Featuring Sirhan Haziq
WHAT DO YOU love to do?
A seemingly simple question - but finding that passion, and converting that into a paying job - it’s not that easy. But 24-year-old digital illustrator Sirhan Haziq has got it all figured out.
“What I have that many don’t is the real goal and ambition. Don’t wait until you graduate when you realize that many of your peers are in their dream jobs, but you’re slogging it out, applying for every single job - or worse, you don’t even know what industry you want to be in.”
We are in a nondescript Starbucks in Clementi Mall on a Tuesday afternoon. Sirhan, who goes by the moniker Zicky, is seated across from me, his voice filled with conviction, as he gestures animatedly. For Sirhan, the goal is clear.
“When I go into advertising, I already know what companies I want, what accounts I want. I’ll go so far as to stop the creative directors and find out more about them," he declares empathetically.
It’s pragmatics and drive that form the backbone of this saturated creative industry, not so much the skills. And this burning hunger and relentless determination is what will bring Sirhan very, very far.
What sparked this drive may be due to the different turns his life has taken, having faced rejection by local universities after his ‘A’ Levels and by Noise Singapore's The Apprenticeship Programme, he says.
In 2012, Sirhan took a gap year to backpack, and also teamed up with HeartThrob Project founder, Jeremy Tan, and Visual Inconsideration illustrator, Ziq, to produce PETUA: Reminiscing Grandmother Tales & Superstitions. It took being “kicked out of the train and getting out of the whole system” to help him reevaluate his life, and find his place in the creative world. “Failure gave me a lot of clarity,” muses Sirhan.
Professing that he doesn’t see himself as an “artist-artist”, someone with lofty visions and an agenda - the art he makes is introspective, where he delves deep into himself and simply expresses.
His visual travel diaries, for instance, are borne mostly from short jaunts around South-East Asia, where he climbs mountains. The long days of trekking in solitude with nature gives him the impetus to reflect on the kind of person he has become. Inspired, he comes back with photographs of the place, and weaves in text and graphics to create a layered, self-reflexive narrative.
Much of his digital imaging work revolves around injecting the extraordinary into the norm. He recalls having an instant connection with a stranger and talking to her for hours. When she left, he felt that he had lost something very precious. That’s when he realized that it is these moments of connection which break the monotony of existence, that give our lives meaning. In one of his works, the fleeting beauty of that encounter is captured.
Despite his outward practicality, Sirhan’s philosophical side comes through, where he says that these trips have taught him to see life in metaphors and analogies.
This quality of being able to see things “deeper than they are”, and being able to pull life lessons out of anything is crucial to survive in the advertising world.
He cites one of the brilliant ads by Mercedes-Benz, where shaking a chicken was used to demonstrate the stability of the car’s intelligent drive system. “It’s about being able to draw similarities from different situations, and learning how people think without thinking like them,” he says.
Creativity aside, it takes discipline and grit too. This year, he secured a summer internship at advertising firm BBDO this year and was willing to do whatever it took - pushing himself, giving tuition, accepting low pay - just to hold on to that opportunity.
“I had to keep this internship under my belt, if not I’m a nobody,” he says.
These days, the second-year business student at SIM, is busy designing the cover art for Jaime Wong’s EP. Having previously sketched portraits of local musicians like Charlie Lim and The Pinholes for fun, the local music scene is another area he is keen on channeling his energies into. Looking at his deft sketches, it’s hard to imagine that Sirhan started out just two years ago, and is entirely self-taught.
Young artists, however gifted, should train themselves to be as focused and ready for the rigors of the creative industry.
He advises,“ if you really want it, you have to start from now. Don’t wait for that dream internship to come along. Do your online portfolio, start with side projects - just put it out there. You have to build yourself from now.”