"I still don't know if this is what I'm passionate about, but I've never enjoyed school like I did my first year in ADM, so I hope that's a good sign for something."
Jeremy Tan is a self-confessed Anglophile and creates beautiful ink illustrations that just draws people in - to say that I'm a huge fan of his work is an understatement.
Tell us a bit about yourself Jeremy!
I'm from Singapore, living in a house with a black dog on a hill behind a mall in Thomson. I'm currently studying in the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) at Nanyang Technological University. Right now I'm flipping through old books, trying to be productive for school.
What made you decide to go to art school, and how is it?
I've always liked to draw since I was a kid. But I also liked geography and reading and writing, and those fit in better with the whole 'study-hard-and-go-to-university-plan', so drawing got shelved for a while. I decided I couldn't study anymore and did a diploma in Mass Communication, thinking it didn’t involve as much study and a good income could still come out from it, and I thought I liked writing enough. Turns out, I didn't like writing enough, or not in the journalistic sense anyway. I got worse progressively, and a bit lost by the end of the course. I had time in the army to sort things out and I started drawing more again. I still don't know if this is what I'm passionate about, but I've never enjoyed school like I did my first year in ADM, so I hope that's a good sign for something.
Are you very much inspired by your surroundings, or is it a mixture of things?
I never used to bother much with my physical surroundings—I always felt like I was trapped here and I wanted to leave and go to London, for many years growing up. But as the years pass and things happen, I'm more welcoming to the idea of home being here and everything about it, I guess. I'm also inspired by books that I read, nice pictures and drawings I find online, good movies and music I like and all that. And English things. I'm an Anglophile.
Do you draw based on a reference or just from what you have pictured in your head?
References, mostly. I'm too unsure of everything to draw anything proper from imagination, and I don't have that kind of skill either. But if I'm just doodling, I try to and just think of something.
What advice do you have for a first-year art student?
Don't compare yourself to other people—that's what my best friends who've been through art school told me to and still remind me to do. It’s difficult but very important I guess. I don't know about freelance. I've never worked as a designer or artist before in any capacity myself so I haven't anything to say about that.
What materials do you use in your art and why?
Ink, and the brush-pen a lot too lately. It gives both thick and thin lines which makes sketching bit faster. But I do use the pencil first when I’m drawing something proper, and then go over that with ink. I use watercolours as well. I like how uncontrollable and organic it can look. I'm still learning how to use watercolours.
Are there particular themes that you like to focus on?
I suppose, yeah. I never thought that I'd fall into a pattern like this but I've been very keen on botanical illustration for a long while and still am, and recently I’ve begun taking an interest in illustrating people and faces too.
Could you share your work process?
I do my research online and at the library. I try to find something about the topic at hand that I personally really like or can relate to, and that makes it much easier for me to engage in the work, otherwise it's very hard for me to get started. Then I procrastinate a lot, look through the references I've gathered and I go from there I suppose.
Could you share a one or two of your favourite artists and why?
I like Herge a lot—I refused to read anything but Tin tin when I was younger until Harry Potter came along. His illustrations were simple and clean but so effective.