Denny F. Halim
Choosing a career in art is a risky proposition, but Jakarta graphic artist Pamela Halomoan is carving out a niche by creating original characters. She hopes to one day start her own design business, where her characters will be printed on merchandise. Pamela talked to my Jakarta about her passion, studying abroad and dealing with Indonesia’s rampant intellectual pirates.
Passion usually starts from a spark. What was yours?
Tim Burton. I hope that I can work with him someday. His work is smart and unique, a mix of horror, but cute and sweet.
Why characters instead of brands or ideas?
Because you can relate your life to an animated character. I want to create famous characters that are loved by people, like the Simpsons or Hello Kitty. You know, there are some girls who can’t live without Hello Kitty. That is how popular I want my original characters to be, for people to see one of my works and instantly shout, ‘Hey, that must be one of Pamela’s!’
The form may vary, though, such as paintings, stickers and badges. Some of my other work involves design, branding and illustrating.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Mostly I just randomly make sketches of characters and then develop the ones that I like. It may just be things I happen to glance upon or scrape from my imagination. For example, I saw a gecko and a helicopter, and wondered what kind of character would emerge if I combined the two.
How hard is to come up with fresh ideas?
I hold myself to very high standards when it comes to creating original works, and it’s definitely not easy. My school stresses that point to all its students: Originality is a must. In any cases of deliberate plagiarism, a student will be dropped from school.
I mean, this is 2012. There are thousands of artists with millions of designs. We all know the challenge of coming up with something truly original. It may come from your own inspiration, but someone may have already created it a few years ago without your knowing.
So, better to be safe than sorry. Whenever someone says the design I’m working on is starting to look familiar, I erase it and start from scratch.
Did you always want to be an artist?
I have always had an interest in design and more importantly, I wanted to study abroad. But my mom gave me one condition — there had to be a scholarship involved. As I started looking for one, my motivation grew, especially as I put so much work into tests back in high school. In my second year of school, I was accepted to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore. The scholarship came from Singapore’s minister of education.
What do you think is the worst thing that can happen to your career?
Piracy. And most of the time there is nothing you can do about it. How would you feel if you saw your work printed on shirts and displayed in Mangga Dua? You can’t really sue them, you can’t do anything, and they definitely aren’t going to stop. That’s why I prefer to publish my work abroad. At least it will take longer for them to pirate that.
In Indonesia, no one even cares about pirated character designs. Even the more serious issue of pirated software seems to be the least of the government’s concerns.
Let’s talk about the work you have done abroad.
Back in college, my first show was the Paper Toys Exhibition. I just wanted to submit my work, but I was accepted in the show. After that I started sending my [art] school projects to various competitions, and some of them got accepted, including one in Italy. That gave me an extra dose of confidence. I started to expand my work and develop my own art business. Do kindly check them out on my Web site, pamela.halomoan.com.
For other people hoping to become artists, what advice do you have?
Have confidence. Critics are bound to be there. Some people will tell you that your work has no quality. Back in college, there was a period where I lost my confidence. Then, my friends told me that in art, there will be a market for everyone. If you don’t like my work, other people may think differently.
Artists also need to do a lot of research, to enrich their knowledge and keep up with the current trends. But don’t follow trends. Be different. If you do your job seriously, an artist can really make a good living.
So what are you sketching next?
My future! Due to my scholarship requirements, I have to go back to Singapore. But I’m looking for a job as an illustrator and a steady income.
In the long run, I want to develop my own design business. I want my characters printed on collectible items or merchandise, like badges or glasses. I also have a dream of creating short animation clips, especially for kid’s TV shows.
Pamela Halomoan was talking to Denny F. Halim.