HER ultimate goal is to be an illustrator drawing pictures for children’s storybooks but she hasn’t got that break just yet.
“In the past, I did send some artworks to publishers looking for illustrators. I guess I haven’t got any luck so far and am still waiting for opportunities to knock,” Fiona Anne Kab said.
It all started when her late uncle, Winston Soji Kawi @ Soji Kawi Abdullah, allowed her to doodle on his bedroom wall. She was three years old at the time.
Fiona remembers her uncle would bring home some chalk from a school in Miri, where he was studying, and give them to her.
“My uncle was 11 years older than me. He was my youngest maternal uncle, who grew up living with my parents. He got me interested in doodling and would not only let me scribble on his bedroom wall but also clean up the mess.
“As I grew older, my father was the biggest influence in life and still is today,” Fiona, now 36, told thesundaypost.
She is the eldest of three siblings. Her dad is Gordon Kab, a retired civil engineer, while her mum is Victoria Nora Kawi, a nurse turned homemaker.
Fiona holds a diploma in Creative Technology (Theatre) from the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation, UiTM Puncak Perdana Campus, Shah Alam.
No caricaturing thoughts
She never thought she would be doing caricatures as she had experimented a lot with sketching styles while growing up. Her favourite subjects have always been mythical creatures such as fairies, mermaids, dragons, and the like.
She said her dad has always been supportive of her interest in art and he gradually introduced caricaturing ideas to her although she admitted she wasn’t really good at it and is still struggling to perfect her craft.
“My dad is a gifted watercolourist and painter and he told me his late elder brother and his paternal uncle – my late grandfather’s younger brother – were both gifted artists.
“My dad, however, doesn’t really practise his craft as much as I do mine. He keeps reminding me not to quit. There are several cousins who also love sketching pictures as a pastime.”
Now working in an international hotel in Miri as a marketing and social media executive, Fiona said whenever she felt stressed out, she would start doodling in her notebook.
“Basically, I just don’t have a specific time for sketching. When the mood comes, I’ll just grab a pencil and sketchbook or pull out the stylus pen attached to my phone and start doodling.”
She let on that she was “accidentally recruited” for the international hotel job. Sometime in November 2015, while sketching at a popular café in Miri, she was ‘discovered’ by the hotel’s former manager.
“I had no idea who he was when he approached my table and asked if I was a graphic designer. Later, he passed my contact number to the hotel’s (former) marketing manager and an interview followed,” she recalled.
Fiona was hired in February 2016, not as a graphic designer though, but for the post she is holding now.
Before that, on returning to Miri for good in December 2012 after being based in Kuala Lumpur for almost 10 years, she applied for a part-time tutoring job in a local learning centre and started working there in April 2013. For two years and 10 months, she was an English language tutor.
She said working in the hospitality, marketing, and public relations sector never crossed her mind, adding that she happened to be at the right place at the right time when the offer came up.
No fancy tools
For doing caricatures, Fiona said she doesn’t require many fancy tools – simple things like sketchbooks, marker pens, and pencils would do.
Since 2013, after buying her smartphone, she has been doodling on it with an app called Autodesk Sketchbook.
About five years ago, she learned digital sketching using her laptop and another Digital Drawing tablet.
And not long after, she reverted to digital sketching on her phone and is now making full use of it for her craft.
Asked if she had any plan to sell her artworks, Fiona said she had been thinking about it, adding that she had previously done sketching requests for free.
“I used to teach art to a secondary school student and two young children from a private school in Miri in 2015 before the hotel job came up in early 2016.
“Hopefully, my dream to illustrate pictures for children’s storybooks will come true someday.”
For her, the best part about having artistic skills is being able to see things from a different point of view and comprehend the aesthetics of the surroundings.
According to Fiona, art is also a way to communicate in that one can sit at a coffee table and sketch and whatever is being drawn will attract an audience.
“Based on my experience, whenever I get to sit at a café with my sketchbook, there will be a child or two approaching me. A little conversation will follow – which is one of the best things about having this talent.
“The sad part is some people would request for their pictures to be sketched, then tell me the caricatures I did for them did not look like their faces.
“I can’t really recall the best comments I have received, but for the record, my drawings have managed to entertain people,” she said.
On whether caricaturists were well paid, Fiona said it depended on how diligent they were in working on their craft and how smart and aggressive they were in marketing their artworks.
“As long as the artist has his or her own identity and trademark, it can offer a handsome income. We have several iconic caricaturists in this country – celebrated cartoonists like Datuk Lat, Zunar, Topek Taib, Vivian Lees, Triton Lim, Toini Korakora, and more.
“My advice to budding caricaturists is to never stop improving. I understand there are times we can get the ‘artist’s block’. But don’t get discouraged. Keep at it.
“In fact, our generation is considered very fortunate as there are now channels to showcase our talents. Don’t fret about starting late. It’s better than not doing anything at all.”
Fiona’s artworks can be found on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram.
Next month, she will hold a live caricature sketching session at a wedding reception.
“I do have plans to run a booth offering a caricature sketching service during festivals and community-artisan markets. I’m still ironing things out,” she added.