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Drawing smiley food - An interview with Happy Dim Sum artist

Regina is the artist behind the popular Singaporean card game: Happy Dim Sum. What is the inspiration behind these cute adorable dim sum artwork? Let's find out.

Q: Hi Regina! Give the readers a short introduction about yourself and how you started drawing.

Hi! My name is Regina, or better known as Ance.Art. I am a full time freelance artist and I do various kind of Illustration based on demand, especially anime and semi-realistic style art. I start drawing from very young, as I was inspired by manga, anime I love to watch, and games I loved. I remember I often get scolded by my parents for drawing on my notebooks and textbooks, ripping of the pages from the school notebook until it became so thin and secretly draw in class or any chance I had.

Back then I thought that it was amazing how these people seems to be so passionate on what they are working on. I was especially inspired by Square Enix’s games, especially Final Fantasy. Looking at the art, the movies, the side media and how they are putting so much minor detail into it inspires me that I’d want to do the same too. However pursuing this wasn’t easy since back then art and games are looked down upon, and it was considered as a dead-end path. Because of that I’ve never been given a chance to hone my skill from courses, additional study or anything. Instead I tried learning by copying from the media around me. Internet in Indonesia back then was a privilege, and it’s hour based even for houses so I wasn’t able to use it much, and unlike now there’s not much guides and “how to(s)” around so I had to blindly grasp things. That’s why when I saw that the new Private Uni in my country owned by one of the big media publisher group in Indonesia was opening scholarship for various major including “Art & Design”, I knew I had to take the chance.

As expected my parents was against it, but after arguments and countless debate, they ended up agree to make a bet with me and say that they’ll allow me to enter Design Major only if I manage to get the scholarship and I have to give up on it if I didn’t manage to get a spot. I went to join the exam and managed to land myself a spot, ironically through science route since I had to take that as my 2nd choice is Information Technology, and that’s how I took my biggest step to become and artist and ended up delving further into art and design to become who I am right now.

Q: What is the mission, vision or guiding principles that you drives you to be so passionate about art? What is it that you do on a daily basis to improve yourself?

To me, starting on art was all because of how the people I look up to inspires me. The story they deliver through the world design, scenes, and characters. When I see their passion and their effort, I wanted to be like them, enjoying what they do for their living. I didn’t want to just resign to “what I’m good at” and work while hating what I do and suffering through it like what my parents say is natural and normal. I love art, so I wanted to pursue it. It’s as simple as that.

Despite all that, when I start taking it as my full time work, I noticed it wasn’t as easy or fun as I thought and that colliding your passion and your work is not as amazing as it sounds and not all sunshine and games. During the hard times, what keep me going were my clients. When they were happy to receive my work, or say how I made their horrible day turn a lot better, I feel glad to take this path and happy if it can mean something to someone. I guess that’s my sense of purpose, realizing other people’s idea and giving them happiness seeing how their world or character come alive, or just making someone’s day better.

That is what kept me going for so many years till now no matter how hard it turns out.

As for self-improvement aspect, my professor once told me “You can only be good at art if you’ve drawn at least 1000 artwork” which I think is his way of telling us to keep practicing. I especially relate to this so much, as I don’t consider myself as a talented artist. I can only reach the level of my talented friend’s work only after spending a lot more effort on my artwork than they do, so that’s what I do. I let myself get inspired by various things around me, and draw. I draw every day, and sometimes when taking break from commission I try new things, explore new style, examining other people’s work and trying to see how can I draw that way. It’s always a constant learning, and a lot of time I’ll ask for tips from my friends on how to improve. Experimenting to me is the most important thing since you don’t know what you will learn just from simply trying new stuff.

Q: Getting your art published on one of the best selling Singaporean card game: Happy Dim Sum, is not easy. What did you do to market yourself to get yourself noticed by game developers?

The chance originally came when me and my artist friend circle went to AFASG to sell fan merchandise for anime. Since we are all freelance artist, our manager and friend suggest that we make name card to help promote our commission service as well. A lot of people actually took our name card after getting interested in our merchandise. Not long after that, we got email offer on opportunity to work with Capital Gains Studio with their educational card-game project. Our manager forwarded it to us and let us choose if any of us is interested in doing the job or not (individually). I decided to try, create the sample art, and finish the project as well as I could after I was chosen to go ahead with the project. That was when I got connected with the team behind Happy Dim Sum. After that, when they offer me to work on Happy Dim Sum, I decided to take on the job despite I know it will be a challenge.

Q: What challenges did you face when you first took on the job? How did you work with the publisher to resolve them?

My main challenge while working on the job is more on the graphic design aspect. Illustration was my main advantage as I has worked with a lot of different client with different expectation and style request. For graphic design however, my portfolios are mostly on store pamphlet, hospital pamphlet, announcement poster and such. I did some graphic design for some indie pc card game before, but it was really simple and basic as I was requested to make something based on existing card game template. Working on a more flexible card layout for me was a first, and it ended up requiring a lot of back and forth, changes, and revision. Thankfully the art director was patient enough to keep guiding me through it and help me.

There was also a worry that the design that heavily lean to Chinese/Asian culture might invoke some bad critics, and this ended up making us revamps the design as a whole as previously we are heavily leaning on that style for the cards. To be honest I was a bit sad it get scraped and don’t really understand why would people think badly of cultural design as personally I think true harmony is achieved when we accept cultures, where it came from, and appreciate it together as it is along with a lot of other different culture around us, compared to “muting” the cultural aspect itself. However we went with it, and I ended up loving the new design as it was a lot “softer” and cleaner compared to the previous one and it still works well despite the big change, and I’m really happy to have such amazing people helping me through the difficult process.

Q: What are some of the other projects that you took on recently? How are they different from the Happy Dim Sum Project?

Other interesting project that I’ve been doing is one of my regular’s story art. One of them is children/teenager story book illustration regarding gender identity and self-approval which I love. It is for western audience, and I’m surprised to see how they can talk about such subject in more freedom so it was a unique concept to work on, especially since I had to draw the boy in his various stages of physical change and adaptation.

I’ve also been hired to work on some indie webtoon side story that is still in the process, however since the funding is by individual and it was worked on with a team of various artist (and some of them quit the team already due to various reason) it’s going very slow currently and we’re still waiting for a chance to resume the project.

After that I’ve been mostly working on individually requested art, seasonal art and so. It’s very different from working on Happy Dim Sum due to a more lax deadline, despite the need to cater to the details that the client expected. Not just on the individual art, but on the other projects as well. I have to assess the client’s need and wishes individually and work based on them, and to be honest working with all these different concept and expectation is fun. However, it also make me appreciate the Happy Dim Sum team a lot with their coordination, timeliness, and commitment that they put into the game. I believe that it’s not easy to manage a team and coordinating a lot of different people and elements, and a lot of other clients I’ve been with have been having problems with that and it often interfere with the projects and hinder it. That’s why I’m really thankful on the chance of working with such and amazing team that made the success possible.

Q: What was the work schedule like given the COVID pandemic? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

To be honest, COVID make it harder to strife as a freelance artist. A lot of my client is personally funded, and life hasn’t been kind to many of them. I didn’t get as much project as I did before COVID strikes, but due to support from people around me, I was convinced to take it slow and take this chance to rest and try new things, focus on my hobby, learn new stuff, and so on. I was actually a borderline workaholic before, to the point that I can spend more than 12 hour a day working on an art in front of PC every day even during weekend and holidays.

I was also very concerned about money and income as moving to Singapore means a high increase in living cost, so my mental health actually took a dive. If not for the support of the people around me that told me it’s ok to take it slower and relax, I think my stress will be even worse by now so I’m really thankful for them and their support.

Nowadays I’ve been trying to pick up different things such as 3d modeling, streaming for fun, and traditional painting, accompanied with making new friends along with reconnecting with some old friends. This make me realize that sometimes if you only look straight and you hit an obstacle, taking a break, detour, and looking around for things to appreciate might serve to be a better option than just staring or struggling non-stop on the obstacle itself.

Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring artists who want to make a name for themselves in the Singapore art’s scene.

I’m still a small artist, and surely I don’t think I’ve made a name for myself. However as fellow artist who has been pursuing this path for more than 7 year, my tips is, never stop learning, expand your horizon as well and get inspired as it will help you grow as an artist. You don’t need to grow at the pace of others, or be concerned about all the approval and likes. Just make sure to always give it your best shot and never give up.

As for how marketing goes, how you market yourself is important. Improve how you communicate as an artist, and connect with your client. It’s always those clients that you keep and build relationship with, that will support you when things get hard.

Being an artist is not going to be all sunshine, and it won’t always be smooth and easy. That’s why surround yourself with kind people who support you, so when it’s all too much to handle alone, they can lift you up and keep you walking on the path you choose.

Q: Are you working on any project now and will you like to share more with the readers? Where can we find this project?

I currently work on a few of individual commissions such as Illustration, T-shirt design, Emotes, VN Sprites and many more. Some of the projects that I’m working on is not free to share yet, but if anyone is interested in looking at some of my art, do feel free to visit me or contact me on my social media:

I also do some art streaming on twitch as Vartist on Monday and Thursday whenever I have shareable commission that I can work on stream:

Art channel:

Do feel free to contact me anytime via message on those social media. My commission is always open, and I’ll also be happy to chat or share any of the art I did via DM!


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