Inanimate Portraits – Process

Click here for Zaf's portrait in High Res

Click here for My portrait in High Res


Q1. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?

Q2. What is a childhood memory that stands out?

Q3. What is an unachieved dream you have?

Interviewee: Zaf [Transcript]

A1. No specific location, what's important is who I'm with as compared to where I am and what I will be doing. What I'll be doing is also like, living my life to the fullest. I also don't mind being in Singapore, like what I said, it's the people that are important, so I don't wan tot leave them behind. I also get homesick easily.

A2. For me, I wasn't a very smart student in Primary school, so I entered Normal Acad in Secondary School. Amongst my friends, I was always the lowest in class- I was the lowest in the cohort also. So, the thing that stands out the most is how, in the end, for my N level and O level I got the highest amongst them. Don't always look down on the people who don't do well because you won't know in the end, they would be the ones that strive the most in life. That's the thing that stands out the most, because I was very stupid back then haha. That's the thing that stands out, my education, basically.

A3. I want to settle down in life. Materialistically, owning a car, having a BTO. It's a dream because it seems far fetched for me. I'm no where near achieving those things. Just to be happy. To have a stable job, have a family. But like I said, seems very far fetched. But I will get there.

Interviewee: Me

A1. On a beach, in the sun, relaxing. But also in my hometown in Sibu, Sarawak, at a coffeeshop, eating all my hometown foods.

A2. There was a giant beehive on the watertower in my grandmother's neighbourhood in Sibu. Every day I ran to the toilet outside thinking I was going to get stung by the bees. Also, once on the return flight from Sibu to Singapore, we were delayed 5 hours and when we got on the flight the pilot announced "EMERGENCY FLIGHT". There was a lot of turbulence and crying babies. May have thought I was going to die.

A3. To be at peace with myself? Seems cliche.
Also, I've always wanted to dig a whole so deep in the sand at the beach that I hit ocean.

Visualisation & Composition

Overarching Art Direction:

      • Central-dominant: Suggestion of the divine and ideal – to play with the Unachieved Dream aspect
      • High in the Sky

Zaf: family-oriented, worked hard to get to where she is, dreams of stability, rooted around her people, dreams seem far away

Images and symbols: I thought it would be nice to represent Zaf as a house that a family would live in. Like her dream BTO home. I wanted it to be drawn isometrically as it would add to the architectural simplicity but also provided a warped false perspective – which hints to how she feels it is still unachievable at this moment. Because the dream of this house and stability is far-fetched, the image and the house’s contents are unclear and still generic. That is also why the house is open-faced, to see into it but also to represent the incomplete picture.

I wanted to note her hardworking spirit as a ladder as she has climbed to get to where she is now, and will continue to climb until she achieves her dream. To emphasise the perceived distance of achieving the dream, I placed the house in the sky and the ladder tethered to the ground. The ground represents where she started and is rooted to, where she can stay rooted to despite chasing her dreams.

Style and technique: I chose to omit the aid of rulers or straight-line brushes as I wanted to emphasise the dreaminess and almost surreality of a far away, half-constructed dream. The geometric shapes still hint to stability, but the lack of straight lines assume a sense of unsureness. The soft contrast also adds to this imperceivable aspect of a dream that has not been fully realised, versus the darkness and sharpness of the ladder and the “Earth”.


Visualisation & Composition

Jessie: Nostalgic, really wants to be in Sibu, wants to relax.

Images and symbols: I wanted to show contrast in the idealised state of calm and my current state of distress. A little bit dramatic, maybe just stress. I used the iconic image of the water tower near my grandma’s house back in Sibu as the main location of the portrait and added a beach into it. The beach is somewhat shaped like a ying-yang, symbolising peace (I decided to do away with this as it didn’t seem that strong). 

The sky is dark and the moon is bright to set the scene of the 3am emergency return flight. The plane we flew on was a turboprop so I wanted to add the nose propeller. I’m not sure what I would do on the beach except really sleep and maybe make some sandcastles.

Style and Technique: Higher detail on the beehive and water tower as they are prominent memories in my mind. However, they are distorted in detail and accuracy due to nostalgic warping. The beach portion is very minimal as I am unsure as to what exactly I want to do on the beach to relax but the key point is the beach. Grainy texture to play on the notion of nostalgia and how the details and memories feel like they are dissipating and slipping away like sand.


Final Outcome

Zaf’s portrait

        • Ladder and a growing creeper plant: Zaf is hardworking and will continue to work hard to get to where she wants to be.

My portrait

Leave a Reply