantra incredibly simple: to do what you love within your own means. She is working towards owning a studio of her own where she will be able to have her own space to focus on her designs.