Christine Lim


"Don’t you think creative people are one of the most underrated people in the world? You exhaust most of your hands and brains, you work more shifts and hours than a regular job in an office and you are never paid enough for your ideas."

Christine Lim keeps it real and tells it like it is. Despite that, she's a creative soul through and through and determined to press on.

Christine and Douglas the cockroach, he's about 85% paper.

What are you up to now?

I’m a first year student doing a degree in the Glasglow School of Arts. I graduated from Temasek School of Design three years ago and I have been in the creative industry since my graduation.

What made you decide to go to art school, and how was it?

I was working for FLY Entertainment for a good three years and I must say I’ve learnt a lot being a designer in an entertainment industry. During the third year, things were getting stagnant and I didn’t feel like I was learning anything new at this point.

Basically, I was uncomfortable with being too comfortable. Progress often happens when you are out of your comfort zone and I needed to know that I was progressing.

I often look back to my school days back in Temasek design school when I am presented with a situation at work and like “Hey! Why wasn’t I taught that?” You see I could have learn that if I knew that was what I needed to know to brave the industry; all I needed to do was ask the right questions. So now that I am back in school with these questions, I think I’ll pretty much annoy the lecturers with them. I think that because most of us consider ourselves as communication designers, it didn’t seem like it was actually going to be learning about arts in an art school.

Although there is a fine line that separates a designer from an artist, both requires aesthetic consideration and sometimes even similar techniques. So besides honing these in practice, we learn how to sell ideas and create a design process for ourselves. After all, skills only make up 20% and the other 80% is whole lot of other things a designer should know.

In school, sometimes learning is done the hard way—by taking in the criticisms thrown at you, and learning how to catch them instead of trying to dodge. I feel that the biggest take away from school is not to always be dependent on what the lecturers have installed for you. I also think being drowned with 70 other creatives in a studio helps fuel my creative juices and I am enjoying being underwater everyday.

Are you very much inspired by your surroundings, or is it a mixture of things?

I would say that my surroundings are also a mixture of things inspiring me. I find myself looking over my shoulder all the time for upcoming designs. Designers are always a little eccentric and we are never really off our job, scrutinizing advertisement boards as we go along for their typography kerning and other anal details. Sometimes, inspiration comes from the non-design related stuff like watching my cat do out-of-the-world things, or like making plans to travelling other parts of the world. We are only limited to what we know, so I do as much and learn as much as I can.

Do you think the creative life is a hard life?

Well, I believe it can be. Don’t you think creative people are one of the most underrated people in the world? You exhaust most of your hands and brains, you work more shifts and hours than a regular job in an office and you are never paid enough for your ideas. If your job doesn’t kill you, consider having friends who think that you could just simply whip out a design for their blog shop or event at a zero dollar rate per hour. Or sometimes it is just plain stupid, getting upset over bad packaging and not being able to please everyone. However having said all that, at the end of the day I take pleasure when someone appreciates my work.

What advice do you have for a first-year art student?

Before you even decide to go to an art school, don’t go if you are just going for the degree. I think we all know that getting a paper qualification won’t necessarily get you your dream job.

You are in school and you can’t possibly screw up like when you are on a job, so be bold and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Also, learn from your peers by exchanging ideas and asking around for feedbacks. Make new friendships in school, and you will find support and motivation through them in your course of study. Learn from your mistakes and learn from mistakes made by others, you can never over- prepare yourself for the industry.

And lastly, expect to be sleep deprived, caffeine will be your new best friend and a lack of social life is included in the degree package.

How would you describe your art style?

I get intimidated when people ask me this. I haven’t nailed down what my art style is exactly, but my art adapts to the situation that best complements the outcome of the design concept. In school, I usually try to experiment with developing new style with each given projects. However I am particularly fond of the surrealism.

What materials do you use in your art and why?

I like paper. The texture you see and feel, the weight and the smell of it, haha! I enjoy the restrictions given that the medium is two-dimensional, and how it transforms with spot varnish and embossment. Paper is also easily manipulated into 3D sculptures.

Other than that, I usually scan in my own textured papers to use for my printed works.

Could you describe your school project  which I'm so in love with at the moment?

I was working on a Subversive Alphabet brief, which was meant for adult readership. A material used on children is now used to re-educate an adult, for a fact that it is no longer innocent, only abused and misused. Tall tales were told to us when we were kids to indirectly teach good morals without considering that some, like fairytales had subversive origins. As adults we are old enough to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Drawing parallels, cavemen in the past are like a child learning from the pictures it sees before slowly developing literacy and the ability to read and understand.

My aim was to humour, entertain and challenge the readers with a map of pictograms, for adults to revisit as well as reconsider when and if the materials were appropriate for the child. With these thoughts, I came up with Once Upon a Tall Tale, a map that comes with a book to mapping a tall tale. While kids are more likely to search for the alphabets in the map, adults will tend to map the meaning. These were done with digital painting and some of my own textures and brushes. I had a lot of fun reading into some of the fairytales by Grimm Brothers for this project, surely my childhood had taken some hits. I enjoy projects that are a little more subversive, there’s always a little more fun to be rebellious in your work instead of being too safe and trying not to offend anybody.

Do you have any personal projects at the moment?

I've just inherited a sewing machine from my sister and I plan on making laptop bags and bow ties. Right now I am still learning how to operate it, but I’ll start with making bow ties for my cat.

What pisses you off as an artist when you take on commercial work?

I think it is letting a non-designer tell you what to do and giving you critiques on your work or having your client chase you around the clock for changes. Also, when people don’t take your professional advice and I succumb to creating a piece that I am too embarrassed to look at.

Sometimes, it’s the black sheep who price themselves so lowly that it devalues the creative market. It also agitates me when people ask for ridiculous discounts. I think the worst is chasing clients for overdue payments—they should be glad that they had their designs delivered on time!

Could you share your work process?

  1. Understanding the brief
  2. Interpreting the brief
  3. Research in the subject (go deep..)
  4. Generate and write the ideas down
  5. Develop the concept
  6. Material research
  7. Visual development

If you think you’ve thought of an idea, think again. I try not to do what has been done before. When you are out of ideas, take a walk, pet your cats and dogs and just let your brain rest for a bit. I believe great ideas are developed when you resist being ‘settled’ in your initial idea—keep searching and look at references. In Glasglow School of Arts, we are often reminded that we are only as good as our references, so take good reference from the ones that have made it.

Christine Lim