A CHANCED CIRCUMSTANCE, a happenstance or, an event that might have been arranged although it really was accidental. This pretty much sums up Mary Bernadette Lee’s artistic journey.
She illustrates and creates art under the moniker Mrydette, which is a combination of both her first and second name. She is 27 years old and she is currently into her final year at Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Art, Design and Media. You do the math. Something doesn’t quite add up, does it? You’re right, it doesn’t. Mrydette is currently pursuing her second degree.
Mrydette’s artistic journey was not a smooth sailing one. Despite always being acquainted with creating, she was discouraged from taking the path less traveled.
This resulted in her pursuing her first degree at National University of Singapore (NUS) in Literature, Communications and New Media. However, she knew right from the age of nine that art would become a large part of her life.
“I grabbed at every opportunity that allowed me to draw, paint and create,” explained Mrydette.
As far as possible, I chose tasks that allowed me to draw. I visited wet markets, stood at the fish stall and drew fishes while my mother would do the marketing. I spent hours at Botanic Gardens collecting various types of fallen leaves to bring home to draw. Simple things like that made me contented and happy.
Reluctant to shelve away her love for art, Mrydette signed up for a 2-year Western Art course at Nanyang Academy of Fine Art (NAFA) while she was pursuing her first degree in NUS (talk about an overachiever!) However, even that was not enough for her to pave her way into art.
“From the time I finished the course at NAFA to now, I was consistently drawing and designing for friends. I couldn't find a job in the creative industry because I did not have any credentials to my name. MOE wouldn't even consider letting me teach Art. Everything I had learnt and gathered in my portfolio had been self taught. And for years, I had no idea that this 'drawing' is what we call Illustration,” she lamented. “It was only when I started school at NTU ADM that my career started taking shape, and my path finally set straight.”
Mrydette has since participated in a flea organized by APS Lifestyle Gallery, conducted a live illustration demonstration for Rockstar by Soon Lee and organized her first solo exhibition at The Little Drom Store last August.
Her solo exhibition, aptly entitled Happenstance, was a visual playground spawned of spontaneity, which showcased her experimentation with water colour paints and ink. “It was extremely humbling because I never expected such a golden opportunity to be presented to me by The Drom owners. It took a lot from me in terms of emotions, time and effort but it all paid off because the returns were so much more,” explained Mrydette.
It was putting myself out there that scared me because that meant living up to expectations set by the public but I understood it as something that everyone has to go through in order to make a breakthrough and to progress as a professional.
If you thought that Mrydette’s artwork possessed a certain childlike whimsy, you were right. Her quirky illustrations are largely inspired by the immediacy and honesty of toddlers’ art. She is also particularly drawn to traditional mediums such as water colours, acrylic paints and pencils because it is incredibly important to her that she keeps her works somewhat organic.
“I love the unexpected beautiful 'mistakes' that comes with it too. Too clean work makes me cringe; too sanitized, too controlled. That said, some may argue that there is also certain amount of control when it comes to traditional medium but that sense of control is a cultivated skill for specific reasons and meanings.” Mrydette contemplated.
Yet at the same time, we allow room for 'accidental mistakes'. That freedom is extremely precious.